So, it’s not unusual for there to be high optimism for Redskins fans during the offseason. This one feels real though. With Cerrato, Zorn and Campbell gone, replaced by Allen, Shanahan and McNabb it’s easy to see why Redskins fans are excited.
It doesn’t help matters much that Shanahan has said he expects to “win now.”
Most of us were expecting a “rebuilding year” but there’s the coach saying that’s not the case. It’s easy to believe him, the man does have two Super Bowl rings after all, and we are seeing things run much different than they have in the past.
Dan Snyder, an oft media recluse, has done a couple of interviews and the team has made it very apparent who’s calling the shots. There are real quotes, from real people with actual names; No more of this “sources close to the team” crap. No conjecture, no innuendo, no speculation; Allen and Shanahan are running the show.
Allen and Shanahan seem to have a good mutual respect for each other. That’s the good news. The end of the road for Shanahan in Denver stemmed from a difference of philosophy with his GM in Denver.
Jim Haslett as defensive coordinator is also note-worthy. Like many coaches of his stature, he got his shot at head coach by being good at his position of Defensive Coordinator. Again, like so many coaches that get promoted from coordinator to head coach, he wasn’t very good. Greg Williams didn’t do very well in Buffalo, but was considered a “defensive genius” in Washington.
So, many rational ‘Skins fans have upped their expectations. In January, the general average prediction for the 2010 regular season record was 8-8. In August, it’s not uncommon for many otherwise rational fans to believe that 10-6 and even 12-4 are possible…after a 4-12 season.
I know what Shanahan said; I like what Shanahan said. No coach should ever “admit” they are in a “rebuild” mode. How are the players supposed to react when a coach comes out and says “well, we are rebuilding, so it’s gonna take us some time?” If they don’t feel the pressure to win now, why should they win now?
The coach in that situation has already given them a pass. “Nobody really expects us to win, so let’s just go out there and try our best.”
Not very motivational, huh?
If you want the best from your players, you must demand the best from them. Hold them accountable.” You are paid to win, so do it. Nobody is paying you to be second best.”
Sounds a lot better.
How do you hold a player accountable? Look no further than Albert Haynesworth. After all the noise he made In the off-season, and his shenanigans missing OTA’s and mini-camp, he came in to camp touting himself as being in the best shape of his career.
Shanahan gave him a reality check with a conditioning test. This test was widely reported inaccurately as most media outlets made it sound like Haynesworth was the only player to have to do it. In reality, the other players had done it, but during the OTA’s and mini-camps that Haynesworth missed. So, in a sense, he was the only player to have to do it…at the start of training camp.
Albert may have been in the best shape of his career (going from round to oblong, is still a shape) but the test brought him back down to Earth to realize that he was going to be expected to put his money where his mouth is. An ounce of humility goes a long way. Shanahan has pounds of it for Haynesworth.
Now that he’s passed his conditioning test Albert has a new challenge; get off the second-squad defense. Notice how Haynesworth’s outlook has changed. He is ready to play nose-tackle after saying for months he’d rather be traded. He wants the job that he was ready to pass up before. When he’s done fighting for it, he’ll have better respect for it because he will have earned it.
Shanahan has made it clear, not only to Haynesworth but to the team, that the days of two sets of rules (those for the big money players and those for everyone else) are over. No more will it be Clinton Portis and the A-squad, it will be the A-squad with or without Portis. It will be the A-squad with or without Haynesworth.
Now granted, the chances of Haynesworth or Portis riding the bench come game-one are slim, but it’ll be because the coach has wrung the talent out of them, not because they were paid to be starters.
The fact is that this is a rebuilding season, and there are a lot of needs that still need to be addressed. You can only do so much with the talent that you have. Allen and Shanahan are new to the NFC East, but they are not new to the game.
I stand by my 8-8 prediction. New coach, new team, new offense and defense; I imagine they will do well early but fade in the middle of the season as is typical for teams with an overhaul such as what we’ve experienced. It’ll take opponents time to really figure out what we can do before they start to exploit our weaknesses.
The most sobering thought is that we are an injury away from seeing Rex Grossman at QB.
For all the right reasons I hope I’m wrong, and for all the wrong reasons I hope I’m right.
One thing’s for sure, we are on the right track.