Washington Redskins: State of the Franchise

Jack BloomfieldContributor IMarch 19, 2010

PALO ALTO, CA - NOVEMBER 28:  Jimmy Clausen #7 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish walks the sideline during their game against the Stanford Cardinal at Stanford Stadium on November 28, 2009 in Palo Alto, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

32 In 32Washington Redskins

Over the next 32 days, I will be posting an article a day breaking down every NFL team.  I will discuss where they are as a team, how they got there, what they need to do going forward, and what the long-term outlook is for them.

Next up are the 4-12 Washington Redskins

Where Are They?

Go down Disappointment Avenue, take the first left on to Letdown Street, and the Redskins are checked in at the Hopeful Hotel.

The Washington Redskins have consistently disappointed their fans in recent years, a period which was epitomized by the hiring, and subsequent firing, of Jim Zorn.

After what can only be described as a complete failure of a season, the Redskins are in rebuild mode. Their offensive line was, well, offensive to watch last year, springing more leaks than a submarine made of cheese.

They had a hard time blocking anyone more athletic than a koala bear and were often the cause of negative-yard run plays.

Despite the offense playing at a poor level, the defense stepped up.

They finished the season ranked 10th in total yardage, which isn’t bad for a team that had the second-worst average net punt in the league. Left with bad field position after their 22nd-ranked offense made their 31st-ranked punting unit come on the field was a weakness for the Redskins.

They do have some talent on defense, though. Unlike all the other teams in the Top Five, the Redskins have current and future superstars on defense.

Brian Orakpo, LaRon Landry, Albert Haynesworth, and DeAngelo Hall can change an opponent’s possession at any given time, and that is a great skill to have.

Talented on defense, but not so much on the offense, the Redskins aren’t in as bad a shape as most teams are coming off a 4-12 season.

How Did They Get Here?

The bad can be attributed to one man—Daniel Snyder.

The good can be attributed to one man—Daniel Snyder.

Ever since buying the Redskins in May 1999, Snyder has taken a hands-on approach to running the club, with everything from firing head coaches so often it seems like they were just there to babysit the team, to trading away draft picks for veterans at an alarming rate.

Snyder has been criticized in the media for several years for his management of the team, and half of that is unfair.

Yes, he has traded away draft picks.

Yes, he has meddled in football operations.

Yes he traded away Champ Bailey, a Hall of Fame cornerback, along with a second-round pick for Clinton Portis.

Yes he has made mistakes, unforgivable ones, but the man also went out and got the top free-agent last year, Albert Haynesworth. Committing that amount of money to any player, no matter how talented, takes dedication from an owner.

He deserves most of the criticism he has received, but don’t say the man isn’t committed to trying to win.

Going forward with an owner with his commitment and a general manager in Bruce Allen who isn’t a yes-man like Vinny Cerrato means the Redskins will be better in the next decade of Snyder’s ownership than the first decade.

Now They Are Here, Where Do They Go?

They made a colossal step in the right direction by hiring Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan.

Shanahan has been able to work wonders on offense throughout his entire career, and who knows, he may turn Jason Campbell into a legitimate NFL quarterback.

His son, new offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, was instrumental in the success that Matt Schaub is having in Houston.

There is no reason to believe that he cannot bring that to Washington and work with Campbell, or whoever they see as their long-term quarterback.

They have made some very astute acquisitions this offseason, the most underrated being Rex Grossman.

Grossman spent a year as a backup in Houston, under Kyle Shanahan, and has a grip on the offence that they will be running, so he should be a serviceable backup to whoever they go with in the long term.

Signing Artis Hicks from the Vikings provides a little bit more depth on the interior offensive line going into this season, which is the biggest thing they were lacking in 2009.

Maake Komoeutu has been signed from Carolina to play the nose tackle in their new 3-4 defense, which Albert Haynesworth was unwilling to do. Now that the nose is sorted, Fat Albert can move to the five-technique defensive end and make an impact in the coming season.

In the upcoming draft the Redskins need to focus almost entirely on offense.

Although Malcom Kelly and Devin Thomas are still young players and have time to develop, there are no indications that either of them will develop into the dynamic playmakers the Redskins hoped for when they drafted them.

Taking a late-round receiver to develop as a slot receiver will be a wise move, giving Shanahan the athletic third receiver he likes between the numbers.

They also need to use a pick, or two, on the offensive line. There will be some talented offensive linemen at the top of the second round, where they are picking, that could add short term depth and long term upgrades to the players they currently have.

Despite signing Larry Johnson in free agency, the Redskins need another running back.

Clinton Portis and Larry Johnson have the combined explosive movement of a 18-year-old stoner eating Doritos. They just can’t move like they used to.

LeGarrette Blount had some on, and off, field issues last year, but I think the Redskins taking him in a late round is the perfect landing spot for him.

He will be under a strong leader with a team that has strong personalities on the roster. If he trims down five to eight pounds, he could be a great piece in the Redskins offense going forward.

They need to retool the offense completely and find a couple of pieces to fit their new 3-4 system, and I have complete faith in Allen and Shanahan’s ability to do this.

“With The Fourth Overall Selection in the 2010 NFL Draft, the Washington Redskins Select...”

... Jimmy Clausen, quarterback, Notre Dame.”

Despite a glaring need along the offensive line, the Redskins need to look at the quarterback position. Russell Okung, the Oklahoma State offensive tackle, is already off the board in my mock draft , making this selection that much easier.

Jason Campbell has been in so many offensive systems throughout both his college and NFL careers that it wouldn’t surprise me if he becomes an offensive coordinator when he is done playing; but the Redskins need to start over.

Mike Shanahan needs to bring in a guy that he can call his, and groom him from the beginning of his pro career to work in his system.

I think that guy is Jimmy Clausen.

Clausen has shown that he can make all the throws in an NFL-style offense, and has great ability to read a defense. Despite some leadership and off the field issues, I believe that Shanahan can turn him into a starter in the NFL, perhaps from week one.

Jimmy Clausen is also incredibly marketable, especially on the East Coast. I can see the marketing now... “New Era, New Coach, New Quarterback... Jimmy Clausen, the Quarterback of our Nation's Capitol;” or something equally cheesy and hard to stomach.

Taking Clausen, and trading Campbell, will hopefully solve the quarterback position long-term, and the Redskins will acquire more picks to fill out the rest of the roster later in the draft. 

So When Will It Be Better?

I think that the Redskins will be a drastically changed team going into 2010. They will play better football, have a great defense if their switch to a 3-4 goes well, and will have a great long term outlook.

They still won’t win the division. Not in 2010. Not in 2011.

Playing in the NFC (b)East is a blessing and a curse. You are part of one of the most competitive and historically dominant divisions in the league.

You have some of the best rivalries in all of sports and can look forward to six phenomenal division games each year; but the Redskins will still be the clear-cut worst team in the division.

They have talent and potential on defense, and Shanahan working on the offense, so they will be a project for a few years in comparison to the Eagles, Cowboys, and Giants.

I believe that if you placed the Redskins in the NFC West, the defense and Shanahan would challenge for the Divisional title.

If they were in the NFC South, they could push for a Wild Card spot. Unfortunately for the fans, they are several years away from competing with the Cowboys or Eagles.

But chin up, Mr. and Mrs. Redskin fan! You are only a few years away from potentially joining the NFL’s elite.