Something Different: Washington Football Review
Full disclosure, I have been a Washington Redskins and now Washington Football fan for my entire life. I am a thirty seven years old family man, who lived through Gibbs Super Bowls and Jack Kent Cook with my own father and I had no idea how good I had it watching Washington systematically reach the playoffs, dominate their opponents, and compete for championships. We were different than the rest of the league.
May 25, 1999. It was different. Dan Synder officially spends $800 million dollars to purchase the team. We were introduced to an era of paid training camp opportunities, free agent spending, and “winning off the field.” It seems like every off season, Dan Synder and Bruce Allen found new ways to draw from the Bank of our faith to loan us false hope. The debt was increasing, but we the fans continued to sell our hearts and money into a team that was abusing our trust.
As recently as this year, the downward trajectory hit new lows with sexual misconduct allegations, lack of professionalism regarding alcohol abuse by high ranking figure heads, lack of diversity within the organization, and of course the name. It was no longer just about the losses. It was the embarrassment just being a fan. Wearing a hoodie invited ridicule or continual social media bashing from other fans. It was brutal.
Enter Ron Rivera. Fans are debating about the legitimacy of the division title. Are we the team that ultimately finished 7-10 or a division leader who fell just short of upsetting the greatest quarterback to every play the game? Normally, I’d suggest the Bill Parcells quote “You are what the record says you are.” But why does it feel different? Jay Gruden had four seasons in which they won at least 7 games or more. Was it the division title? No. It is more than that. It was different.
This season recap is not about wins and losses. This season was about more than that. We went 7-10 and won the worst division in football. We lost to Tampa in the first round of the playoffs with an inspiring effort from a backup quarterback. Our defense might actually have a generational talent in Chase Young. These are only being dismissed because because this year was about even MORE. Something was different. It was about culture. It was about claiming our team back. It was about pride.
Let’s look at the real keys to the season.
We got it Wright:
Good bye Bruce. That’s all you get.
Enter Jason Wright. Yes, he is the first black team president in the history of the NFL and that is a marketable direction from ownership, but Wright has been on point from the moment he entered the building. He has been accessible to the media, communicates openly with the fans about the direction of the franchise, and most importantly he has been honest.
The previous “leadership” left us with a disingenuous smile and a false sense of entitlement every time they stood at a podium. The good ol’ boys club of the past was nauseating to digest. But now, we have a man of integrity. Jason Wright is the youngest team president in the league who also happens to be a former player. He’s taken the time to address the name change, go on local radio and social media, and ensures the fans that he is not only going to clean up the mess but deliver professionalism that we have not seen as an organization in decades.
Doug Williams, the director of player development
Fans remember Doug Williams the player, but now Doug Williams is also the head of the player development department. He was a leader on the field, and with his leadership, he can bring some history of back under his tutelage.
Before Dan, Washington was one of the most idealized franchises not only from a national standpoint but a global standpoint. Often ranking tops of the Forbes franchise lists financially. This in large part was due to the success of the team, ownership of the stadium, and the accountability of those in the organization. Doug will do his part in ensuring players are being held accountable for their own actions and their development both on and off the football field.
Open Investigation and the hire of Julie Donaldson, Senior Vice President of Media and Content
As a father with two daughters, hearing the reports of an alleged “tape” circulating around the front office involving cheerleaders during their calendar photoshoot along with some extracurricular obligations involving after hour dinners with sponsor members was enough make me question my ability to show any sort of allegiance to this franchise. While I enjoy this franchise, I love my daughters. The idea that this organizations actions could openly disrespect women went deeper than football. They needed to show a change and they did.
Not only did they hire an open investigation into the franchise, allowing unprecedented access to team information, but they are taking responsibility for past members of the organization. This is a far cry from the previous general manager.
Secondly, Washington hired Julie Donaldson, who became the first regular on-air member of an NFL broadcast. This was long overdue, but Washington was the first to progress as an organization. It does not in any way take away from the allegations and those involved must still be held accountable, but this helps. Donaldson did an incredible job this season and she was pointed out in every broadcast to millions of daughters each week.
Ron Rivera was exactly what the franchise needed. A man who brought accountability to his players and coaches. When he was receiving chemotherapy treatments and still showing up to work, there was little excuse for the organization not to show up to work. It was more than that. Brandon Scherff stated “We are building something here to absolutely make a run in the future.” The players have said in multiple interviews that they love Ron.
Ron entered this season with players issues (Trent Williams), name change concerns, and front office allegations and he addressed each problem head on. Many fans questioned if Ron regretted joining the organization, but he endured and continued to take a stand. He has done almost everything right since his arrival here in Washington.
Ron Rivera mentioned one regret he had was not having an open competition at the quarterback position to start the season. Instead, Dwayne Haskins was given the reins of the franchise as well as the captains “C” on his jersey.
There is no need to continue to spike the football on Dwayne. All fans agree that Dwayne disappointed this year and according to one player on the team, lost the locker room weeks before he was eventually dismissed. Instead of keeping him around like RGIII or Kirk Cousins and allowing the circus to lay claim to the team, he was excused and given an opportunity to find work elsewhere. The distraction was not worth his value and the organization developed as a whole by releasing him in a timely manner.
Alex Smith, who will undoubtedly win “Comeback player of the year” delivering his own inspirational tale of commitment and dedication to his craft, showed players the importance of hard work without guarantees. Players watched a man with nothing to gain earn the respect of a nation in his pursuit to help his team win for a game he loved. He was prepared to play on one leg to help his team win. He showed the kind of grit and determination that will inspire for generations. Best of all, he was on our team.
Taylor Heinicke’s story is only beginning here in Washington. He will indisputably be the bell of the ball this offseason for talk radio and fans questioning his role for this organization should he return. All indications is that he wants to be here, stating his love for Ron Rivera and the players within the locker room. Chase Young and Terry McLaurin have already given their stamped seal of approval, and that’s enough for me. It would be harmonious to see the underdog become a symbol of a rejuvenated franchise this offseason.
I quoted hall of famer Bill Parcells earlier in this article. Stating that “you are what your record says you are.” But with all due to Parcells. Not this year and not with this team. Something was different. This was more than the record, this was about being different.