Losing the Offseason
Blame it on the family dog – but the stench lingering in the air around Ashburn, Virginia isn’t emanating from the golden retriever curled up under the dinner table. It’s the foul fog of another failed season you’re smelling.
For Washington Redskins fans, this is the most compelling time of the year. As the scents of another DC spring - azalea, cherry blossom, dogwood – waft skyward, fans of the Burgundy and Gold drift irresistibly towards optimism. Even the cynic’s heart greets these first warm, sunny days of spring with renewed spirit and hope. As fans, we find a way to banish the long, joyless shadows of a previous season and dreary winter, and look forward to something far more promising.
No one has won more offseasons than our Redskins. We’re the Charlie Sheen of post-season activity. Winning. With a penchant for offseason splashes that would make Donald Trump blush, the Redskins have been a triumph of style over substance for years. Whether tossing away precious draft picks and big money for sexy free agents past their prime, or rolling the franchise dice on reclamation projects, the Redskins have owned the offseason spotlight for nearly a decade. Unfortunately Mr. DeMille, when it came time to perform, these eye-catching Redskins acquisitions have not been ready for their close-ups.
It’s been a puzzling strategy. The most cynical fans explain away the approach as nothing more than an attempt to distract Redskins fans from the unpleasant reality of just two winning seasons in more than a decade. That many of these sexy offseason additions have broken team apparel sales records is not lost on fans either. More optimistic types venture that these moves are evidence of an inexperienced owner, desperate to win now, but entirely unsure how to get there.
If the definition of crazy is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, the Redskins front office went off its collective rocker years ago. But there may be signs of sanity. There’s a new sheriff (and his deputy) in town, and current fan grumblings and doubt aside, this one may well know what he’s doing.
The silence at Redskins Park this winter has been damn near deafening. Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen didn’t trade away most of their draft picks before the crocuses bloomed. They haven’t flown in any mega-stars, signed anyone’s talented misunderstood malcontent, or tried to show the rest of the NFL just how smart they are. So far, it’s been an offseason of quiet stability resembling something akin to competence.
Last season’s signing of Donovan McNabb shook up a lot of diehard Redskins fans. With a proven veteran coach and GM, fans expected a sea change at Ashburn. Instead they got what looked to many like more of the same. Forget about stockpiling valuable picks, drafting smart, growing your own, and building from the trenches up – it’s easier to buy talent. The acquisition of Donovan McNabb raised red flags and eyebrows around the beltway. Fans quietly reassured themselves that Shanahan and Allen knew what they were doing – didn’t they? But their inner voices were filled with angst. Here we go again! When McNabb imploded with a third of the season still to go, their most closely held fears were confirmed. The Skins were doomed, Super Bowl winning coach or not.
But fans who viewed last season’s moves as a continuation of a failed Redskins strategy don’t quite have it right. With the dysfunctional saga of Albert Haynesworth dominating Redskins news nearly all season, it was easy for fans and sports talk radio to forget that Shanahan and Allen inherited that particular disaster. While they certainly owned the decision to bring in an aging veteran QB, the move was not without some merit. Aging or not, McNabb was a former Pro Bowler who at the time no one doubted would be a huge upgrade – one that would finally bring the Jason Campbell Experiment to a welcome close. If Jason Campbell was not the QB of the Redskins future, someone had to carry that yoke, even if temporarily.
While the McNabb deal grabbed most of the headlines last season, it was the Redskins under the radar selection of an offensive tackle with the 4th overall NFL draft pick that should’ve given fans reason to rejoice.
And Redskins fans had to suspect they’d been shot out of a wormhole into some parallel burgundy and gold universe as they watched their front office look absolutely, positively competent during April’s NFL Draft. The Redskins in Costanza-like fashion, did the ‘exact opposite’. It was just the latest wave in a sea of refreshing changes. Perhaps there is hope for the franchise afterall?
Color me optimistic.
The Redskins have lost nearly every kind of game, in every kind of way imaginable over the years. But this year, they finally did it.
They lost the offseason.
That may be the best news Redskins fans have had in years.