Saturday, January 22, 2011

Anticipation 2011

I know the 2010 playoffs are still going on. I know we still haven't seen DeAngelo Hall (or Brian Orakpo) represent the Redskins in those god awful jerseys in the Pro Bowl. I know the four old guys obsessed with going to every Super Bowl (why? In my case, why would I want to go to every live Super Bowl and watch the Cowboys, Eagles or Giants play? If I really wanted to see their respective fan bases or teams -I don't- I'll just go to a Skins game at FedEx for a lot less money.) have yet to get their 45th Super Bowl in a row (how Favreian!!!).
(Why does this picture make me think of Moe, Larry, Curly and Shemp?)
We haven't even seen a new NFL champion crowned. The Saints are still the champs even though they were knocked out of the playoffs two weeks ago.

So why am I already missing football?

The 2010 season seemed to end so quickly. One minute the Skins are pulling an upset on the "Super Bowl bound" Cowboys, the next they're losing to Detroit. Before I know it, the Skins have been eliminated from playoff contention and now I'm only watching games to look at the roster for next year and hope we get a decent pick in the draft. I have a feeling that this off-season is going to be a long one and not just because of a potential lockout between the NFL and the NFLPA (player's union) [Note: to all parties involved: GET THE NEW CBA DONE NOW!!!!! Don't ruin the good thing that is in place that is professional football]. I'm already looking forward to the 2011 season.

And you say to me: "why? The Skins lost 7 of their final 9 games". True. But sometimes in the long term scheme of things you take more out of what you see in the game than what you see in the record. I know the Skins are a "win now" team. They made the move for McNabb b/c they thought they could be a playoff contender as soon as this year. I know the fanbase (despite hating the owner for doing the same thing) wants to win now. It just sucks to be a perennial loser or just generally mediocre with a season or two of promise mixed in for the past two decades. That said, I think that the franchise is on the right track for the first time in years (decades?). While I'm not sure that the Redskins are heading to the playoffs in 2011, I think they'll be closer than they were this year and if they continue on this path could be a player in 2012 playoffs.

Here's why:

 1. People who actually know football run the football operations.
Dan Snyder knows how to make money, knows how to spend money and knows how to play the game of business. But when it comes to football, he's just like you or me- a fan. Sure, I feel like I have a decent knowledge of the game but could I GM or coach a professional team? Let's be real, the answer is no way in hell. By putting in charge guys like Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan with some already talented FO people like Scott Campbell and Morocco Brown and bringing in Tony Wyllie, the Skins seem to have tried to improve upon one of their weakest parts of the organization.

2. A new group of young, "core Redskins" are being formed.
What we're starting to see is a changing of the guard in players at Redskins park. Out are the Gibbs 2.0 guys (I don't think Zorn had a chance to develop his core group) and in are a new group of young players which I hope the team can start building around. Brian Orakpo, Trent Williams, Brandon Banks, Anthony Armstrong and Kevin Barnes just to name a few. I expect Perry Riley, Terrence Austin, Logan Paulsen and Erik Cook to possibly join that group next year. When Joe Gibbs took over for his second run he had acquired a huge lot of veterans (some young, some not so much) through free agency and trade. Mike Shanahan did something similar, but his team seems to be a bit younger. Which means that hopefully, when the Skins have most of the personnel it needs the core group won't be too old. If anything many of them might be in their prime at the point the Skins may be ready to challenge the rest of the NFL.

3. Another year under their belt/continuity.
Name back to back years since the 2004 and 2005 seasons where the team kept the same coaching staff and tried to keep some form of continuity on the team? Heck, go back all the way to 2000 and you won't see a Redskins team that kept the same head coach, offensive coordinator and defensive coordinator on the team for more than two years. 2011 is one of those rare years that we'll actually see this happen. Plus, one has to hope that the growing pains of moving from a 4-3 base to a 3-4 base will ease. Same can be said with the O-line's slow conversion from the Joe Gibbs/Joe Bugel power run to the more agile zone scheme that both Shanahans have brought from their days in Denver in Houston. While many wrote and talked about the 3-4 changes, people forget that the O-line is making a radical change as well. Yes, the Skins did run some zone blocking with Gibbs 2.0 (remember the infamous 4th and 1 against the Giants in 2007?) and Jim Zorn but Shanahan is looking to find the players that is more fit to run his scheme (this alone explains why Derrick Dockery has been inactive for most of the season).

4. I want to see these schemes run with the right personnel.
Was the 3-4 a failure in Washington? The answer is a clear I don't know. It was pretty porous and the Skins were ranked at the bottom of many categories by the end of the year. So it looked pretty bad in 2010. That said, we did see some things early on in the season that did look good. One thing being an increase in turnovers. The big thing I want to see is what will the Redskins look like if/when they get the right personnel to fit their schemes. The Skins need at least a starting DE, NT, OLB and ILB and at this point I'm not sure that any of those guys are currently on the roster. Anthony Bryant might be a solid NT/DE candidate and Perry Riley may come into the ILB spot next to London Fletcher. The good news is that this year (again barring a lockout/strike) that there should be a good free agent market. The Skins don't need to go crazy, which is the typical M.O. during the Snyder era, but find young talent that fits the scheme. If the Skins can scout and find good undrafted rookies, then they should be able to find some good free agents that are reasonable and affordable. The Skins also have 7 picks in the draft and hopefully they can find a few starters in the 2011 draft class.

5. Is there progression in the Shanahan administration?
When the 2008 season ended for the Jim Zorn led Redskins, it was on a bad note. After going 6-2, the Skins fell apart and finished the season 8-8. The general feeling was apathy and it looked like 2009 wasn't going to be much better. There were rumors that the players (not named Clinton Portis, he had made his feeling known that he wasn't happy) didn't like where the team was headed and that things were too simple. In 2010, the Skins had a similar fate but this team seems upbeat. The attitude seems like they know they're closer to getting to .500 than what the record indicates. Many fans will tell you that a program takes a few years to develop and usually by year two or three (or five) that the team should be in place to compete with other teams for playoff berths or division titles. That really doesn't seem to be the case in the NFL anymore. Some teams rebuild and automatically becomes great. Some take time and others flounder in mediocrity. What I want to know is can the 2011 Redskins improve upon things that they couldn't do well in 2010. Here's some things: improved 3rd down conversions, more Red Zone scoring, improved FG conversions, more sacks, figuring out how to win at home, figuring out how to beat the Giants.

Can the Redskins improve upon their failings of 2010? So many questions and so few answers, but unlike the last few seasons I'm thinking 2011 will be a better year for this team and franchise. I for one can't wait to see it happen.

Man this is going to be a long off season.......


Anonymous said...

This was a nice post. A lot of my sentiments are in here. I just hope we find young, hungry players either via the draft or FA that fit our schemes and are able to contribute on the field fairly quickly so a lot of our questions can be answered.

Yep, it's gonna be a long off season...

Mike F.

Walking Deadman said...

Thanks for the post Mike and thanks for reading. <y deep hope is that the Skins take advantage of the draft and use picks to find future depth and starters.

When we do go the FA route the Skins must bring in guys who want to play and guys who still have 5 seasons (or more) in them. We want guys entering their prime, not at the twilight of their careers.

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