The Sorrows of the Washington Redskins

Once upon a time the Washington Redskins were a glorious team with Superbowl trophies, a Hall of Fame coach and an owner who loved his franchise enough to hire the right kind of personnel around him to run his team efficiently. He built a great and glorious stadium to them and then sadly he passed away and in his will he sold his beloved Redskins…

Now more than a decade later the sad reality of what is happening to the Redskins comes to light. Gone are the glory days of the making a run in the playoffs. The Skins have been twice in the last decade and been beaten twice in the 1st round. Many years they have finished last in the NFC East division and well out of the playoffs. Gone is Jack Kent Cooke Stadium in Raljon, Maryland (named for JKC’s 2 sons)…the naming rights were sold and the stadium became FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland. Gone is the hall of fame coach..Joe Gibbs came back for a few years but burned out after the death of Sean Taylor and the stress it takes to run a NFL franchise. What is left is a sad mess. The Redskins are bad..very bad, but the problem isnt from the bottom is from the top down. You cant just blame bad players, personnel and coaches, but bad management and ownership.

Daniel Synder is a very wealthy and successful businessman. When he bought the team from the Cooke estate and promised to bring winning back to DC, folks rejoiced. He brought training camp back to the DC area into Ashburn VA (it had been in PA for several years) and opened it to the public (for a nominal charge for parking). Running the Redskins like any one of his successful businesses, he has made the Redskins the 2nd most profitable franchise in the NFL (behind the Dallas Cowboys) and 3rd in all of sports (behind the Manchester United of the English Premier League & the Cowboys of course). However, seeing the Redskins as a business means not seeing it as a team. Not seeing it as one that needs people who know the sport not the business in order to run it as a team. He brought in coach after coach and went after free agent after free agent. Cerrato brought in aging veterans like Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders and Irving Fryar who were all well past their prime and beyond the ability to play at the speed of today’s game and numerous coaches not prepared to run the Redskins in Snyder’s system. Synder brought in Vinny Cerrato as his executive vice president of football operations and general manager and Synder & Cerrato get the final say in drafting and scouting decisions, many times overriding their own coaches’ suggestions. Snyder & Cerrato attend the NFL draft in April. Snyder & Cerrato go to the combine. Cerrato’s background as a college scout should have had a good impact on the Redskins, but it has not. The Skins have consistently drafted poorly with this past year drafting 3 offensive players in the 2nd round when the defense is where players were despearately needed. Because Snyder sees only the profit that the Skins generate instead of the atrocious play of the actual team, an uproar has began in the nation’s capital. There are those not only asking for the removal of Cerrato as the GM, but Synder as the owner (not going to happen folks..let that dream go).

When Gibbs left after the 2007/2008 season he left behind an heir apparent in Gregg Williams. Gregg Williams is a defensive coach with a nack for bringing in the right players and making the defense competitive (look at the Saints now if you doubt me). Rather than give the job to Williams as Gibbs had thought, Synder & Cerrato put Williams through several grueling interviews, 1 interview lasting more than 3 hours. Why were they interviewing a man Gibbs himself had endorsed? Because Cerrato didnt like Williams. Yes Williams can be arrogant but above his arrogance is his ability to coach and do it damn well. It didnt matter, Cerrato & Snyder decided against hiring him. Williams was gone and they went off to find another coach. While searching for a head coach they decided to go ahead and hire an offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator. WTF? Ok problem.. what head coach wants to come in and be told “Ok here you’s the staff we hired. Make it work.” NO, a head coach wants to hire his own personnel. He wants to go out and look at who’s available and decide who will fit best into the way he wants to run the system. By hiring a staff you are trying to tie the hands of a head coach and force him to work with people he may not be comfortable with or who he feels will fit into his playing style. On top of that with Cerrato as the GM, whatever coach that comes in will have to deal with Cerrato overriding their choices in players both on free agency and in the draft. A long time coach in this league is not going to tolerate it. Needless to say several of the big names that were available (Cowher who cant stand Snyder, Fossell, etc) turned down the job. So the Skins decided to take their brand new offensive coordinator Jim Zorn, who just the year prior had only been a quarterback’s coach in Seattle, and made him the head coach. Now when the Skins started out 6-2 last year, it seemed like they had made a genius move. But the Skins ended up completing the season going 2-6 and finishing with a division worst 8-8 and out of the playoffs. Rather than think it was the coach they blamed it on the quarterback. Now admittedly Jason Campbell is not a great quarterback, but he’s not terrible. If he had a better offensive line and wasnt always having to scramble for his life, maybe we could get a better idea of how good he really is, but the issues on the offensive line have never been properly addressed. So we may never really know for sure. Instead in the off-season the Skins tried to trade Campbell to try and get Matt Cassell from New England (who ultimately went to the Kansas City Chiefs instead) and then to trade up in the draft to get Mark Sanchez out of USC (who was drafted by the New York Jets), neither of which worked. Once it was clear they werent going to be able to trade him, the Skins tried to make things work with Campbell at quarterback (who now carried a chip on his shoulder) and Zorn as head coach for another year.

2009/2010 season has been a terrible one for the Skins. They are a pathetic 2-4 and dead last in the NFC East division. Their only wins have come against the sad and lowly winless Rams & Bucs. They have dropped 4 games to the Giants, and the previously winless Lions, Panthers & Chiefs. The solution that Cerrato and Synder crafted to deal with this? To strip Zorn of his play calling duties and hand them over to Sherman Lewis, an offensive consultant hired just 2 weeks ago who had retired 5 years ago and was calling bingo at a retirement home instead of calling plays for a NFL franchise. Now admittedly Zorn may have been overwhelmed with taking over as head coach of a NFL team having never even been an offensive coordinator, but stripping him of his play calling duties in a sad attempt to get the man to quit is deplorable. If you dont want the man, fire him and pay him the money you owe him for the remainder of his contract. At this juncture though, Redskins would be hard pressed to find a coach willing to take over at the mid way point of the season. They would either have to keep Zorn or fire him and promote the offensive coordinator Sherman Smith, neither option likely to turn this season around. According to the Redskins tried to hire Mike Shanahan but he turned down the offer to take over midseason. Whether or not they will offer it to him after the season is over remains to be seen. Regardless until some serious changes are made at the top of the organization in particular hiring a separate general manager instead of having Vinny Cerrato run operations and work as the GM, the Skins will continue to struggle.

Doing a search of ticket broker sites for Redskins tickets the other day yielded hundreds if not thousands of tickets available online. Tickets to every single game at FedEx Field even rivalry games like the Eagles, Giants & Cowboys. Fans are disheartened and disgusted by what is happening with this team. I have had conversations with many longtime season ticket holders who have told me that unless something significant happens, they will not renew their season tickets next year. That they cannot continue to watch the sad showcase each season. Each year getting their hopes up only to be disappointed by the end of the season. The complacency to mediocrity by ownership and management have worn loyal fans thin. Attendance at home games continues to decline. This is a historic franchise spiraling downwards and in desperate need of some changes fast to save them from becoming one of the worst teams in the entire league.