Hope is real for the Redskins once all get past the playoff pain

The sun came up the day after Washington's playoff exit. Despite current frustrations, Peter Hailey explains why brighter days are on the horizon.

First off, let’s make this clear: Sunday’s home loss to the Green Bay Packers, in what looked like a very winnable game, hurts for Redskins players and fans. A lot.

That pain is multiplied once you recount how quickly the Burgundy and Gold jumped out to their 11-0 lead, only to see Aaron Rodgers and Co. rip off a 35-7 run that sapped the energy out of the FedEx Field faithful one play at a time. And when Rodgers completed his final kneel down in the waning seconds of the fourth quarter, the magical, incredibly entertaining, and flat-out fun 2015 ‘Skins season was over. Just like that.

With the end of the year comes the desire to look ahead, and that’s certainly necessary. I, for one, have had less than a day to process what happened in the Wild Card matchup, and am already asking questions about 2016. The main ones I’ve come up with that’ll stress me out for months, and many other fans will likely be posing as well, are: Will Kirk Cousins be as strong as he was in his debut campaign, or will he be a Derek Anderson-y, Matt Cassel-ish flash in the pan signal caller? Will the holes on the roster be addressed, and how so? And, overall, was the campaign we just witnessed more of a fluke or a sign of things to come?

However, the more I ponder that last one, the more I think it’s the latter. Because, while seeing green and yellow-clad supporters take over the stadium in Landover as their favorite franchise earned the right to move on in the postseason stung, the big picture in D.C. is what’s encouraging. This thing feels sustainable, and the first step in the journey toward relevance and respect has been completed.

The main reason to feel that way? The general manager. Scot McCloughan came in with more hype than the new Star Wars movie upon his arrival last offseason, but he delivered, and maybe even surpassed the expectations of how skilled he is at building an organization. You know what he’s doing right now? Turning on the film — his true specialty — and scouting college prospects, guys who he thinks will help the Redskins take the next leap forward. His first draft class was very productive, and there’s no reason to think his second won’t be, too.

Cousins, meanwhile, looks like the leader this group needs. Sure, he was unable to beat a top-tier opponent over the course of the schedule and he looked rattled against the Pack, but he turned in a damn good season overall, and it’s obvious that his teammates believe in him. That’s huge. A full offseason as the No. 1 guy will only help his development, and he has the reputation of being an absolute grinder, so you know he’ll take advantage of every day of work he gets. Yes, we’ve said this before (plenty), but it feels like Washington has their franchise passer. And this time, he can operate in the pocket, which is where the NFL’s best do the majority of their work.

There’s young talent everywhere. There’s a head coach who just more-than-doubled his 2014 win total. There are a lot of other quality guys on the staff. And everyone just picked up postseason experience, which is valuable.

Let’s be real: Before Week 1, most — including myself — thought the 2015 Washington Redskins would be the first block in a rebuilding project. And they were. But, as it turned out, that block was much bigger than anyone could have imagined. As it stands now, the project is already way ahead of schedule. And it feels great to be a part of it.

Follow Peter Hailey on Twitter at @barelyin.

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