Those of you who bleed Burgundy and Gold know the drill. Every offseason for the past decade, the Washington Redskins retool in dramatic and aggressive fashion. The results of such moves have rarely resulted in positive changes once the games start counting in early September.
The short leash and deep pocketbook of Daniel Snyder have led to some of the most intriguing, and often disappointing personnel moves in NFL history.
This year was no different, and yet, it was.
The promise of a free agency period without a salary cap had NFL pundits watching the Redskins very closely. However, the acquisitions this offseason that meant the most to the organization were off the field.
The hiring of Head Coach Mike Shanahan and General Manager Bruce Allen have brought championship experience, toughness, and above all, order, to the Washington Redskins. For all who have watched the last couple years and witnessed the chaos that was the Jim Zorn era, this order is a breath of fresh air.
As I wrote last season, watching Zorn stand on the sideline looking confused while 12 different people called the plays only to result in Jason Campbell getting sacked again was excruciating. The personnel moves made by this new staff have addressed all these concerns.
The 'Skins used the fourth pick in the draft on stud offensive tackle Trent Williams. They signed versatile veteran Artis Hicks. They traded for former Pro Bowler Jamaal Brown. If nothing else, the depth and talent of the line is dramatically improved over an unit last year that was one of the league's worst.
On the sideline, Shanahan brings his winning experience and expertise to the sideline. His discipline and determination to make this team his own has been on display all summer during the soap opera that has been Albert Haynesworth. Refusing to allow a player to change his ways sends a message to the team that it's Mike's way or the highway.
Joining him on the sideline will be his son, Kyle, who has had great success as an offensive coordinator in Houston the last several years. His presence, along with the arrival of McNabb, should help improve an offense that at times seemed to be beyond repair last season.
The defense has been the one area where the Redskins have always been fun to watch the last few years. The arrival of new defensive coordinator Jim Haslett should only make this tenacious unit more fearsome. His implementation of a 3-4 defense should allow some of the young playmakers like Brian Orakpo and LaRon Landry to perform at an even higher level.
On paper, the Redskins have improved dramatically over the squad that limped to the finish line last year 4-12. But we've all said that before. The Redskins are often a preseason sleeper and a team that blinds people by the glitz and glamour of high-priced free agents.
As a diehard fan myself, I'm approaching this season with cautious optimism. I have been blinded in the past and have paid the price by having my lofty expectations smashed.
This year, looking at the situation logically, the Redskins will be a better football team. Even if their record doesn't reflect it. The improved management on the sideline and the front office mean that the Redskins are finally heading in the right direction.
With the talent on the roster, the Redskins have more than enough ability to contend for a playoff spot this year. All this depends on the same things that they struggled at last year, such as protecting the quarterback, making plays downfield, and not making stupid mistakes.
As a fan, I am excited to see how this team performs. Moreover though, I am excited to know that my team is headed in the right direction, something I could not say in the past.