The Redskins’ worst enemy in most of the last 20 years has not been any one team on their schedule, but the invisible adversary that always hovers over a franchise that is a regional obsession: excessive expectations. We know it. We fight it. We usually fail.
The latest example of our capacity for collective delusion is the ability to overlook, or at least minimize, the damage done to the Redskins by the NFL’s shocking and controversial decision to assess them a $36 million salary cap hit spread over the ’12 and ’13 seasons for attempting to gain an unfair competitive advantage in their structuring of 2010 contracts.
For a franchise that was 5-11 last year, then gave up draft picks to trade up for Griffin, this should be a crippling short-term hindrance. And it probably will be. The Redskins never saw it coming. They needed immediate upgrades on the offensive line, at wide receiver and in the defensive backfield. Suddenly, they had about $18 million a year less to acquire them.
As a result of the salary cap cut, essentially an attempt by colluding owners to punish the maverick Redskins (and Cowboys) for refusing to join them, the players the Redskins pursued in free agency were mostly lower cost or lower quality or agreed to sign for a hometown discount.
Plan A was impossible. What we’ll watch this season is Plan B. If it works spectacularly, the Redskins’ front office deserves MENSA pins all around.
In big-time sports, it’s not enough to say, “We were right. This isn’t fair.” You also have to see around corners, anticipate every aspect of the future and, in the end, find out how to win. Yes, just win, baby.
The Redskins overlooked one crucial element: When 30 of 32 owners tell you over and over, “Don’t do this, we’re warning everybody,” and you have the audacity to do it, they may get furious and shaft you. The Redskins took the chance to steal a march on (colluding) rivals. It blew up on them.
The arrival of Griffin has allowed us to focus on the future of “RGIII,” rather than fresh injuries to the already thin offensive line, as well as suspect safeties and the absence of any proven 1,000-yard receiver in his prime, much less two of them.
So when you catch yourself saying, “I think RGIII will lead the Redskins to an 8-8 or 9-7 or even a 10-6 record this year,” be sure to add these words: Even though no other No. 1 or No. 2 draft pick has ever done it.
For previous columns by Thomas Boswell, visit www.washingtonpost.com/boswell.