Redskins’ offseason redemption tour is in full swing again, but this year feels different


(John McDonnell/The Washington Post)
Mike Wise
Columnist March 14, 2012

It’s unclear whether Robert Griffin III’s newest weapons on the flank — Pierre Garcon, Josh Morgan and maybe Eddie Royal — can become the Fun Bunch II. In point of fact, we’re at least two years from really assessing whether RGIII was worth a four-for-one swap with St. Louis.

But, after this week’s free-agent signings and last week’s deal to get Griffin on draft day, the annual offseason redemption tour of the Washington Redskins is clearly in full swing.

Mike Wise is a sports columnist for The Washington Post. View Archive

The promise of what’s coming, the promise of a possible franchise quarterback and a cadre of talented young wide receivers has almost acted as a balm for everything that hurts:

●Mike Shanahan’s 11-21 two-year coaching mark in Washington.

●Dan Snyder’s one home playoff game in 12 years.

●Bruce Allen’s, via Snyder’s approval, salary-cap malfeasance that forced the NFL to ding the Redskins $36 million with which to sign players over the next two years.

Yes, even that feels mitigated, too. Have you noticed for the first time since Joe Gibbs’s return, Redskins fans are behind the owner over the league’s punitive measures?

That’s right, burgundy-and-gold legions suddenly have Snyder’s back. To be sure it is a cold day in hell. They have bonded with fans of the Cowboys, who were docked $10 million for front-loading contracts during the NFL’s uncapped year, over a common enemy: Roger Goodell and the NFL’s hall monitors.

Of course this offseason of fancy has a deja vu bent to it, because what is the grandest tradition of this period? Time and again, Washington wins everything between January and May. Each winter and spring the Redskins spend more in order to shock their numbed and ambivalent fans back to life.

But this feels different, doesn’t it? The move to grab RGIII on draft day feels different because he is not Peyton Manning or someone else over 30 who established himself elsewhere.

On the heels of not overspending for Barry Cofield and Stephen Bowen on the defensive line a year ago, the Redskins appear to be going after young players — Garcon is 25, Morgan is 26 — who don’t break the bank.

The two years of the Shanahan-Allen regime appear to be more about youth, value and upside vs. signing the biggest name to an exorbitant deal without any thought to future consequence.

The Redskins still need a safety to replace LaRon Landry, who appears gone. They had better come to terms with London Fletcher or suffer the consequences at inside linebacker — and inside the locker room. They still need a right tackle, another inside linebacker and a backup veteran quarterback.

Most of all, they need to get better on and off the field — and the team’s recent moves are making headway at home.

Let’s be honest: The Shanahan personnel ledger has been a mixed bag in Washington, and that’s being kind. Donovan McNabb cost second- and fourth-round draft picks and a failed season. John Beck didn’t cost anything, but the time spent on developing him into a starting quarterback has been a wasted exercise. The Rex Grossman experiment was a bust.

Three of his biggest moves before this week — McNabb, Jammal Brown and O.J. Atogwe — haven’t worked out. Brown cost a third-round pick and will only return if the Redskins can’t find another breathing right tackle. Atogwe was cut Monday after one disappointing season.

The jury is still out on Trent Williams. Regardless of his suspension for failed drug tests, the left tackle, the fourth overall pick in the draft in Shanahan’s first year, hasn’t exactly legitimized himself through two seasons.

But Shanahan got Ryan Kerrigan in the draft a year ago. He also got Jarvis Jenkins, who lost last year to injury but appears poised to become a significant contributor on defense. Perry Riley has stepped in and played well at inside linebacker, and Roy Helu appears to be a versatile running back in his limited body of work.

Maybe Leonard Hankerson becomes the big possession wide receiver who gets thrown a jump ball in the end zone, who knows?

It’s hard to not give Shanahan some benefit of the doubt. After all, he wouldn’t have had to sign two wide receivers on Tuesday if Malcolm Kelly and Devin Thomas had panned out. He wouldn’t have had to get Jamaal Brown if someone had fortified the offensive line before he showed up.

Shanahan has remade the Redskins, from top to bottom. Just this past week, the starting quarterback went from over 30 to 22 years old and the No. 1 wideout went from 32 to 25 years old. On it goes.

Now that the mess has all but been cleaned up, judging this coach, general manager — and, yes, owner — genuinely begins.

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