Washington Redskins new head coach Mike Shanahan
When the Washington Redskins ditched Vinny Cerrato, Jim Zorn and his band of misfit coordinators for Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan, a nation of fans rejoiced at the prospect of success for the coming season. Despite a flurry of changes during this offseason, the Redskins have no intention of waiting and building for the future.
Allen and Shanahan have made it clear that this is a "win now" situation and not a rebuilding process.
The first and most unexpected step the two new faces made was trading for Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. His five NFC Championship games and Super Bowl appearance give him the credibility at quarterback the Redskins lacked with incumbent starter Jason Campbell. It was clear that the future is now when Campbell was promptly shipped to Oakland for a future pick.
Fans rejoiced once again with the departure of their favorite scapegoat and the introduction of a former rival as the savior of the franchise.
The best move the Redskins made this offseason was opting against a trendy draft pick, like some ridiculous trade for eventual first overall pick Sam Bradford, or an unnecessary pick like Eric Berry, C.J. Spiller or Tim Tebow. Instead, the Redskins welcomed left tackle from Oklahoma, Trent Williams, to the fold as their replacement for long-time rock Chris Samuels.
Along with an infusion of youth came an influx of grizzled veterans, brought in to bring competition to most if not all positions. Competition that was lacking in years past with overly player-friendly coaching.
It is difficult to review the entirety of the Redskins whirlwind offseason without seeming too much like a broken record. Still, every move they have made has been a move that gives the team the best chance to win now instead of later.
In a league of "what have you done for me lately," and a fan base as mercurial as the one in Washington, winning now is the only option.
It hasn't all been smooth sailing thus far, as change often breeds conflict of some sort. In this case, receivers and Albert Haynesworth are the biggest issues. Beyond Santana Moss, there are no dependable options for the number two spot. Haynesworth has proven to be a selfish malcontent in the face of his altered defensive role.
One of these issues is manageable, the other is unnecessary and more of a headache than an issue.
Moss has shown through two preseason games that he can make plays with the football, even though he is a speedy receiver that has hit that magic number for anyone with the speed he is known for.
After Moss is father time Joey Galloway, the unfocused third-year man Devin Thomas, preseason upstart Anthony Armstrong, the perpetually-injured Malcolm Kelly, return men Brandon Banks and Terrence Austin, as well as Roydell Williams who is trying to work his way back into the NFL after a couple of years out of the league.
Armstrong has shown the ability to get behind defenders, adjust to the ball on the fly and make catches in traffic. It is only preseason, but he has shown up Thomas and the still-shelved Kelly with ease. Thomas has a couple good catches, a touchdown, a few drops and a muffed kick return to his credit. Kelly has a bum leg and not much else.
It is being rumored that Shanahan will only keep two quarterbacks on the active roster, making room for an extra receiver or return man. It is looking like the final roster will hold Moss, Thomas, Armstrong, Banks, Williams and Austin.
No matter the names, I expect the Redskins to have a fine-tuned offense when the season kicks off in a couple of weeks.
The Haynesworth saga rages on, and it is quickly becoming an overblown 'he said, they said' scenario that every fan of the team and of football is tired of hearing. Ma'ake Kemoeatu has been practicing with the first team and is more accustomed and willing to play the nose tackle in the 3-4.
Until he proves he is ready, willing and able to be with the first team, Haynesworth can cry about headaches and fail some more fitness tests all he wants. If he really wants to cement his legacy as the best defensive player in the NFL, he will put in the work to get there. Shanahan is teaching him that nothing is handed to anyone these days, least of all players who cash checks and lay on the field for a breather.
All things considered, Washington looks to be worlds away from the 4-12 debacle of last season. While it may not equate to a 13-3 season, the Redskins look to have a solid sleeper playoff contender with the pieces they've gathered.
There are still plenty of wrinkles to iron out over the next two preseason games, there is no question about that. And while I was hesitant to join the club when this whole thing began, every day I find myself getting more and more comfortable saying Redskins and playoffs in the same sentence.