After Sunday’s 34-10 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, the Washington Redskins finished with a record of 5-11, one game worse than last season’s 6-10 mark. While the Redskins are getting younger and deeper, any improvement hasn’t been reflected in their record. Fans of the team, who have only seen three playoff appearances in the last 19 years, are more than anxious for a winner.
With a rabid fan base, two sports talk radio stations, several newspapers and countless blogs in town, coverage of the Washington Redskins can get a little out of hand at times. However, crazy as it may sound, saying something loudly doesn’t necessarily make it true.
So here’s a list of five common opinions about the Redskins that are more myth than fact.
Myth 1: Once they were eliminated from playoff contention, the Redskins should have lost on purpose to improve their draft position.
This idea of losing on purpose is so distasteful and disrespectful to the game and to those who play sports, that any people who advocate it should have their fan cards revoked or sports talk blathering positions taken away immediately. The marginal difference between drafting a few positions higher in each round is clearly not worth perpetuating a losing attitude.
Losing breeds losing and winning breeds winning.
As former NFL coach Herman Edwards once said, “You play to win the game.” Part of what makes sports great is the concept of always trying your best no matter the circumstances.
Losing on purpose is a very dangerous precedent to set because it’s hard to turn it on and off. Just look at the Wizards. Ted Leonsis’ philosophy of constantly hoping for a lottery pick until one day in the future the franchise will apparently turn it on and try to win is less honorable than Dan Snyder’s longtime philosophy of trying to win immediately, even though Snyder has failed. That’s right – it’s better to try to win and to lose, than to throw away entire seasons to “build for the future.”
Myth 2: The Redskins should have played the young guys more.
When it was apparent the Redskins weren’t going to make the playoffs, they should have played as many young players as possible to see what they had, according to pigskin pundits. No, the NFL is a meritocracy. You play your best players. The Redskins did the right thing by playing receivers Jabar Gaffney, Santana Moss, and Donte Stallworth over Niles Paul and Terrence Austin.
You sound like a fool if you say Paul (two catches) should have played over Gaffney (68 catches for 947 yards and five touchdowns) just to “see what you have.” Gaffney and Moss are true professionals, and awarding jobs based on age or draft position can lose a locker room.
Trying to win begets winning, and helps build a foundation more than giving young players playing time when they haven’t earned it yet. Linebacker Perry Riley earned a spot over Rocky McIntosh. That’s ok. But the position wasn’t given to him until he earned it. The same goes for rookie running back Roy Helu. Perhaps part of the reason Helu and fellow rookie running back Evan Royster played well at the end of the year was that they weren’t thrown in to the fire before they were ready.
Myth 3: Rex Grossman is a joke of a quarterback.
The much-maligned Grossman has shown that he can be a passable quarterback. He threw far too many interceptions – 20 in just 13 games – but he also threw 16 touchdowns for a depleted offense. It’s true that he makes too many turnovers, but his aggressive style also yields benefits, as he showed during the second half of the season.
With a record of 5-8, Grossman demonstrated that if he had played the whole season, the Skins had suffered fewer injuries, and they had gotten a couple of breaks, they could have conceivably made the playoffs. The New York Giants won the NFC East with a mediocre 9-7 record.
Rex played well at times despite a multitude of injuries on offense. Linemen Jammal Brown and Kory Lichtensteiger, running back Tim Hightower, wide receivers Santana Moss and Leonard Hankerson, and tight end Chris Cooley all missed significant time with injuries. Two of Washington’s best players, tackle Trent Williams and tight end Fred Davis, missed the final four games of the year because of drug suspensions.
While Grossman has proven he is not the long-term solution, he may start the first half of next season while a rookie quarterback gets acclimated to the NFL, and that may not be a bad thing. Acquiring a quarterback such as Kyle Orton, who may be a slight upgrade over Rex, would not be worth throwing away Grossman’s knowledge of the Shanahans’ system as well as his rapport with the receivers.
Rex is not “incapable,” as a writer said of him earlier this season. Some of those who pronounced him a joke earlier in the year now refuse to admit they were wrong.
Myth 4: The Redskins should not trade up to get a franchise quarterback.
Should the Redskins trade multiple draft picks in exchange for a potential franchise quarterback such as Andrew Luck or Robert Griffin III, or for Peyton Manning or Sam Bradford if they are on the block? The majority of fans and members of the media say no, based on failed moves in the past by the Redskins.
However, those trades and free agent signings that didn’t work out are a sunk cost - something that can't be changed - and shouldn’t scare the Redskins away from attempting moves that could potentially help the team.
The Skins should absolutely consider trading for Manning if he’s available and healthy, or for the rights to Griffin. On the other hand, there may be viable QB options available outside of the top 10 picks and even in the second or third rounds. The teams with the franchise quarterbacks – Green Bay, New England, and New Orleans – are generally the ones in the mix for the Super Bowl, so a trade may be worth it. On the other hand, Aaron Rodgers was a late first round pick, Tom Brady wasn’t selected until the sixth round, and Drew Brees was a second rounder.
Was Manning worth eight wins – the difference between the Colts’ win total in 2010 and 2011? Even if he’s worth only five, that would give the Skins 10 wins next year, and that’s not even taking into consideration the fact that Washington should improve by a few wins anyway because of young players who are on the way up. As overrated as Washington’s defense is, it still may be at least as good as the defenses of Super Bowl favorites Green Bay and New England.
Drafting is an inexact science, but a Robert Griffin III may end up being considerably better than a Landry Jones or a Ryan Tannehill. The Skins may have to gamble that RG3 will be worth it, and being gun-shy won’t get it done.
Washington should at least consider the possibility rather than dismissing it because the Redskins have “too many needs.”
Myth 5: The Redskins should build solely through the draft.
Redskins fans feel so burned by bad free agent signings and poor drafts that a widely-held sentiment is to solely build through the draft. Good teams like the Patriots and Ravens do it, so shouldn’t the Redskins?
It turns out, however, that seven of the Ravens’ 22 starters were acquired via free agency, and another one arrived in a trade. So while the Ravens have drafted well, they haven't ignored free agency.
Also, some of the Redskins’ best players of all time arrived via trades, including four of the Redskins top six players of the Super Bowl era. Hall of Famers Sonny Jurgensen, Sam Huff, Bobby Mitchell, Ken Houston, and John Riggins arrived to Washington from trades. Super Bowl winners Joe Theismann, Earnest Byner, Joe Washington, Jim Lachey, and Dave Butz – all great players – were acquired by Washington via trades. Super Bowl XXII MVP Doug Williams, linebacker Wilber Marshall, and kick returner Mike Nelms arrived as free agents.
Redskins coach Mike Shanahan has been prudent, not signing too many free agents in his two-year tenure. This was probably done by design to change the culture of the Redskins, who signed a plethora of high priced players over the past decade who mostly failed to live up to expectations. It would hurt team morale to sign too many free agents while letting home-grown players depart.
But the Redskins need to make trades and sign free agents to compete, as long as they do it in moderation and don’t overpay. Building only through the draft is a one-dimensional, simplistic strategy that won’t succeed without help from trades and free agency.