Sage observers of the Washington Redskins know better than trying to pinpoint rock bottom. Over the last two decades, little else has proven trickier with this franchise. The possible exceptions include developing a franchise quarterback and seeking competence in the front office.
Various reports suggest the end of the Robert Griffin III era is upon us, both in terms of his starting job and perhaps roster spot. The speculation, while stunning considering his jaw dropping rookie season of 2012 wasn't that long ago, rings true. Even if false, the Redskins are still searching for that franchise quarterback.
Otherwise, here is what fans should realize: For the first time in nearly a generation, the Washington Redskins would have a true NFL general manager.
Not a yes man like Vinny Cerrato, who took orders and clumsily executed them without needed pushback or skill. Not a coach double dipping as front office commander like Mike Shanahan. Rather, an actual scout-at-the-core decision-maker who isn't simultaneously at odds with X's and O's duties, and most of all, has influence over the owner rather than the other way around.
This was the hope when Scot McCloughan came aboard this year shortly after the Redskins wrapped up a 7-25 record over a two-season span.
Hope isn't truth, but desire. Positive signs occurred, specifically the unglamorous offseason focus of building up both lines. However, until McCloughan exerts power at the highest level, we wouldn't know if he truly had any.
Look back at franchise's tortured history with quarterbacks since Joe Gibbs left the first time. The overall decision-making is much, much worse.
They fired Marty Schottenheimer despite clear progress. They alienated Brad Johnson, a future Super Bowl-winning QB, by giving Jeff George a big contract as the backup. They sent Brian Mitchell away and Darrell Green to the pasture by signing Deion Sanders, one of numerous mercenaries shown love at the expense of core players and culture.
There was Jim Zorn and Albert Haynesworth and Donovan McNabb and numerous other choices that pop up on lists of all-time worst NFL decisions.
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When it came to the players, perhaps the most common theme was choosing star power over needed competence. The reason why many are fawning over the preseason performances of Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy isn't over any on-field resemblance to Tom Brady. It's the reappearance of QB competence.
Griffin's flash faded when the injuries mounted and his running game disappeared. When making apples to apples comparison of the three quarterbacks as pocket passers, Griffin comes in ninth.
Yet for all the positive moves made by this organization since the end of last season, the lack of a QB competition stood out. Griffin's struggles were real and the wrong kind of spectacular. Following Saturday's win over the Ravens with Cousins starting over the concussed Griffin, Gruden said, "I’ve always been told that I have the final say of who plays quarterback."
Gruden can say what he wants, but actions speak louder than words.
At his season-ending press conference last year, Gruden said of the quarterbacks, "Until that position is earned, you have to have a competition." Two months later, with no games having been played, he reversed course and said Griffin remains No. 1.
Anybody who lived through the past 15-20 years knew what happened. The question was would the new GM stand firm on his beliefs once he finished unpacking.
In the case of the quarterbacks, progress took time for McCloughan. That there was no public acknowledgement of a true competition during training camp for the starting QB job baffled. Griffin was great, emphasis on was. Perhaps there was faint hope the QB who talks about knowing your why would find his way.
All but the devout RG3 fans recognize that didn't and won't happen, at least not here.
If McCloughan wants a change at quarterback and Griffin is shown the door, this is the most significant franchise moment in years. This isn't suggesting RG3 was the root of all evil. Not having a general manager with final say was.
Plenty of work remains. Washington would be fortunate to finish with a .500 record this season. Gruden's tenure won't last the five years of his contract at this pace. Simple bad luck can wreck the best-laid plans.
McCloughan getting his way in this moment would be a big, big deal. Should a wins and losses turnaround come sooner than later, we'dlook back at this time and realize the Redskins were already taking their first steps off rock bottom.
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