You knew the Redskins had learned nothing the moment General Manager Bruce Allen praised the team’s front office Monday while commenting on the firing of Mike Shanahan. Although the ouster of Shanahan – who had control of the roster – opened a door for the team to radically alter its dysfunctional football operation, Allen shut it quickly. And here’s the worst part: No one should have been surprised.
The Redskins aren’t interested in fixing a key part of their organization that is clearly broken. Although there’s no way to justify maintaining the front-office structure of a 3-13 team that has had a 15-year run of mediocrity under owner Daniel Snyder, Allen tried while declaring all is well during a Redskins Park news conference.
“We believe that we have the right people in place” in the front office, said Allen, who lacks a strong scouting background but will now have the final say in football matters. “We’re very confident where we’re going to go with them.”
Truth is, Snyder would rather do things his way than the right way. Now that Shanahan has left the building, it could be like old times again. For the Redskins and their fans, that’s bad news.
Shanahan made his share of personnel mistakes that led to a 24-40 record, three last-place finishes in the NFC East and only one playoff appearance in four years. Snyder and Allen, however, are making an even bigger one by sticking to the status quo. The Redskins finished last in consecutive seasons under Shanahan’s predecessor, Jim Zorn. Washington has occupied the division’s basement five of the past six seasons. The handwriting is on the wall in big letters: The Redskins need new leadership in top management.
Allen is great at shaking hands and kissing babies, but he doesn’t possess the player evaluation chops to overhaul a roster in disrepair. He would be best at managing the Redskins’ business operation as the team president, an NFL player-personnel executive who once worked with Allen told me. I agree.
If Snyder were serious about finally trying to set the Redskins along a good path, he would promote Allen, hire a general manager who served in a high-ranking position on a successful team and give him the power to hire a coach and construct the roster. Of course, in such a scenario, Snyder would be relegated to the sidelines again, which is where he largely was the past four years.
Snyder would rather be closer to the action – like in the middle of it. That was my takeaway from a conversation I had with him shortly after I began covering the Redskins in 2007. The Redskins’ management structure worked well, Snyder explained, because the franchise didn’t have a powerful total-control-of-the-team general manager. Since Snyder purchased the team in 1999, it has had four winning records and four playoff appearances. If that’s success, I’d love to know Snyder’s definition of failure.
Snyder needed the credibility Shanahan brought – the Redskins went 4-12 the season before Shanahan was hired – so he reluctantly agreed to step aside and essentially give the two-time Super Bowl winner whatever he requested. Redskins fans, however, should ask themselves this: Does anyone think Snyder will let another coach put him in a box? Allen revealed the answer Monday in his typical double-talk fashion.
“He’s still one of the great fans,” Allen said of the Redskins owner, somehow maintaining a straight face. “I mean, he wants to win more than life itself.”
On any NFL team, the potential exists for meddling from ownership unless the player-personnel staff reports to a general manager who has autonomy in running his shop. That’s what the Redskins desperately need.
Before Shanahan arrived, Snyder and his underlings regularly ruined the best-laid plans of the scouting staff with one cockamamie plan after another to chase yesterday’s stars. To his credit, Shanahan stopped the madness. He relied on the advice of Scott Campbell, director of player personnel, and Morocco Brown, director of pro personnel, in developing well-reasoned strategies to approach the draft and free agency. They just didn’t work out well enough.
In backing Campbell and Brown, Allen seemed to suggest no Redskins employee involved with picking players – senior executive A.J. Smith is part of that crew, too – should be tainted by Shanahan’s failure. “Scott Campbell, running a college draft, will be as capable as any personnel director in the NFL,” Allen said. “I know what Morocco Brown can do in free agency. To blame them, I think, would be unfair.”
Campbell, Brown and Smith, formerly the general manager of the San Diego Chargers, are respected within the league. Brown is an up-and-coming player-personnel man. He could run his own operation. No one knows how many of their good recommendations were rejected.
After so many years of poor results, though, an outsider’s perspective could help. It definitely couldn’t hurt. Instead, the Redskins are content with keeping together a band that hasn’t produced sweet music.
It has been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Let’s just leave it at that.