They are a Washington institution, the top source of sports entertainment in a politically obsessed city. Whether the Redskins win or lose each week affects the mood of entire mid-Atlantic region, and their inspirational season-opening victory over the Giants last Sunday is already spawning optimism for the 2011 season. The franchise has struggled since winning three Super Bowls way back when. To see if they can make it back to the top, let’s dispense with some popular myths about the burgundy and gold.
1. Get rid of Dan Snyder, and all will be well.
During Snyder’s first decade as owner, streams of Redskins and pro-football fans considered him a liability to the team. After all, they asked, how could the Redskins win a Super Bowl, or even challenge in the NFC East, with an impulsive, micromanaging boss? His propensity for meddling in personnel decisions, his reckless spending on free agents (see Deion Sanders, Adam Archuleta, Albert Haynesworth) and his inability to maintain coaching continuity made him seem clueless about what it takes to win in the National Football League.
But Snyder, who bought the team in 1999, has matured. He’s realized that patience and a hands-off approach are imperative to success over the long haul. The dismissal of his longtime right-hand executive,the polarizing Vinny Cerrato, late in the dreadful 2009 season was an important step. He hired a true general manager in Bruce Allen and a two-time Super Bowl-winning coach in Mike Shanahan, and he has stepped aside to let those two experienced football minds make personnel decisions.
Snyder has a fierce desire to reach the pinnacle in the NFL. It’s not going to happen instantaneously, but he’s finally going about it the right way.
2. It will never be as good as the Gibbs era.
It’s entirely conceivable that the Redskins could someday duplicate or exceed coach Joe Gibbs’s feats in the 1980s and early 1990s, when the team won three Super Bowls. Yes, the NFL is a parity-driven league now, and some experts argue that building an organization capable of reaching multiple Super Bowls in a short time span is unrealistic. But just look at the 21st-century Patriots and Steelers — it can be done.
For the Redskins to become a powerhouse, they must hold on to a talented scouting staff; maintain a competent front office that makes calculated personnel decisions through the draft, trades and free agency; and acquire players hungry to win. (No more mercenaries such as Haynesworth.)
Just as important, the Redskins are a lot younger than in recent years; the team must continue infusing the roster with youth and speed. This season’s opening-day roster included nine rookies and 25 players with three years or fewer of pro experience. Two of those rookies, linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and nose tackle Chris Neild, starred in the Redskins’ 28-14 win last Sunday against the Giants.
3. President Richard Nixon called a play during a 1971 playoff game.
This story is ingrained in Redskins lore, but the facts are open to interpretation. Nixon never called a play during the Redskins’ 24-20 loss to San Francisco in the the 1971 playoffs, and he didn’t phone anything in from the Oval Office to the sidelines. He did, however, suggest plays in the days prior to the game.