The good news for the Washington Redskins is that inside linebacker London Fletcher obviously doesn’t get it. Even after five seasons surrounded by dysfunction, Fletcher chooses optimism. For some reason, he still believes he can help restore the Redskins.
Given that Fletcher’s commitment to them hasn’t wavered despite another miserable season, management had better get to him quickly. As soon as possible, the Redskins should re-sign their ageless, productive leader, who could become a free agent after the season.
Don’t give the 14-year veteran the chance to change his mind, because this struggling regime can’t afford to lose him.
Really, there’s no need to negotiate. Fletcher could probably dump his agent for this one. The Redskins should simply ask the fair-minded Fletcher how much he wants to continue to provide the type of professionalism uncommon in their organization.
This is about much more than Washington’s need to retain a productive defensive player. At this point, the tackling machine’s statistics are simply a nice bonus. Fletcher’s biggest contribution is credibility.
His importance cannot be overstated. With each knuckleheaded move by Fletcher’s teammates, his value to the Redskins only increases.
Washington’s decision-makers at least know that much. They recently reached out to Fletcher and “told me they want to bring me back,” he said while we spoke privately after Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots at FedEx Field. “From the owner, to the general manager, to the head coach and on down to the defensive coaches . . . they’re all telling me they want me back here.”
That part isn’t surprising.
At 36, Fletcher has been credited with an NFL-leading 134 tackles. He has continued to play through injuries, extending his amazing consecutive-games streak to 221. The next game Fletcher misses will be the first in his career.
The two-time Pro Bowler also had Washington’s best individual performance during its lowest moment, recording a season-high 19 tackles with an interception in a 23-0 Week 8 loss to the Buffalo Bills.
It figures the Redskins would want to remain in business with Fletcher. But his interest in continuing their partnership is something of a head scratcher.
Although Fletcher earlier this season expressed his desire to return in 2012, it would have been understandable if he had second thoughts while the team has lost eight of its last nine games.
After finishing the past three seasons last or tied for last in the NFC East, Washington is at the bottom of the division again. The Redskins reached the playoffs in 2007, Fletcher’s first season with the team, but have failed to qualify for the postseason in nine of Daniel Snyder’s 12 years as owner.
Clearly, Fletcher has a blind spot about the Redskins. Why would anyone with a choice remain in this mess?
“I’m not going to lie to you. The losing has been tough,” Fletcher said. “It really does wear on you, especially when you work as hard as you do. But at the end of the day, I love playing with my teammates here.
“I love playing here in D.C., and the organization has been great to me. I still feel like I’d like to be a part of bringing back that winning tradition to the Redskins. I know I keep saying it, but that’s just how I feel.”
But what about possibly winning another Super Bowl ring with a contender?
“There’s no guarantee you can go somewhere else and get that,” he said. “And there’s just something about trying to do that here.”
Fletcher’s determination, in part, is based on his continued belief that Snyder will always “provide the resources to try to help us win.”
“But Coach Shanahan is the right man for the job,” Fletcher said. “He has a vision he’s always talking about. We can get there.”
And Fletcher likes what General Manager Bruce Allen is doing in his job. Whatever that may be.
“They’re all working together,” Fletcher said. “They’re all committed to winning.”
In order to actually win, though, the Redskins must hit it big with a quarterback. They need to find the right one in April’s NFL draft.
If Shanahan finally figures out the most important part, the Redskins could be closer than it seems “because there’s a lot of great things happening now that people may not appreciate,” Fletcher said. “We’re playing a lot of young guys who are getting valuable experience.
“You look at Roy Helu. All he does is work hard. He’s committed and he’s doing a great job. Ryan Kerrigan is good . . . and he’s going to be much better next year with just the experience and learning from certain situations he’ll be more familiar with. We’re playing Perry Riley and he’s showing a lot. Some of the young offensive linemen are really getting going. There’s something there. Really.”
Fletcher is still all in. As long as possible, the Redskins need him to stay that way.