With three weeks left in the regular season, the Washington Redskins are still playing hard. Oooh’s and Aaah’s, looks of disbelief ripple through the crowd.
After the Redskins skimmed through the first half of the season like it was a training manual, and got reamed out by Joe Bugel, they have been competitive. But, even more amazing than actually trying during an athletic contest is the league-wide reaction to it.
A blanket of praise has covered everyone associated with the Redskins. Jim Zorn and his coaching staff have done a miraculous job motivating this team. The players are patrons and saints.
The incredulous reaction to mere effort should be startling.
But it’s not.
The Washington Redskins are a unique franchise that takes its cues from owner Daniel Snyder (and his pocketbook). The philosophy of bringing in high-priced free agents has been dissected into pulp, but it hasn’t been applied in this way.
By signing high-priced free agents and offering more money than anyone else, the Redskins have accumulated players who chase the money. (This of course being opposed to taking less money and signing with a contender, as is commonplace in the NBA). The money-chasers aren't exactly the most respectable group.
The Redskins can offer money in lieu of playoff appearances (like choosing to be an English major in lieu of employment). Machiavelli warned that a state dependent upon mercenaries would fail and failed it has: Two playoffs appearances and one playoff win in the decade of Danny.
The other piece to the puzzle is that the Redskins only have six players with guaranteed contracts in 2010. That means that once the season was lost, this season became an audition for 90 percent of the team (like this article was for my headline-writing abilities...epic win).
So playing hard at this point in the season isn’t about nobility or Jim Zorn’s motivational pyramid, it’s about job stability.
With all the Pro Bowlers the Redskins have lost this year, many of these guys are first-time NFL starters.
For Levi Jones and Mike Williams, it’s a second chance most players don’t get. For a young guy like Quinton Ganther, it’s a chance to vault out of being a backup/special teams guy and into a starting NFL running back. For players at a crossroads in their career, like Carlos Rodgers and Jason Campbell, it’s an opportunity to make a case for staying or starting somewhere else.
With so much unknown about 2010 and the salary cap situation, it’s an every-man-for-himself situation.
The Redskins are a lot like American Idol . Everyone is making their audition tapes and sending them out. Lots of people are going to be sent home and no one knows who. The evaluations will be done by people with little talent or knowledge of the activity.
And don’t get too attached to any of the contestants; we’re going to have a whole new cast for next year!