Of course this is happening. Allen — the survivor, the virus that cannot be eradicated — is supposedly closer to being removed than at any time during his 10 years of feckless leadership in Washington. You should recall he has been to the brink before. And every time, he has recovered and come away with even greater power. It feels different now. Then again, it always feels different. But nothing happens, and the franchise sinks lower than previously imagined.
So there are two ways to react to your favorite ne’er-do-well football team’s unexpected little winning streak: Express relief — or, God forbid, feel validation — that despite a 1-9 start, the Redskins’ situation isn’t as hopeless as the typical awful football team’s. Or use this flickering light as motivation to push harder for owner Daniel Snyder to make the necessary wholesale organizational changes to help this franchise reach its potential.
The former reaction is the kind of thinking that would allow Allen to crawl past the line of fire and live to further ruin the Redskins’ brand. The latter? Well, even while celebrating Washington’s 29-21 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday, there’s still room to demand that Snyder blow up the entire organization.
Inside a jubilant visiting locker room at Bank of America Stadium, it felt bittersweet to watch the scene because the players deserve better. Washington has an odd collection of loose talent that, under the right circumstances, could form a decent team. It means that a fix could be quicker than the long processes the Miami Dolphins and Cincinnati Bengals are about to endure. But in Washington, there is no organizational commitment, no vision and definitely no creativity. For the past 20 years under Snyder’s ownership, this has been an unfinished product. And over the past 10 with Allen, the lack of trust and dearth of mission only have gotten worse.
It dilutes every positive. On Sunday, it was wonderful and encouraging to witness young running back Derrius Guice, who has fought through knee injuries during the first year and a half of his career, dominate a game. He rushed for 129 yards on just 10 carries and scored two touchdowns. He showed his burst on a 60-yard run. He threw a vicious stiff-arm on a 37-yard dash. His combination of speed, power, vision and patience was on display against a Panthers defense full of big names. With Guice and Adrian Peterson (99 yards, one touchdown) rumbling behind an offensive line at its best, Washington rushed for 248 yards and made it easier for rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins to manage the game without committing any backbreaking errors. Throw in a tremendous defensive performance led by a young front that produced seven sacks and limited Christian McCaffrey to 44 rushing yards, and a good portion of Washington’s future represented itself well in this game.
But this victory and the team’s considerable improvement under Callahan shouldn’t change anything about the big picture. Overall, Washington is still a mess. The way the franchise is currently set up, it is still unlikely to develop Haskins properly. And a couple of good defensive performances don’t erase the fact that, on the whole, the team has yet to show it can consistently play to the level of its investment on that side of the ball.
Over the past two decades, the franchise has often tilted on the emotions of Snyder. If he’s upset, he destroys. But if he’s excited or hopeful, he has shown in recent years that he can overreact in the opposite manner and turn complacent when the situation calls for greater change. The owner is in evaluation mode, and the erosion of the fan base screams for him to do something dramatic. That’s why many are whispering about change. Let’s hope that Allen, who has mastered office politics (at least in this organization), cannot convince Snyder otherwise.
To hire the best coach, Washington needs a clean slate. No desirable candidate with options is going to take this job with Allen, even if he survives, having a questionable long-term future. It’s far more logical to rebuild the front office and bring in a reliable, ace talent evaluator and leader to implement a fresh plan.
The Redskins need complete organizational alignment. They have to be willing to go one way and go big, even if they fail. In today’s NFL, the most successful organizations are doing it this way. Any vision requires a full-on commitment to a style, to a quarterback, to everything, from the top down. I’m assuming the franchise isn’t inclined to draft a replacement for Haskins; it should find a general manager or president whose plan to develop and build around Haskins inspires the most faith and then give him the power to choose the right coach and everyone else to make it work. Instead of enduring more of the front office’s rudimentary team building, find a leader who can move the franchise’s approach to the next level. The best executives now are highly active and use every mechanism available — draft, free agency, trades, player development, etc. — to build the most fluid rosters possible. It’s important to maintain a draft-based philosophy, but there’s also a fearlessness — and a natural feel for talent — required to do the job at the highest level.
Under Allen, the Redskins have been faking it, quite honestly. They do just enough to be interesting, to provide small windows of hope, and when their flimsy plan fails, they drift between awful and mediocre and start blaming each other in a warped attempt at justification.
It has to stop. In a season this bad, there is every reason for it to finally stop. But until Snyder makes the move by firing Allen or gently nudging him into retirement, no one will believe the owner has the desire or the proper insight into his own franchise to try to give the fans something better.
Once again, it seems Snyder is close to returning to reality. But we’ve thought that at least three times in the past decade. Snyder can’t let this late-season illusion of progress fool him. The Redskins are getting better and have some young pieces to feel good about, but there’s no reason for excitement. These wins aren’t worth it if they save Allen from dismissal.