Redskins need to change their thinking and their attitude to succeed in the NFL


Mike Shanahan won’t be around as the head coach when the Redskins try to improve on their 2013 record of 3-13. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

The Washington Redskins fired their head coach, Mike Shanahan, and several assistant coaches last week after the team finished the 2013 season with eight straight losses and a record of 3-13 (three wins, 13 losses).

In other words, the Redskins failed and will have to start over with a new coach.

Almost everyone fails, including kids and pro football franchises. Students flunk a test or a class. Athletes get cut from teams. Teams have 3-13 seasons.

What is most important about failing is what you do after you fail. Because if you don’t make some important changes, chances are good that you will fail again.

So it seems to me that the Redskins, just like a kid who has flunked a class, have to do at least three things if they want to get better.

Be honest

The Redskins are not anywhere close to being a playoff team in the National Football League. Washington played seven games this season against teams that made the NFL playoffs. The team’s record in those seven games was 1-6. The Redskins lost the six games by an average of almost 19 points.

So it’s surprising when the team’s general manager, Bruce Allen, says there is a “nucleus for success” on the team. Other people describe certain players as talented. The truth is that the Redskins have three or four players — Trent Williams, Pierre Garcon, Alfred Morris and maybe Ryan Kerrigan — who are above-average NFL starters.

The Redskins have a long way to go. It won’t help to think that the team is better than it is.

Be humble

The way Washington has done things during the past 10 to 15 years — paying lots of money to big-name players, trading draft picks and treating average players like superstars — has not worked.

Instead of bragging about their Super Bowl championships — the Redskins have won that title three times, but their most recent such victory was way back in 1992 — and how they are a “flagship franchise” in the NFL, the team should study franchises that have been consistent winners over the past 15 years. Teams such as the New England Patriots, Seattle Seahawks and, right up the road, the Baltimore Ravens. The Redskins could learn a lot from those teams.

Be patient

A poor student does not become an A-plus student overnight. It takes a plan and the willingness to work long and hard to get better.

It’s the same with the Washington football team. Chances are that the Redskins will not suddenly become a Super Bowl team. They must get better on the offensive line, on special teams and all across the defense. They need to find better receivers to help Garcon. And quarterback Robert Griffin III has to improve as a passer and a leader.

It won’t be easy. But no one ever said starting over after failing is easy.

Bowen writes the sports opinion column for KidsPost. He is also the author of 19 sports books for kids. His latest book is “Perfect Game.”

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