WASHINGTON — The Washington Redskins have been uncharacteristically boring the last two offseasons. No drama, not much free agent activity and relatively few headlines.
This year, they’re making up for lost time.
Aside from head coach Jay Gruden’s two-year contract extension, basically any news surrounding the ‘Skins has been considered bad news. The team continues to demonstrate an ambivalence about re-signing their record-setting quarterback Kirk Cousins, or his top two wide receivers (DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon). The offense lost wunderkind coordinator Sean McVay to the head coaching gig in Los Angeles. Oh, and by the way, the genius talent evaluator Scot McCloughan is nowhere to be found.
As a cherry on top, Sunday we learned Trent Murphy — who had a breakout 2016 season, with nine sacks and three forced fumbles — is facing a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s performance enhancing drug policy. (By the way, this is the 10th such suspension levied against a Redskin since 2011, and they’ve had at least two per year during that span. It’s kind of their thing.)
That’s a less-than-ideal two month span.
The biggest demonstration of dysfunction centers on the puzzling McCloughan situation. The Skins’ general manager was noticeably absent from the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis and the team has been conspicuously silent in the wake of claims from team employee Chris Cooley that McCloughan is lost in the sauce again. Perhaps even more stunning, McCloughan wasn’t even at Redskins Park Tuesday to officially kick off the free agent signing period. Regardless of the why, the what is this: Who the hell is picking players right now? Bruce Allen? A now more powerful Gruden? More importantly, does this mean McCloughan is on the way out? If so, why? The silence surrounding this topic is deafening.
This comes at a time when the Redskins’ strongest unit is about to undergo a major overhaul for no other reason than stubborn pride. We spent much of last season engaging in a “Pierre or DeSean” debate, and the Redskins have apparently answered C). None of the above. There was a report that Garcon is so done with the ‘Skins that he asked for a trade last season. Jackson is reportedly tied to Tampa Bay.
I can understand not wanting to pay them both, but signing neither of them is being ridiculously cheap at best, brazenly arrogant at worst. I don’t care if Josh Doctson was a first-round pick. Relying on a guy whose rookie season was highlighted by a mysterious Achilles injury to be the top receiver in an offense without a consistent running game is foolish when quality in-house options are available.
Of course, that pales in comparison to the organization’s even haughtier attitude about Cousins. Captain Kirk is the first QB ever to be franchise tagged in consecutive seasons, which is apparently something the Redskins aren’t the least bit embarrassed about. Even though I said it’s a necessary step to ensure he stays under center for the Burgundy and Gold, the fact that they can’t seem to muster a competitive offer for a guy who owns the two best passing seasons in team history is stunningly arrogant. NFL insiders already have him going to San Francisco to reunite with 49ers head coach (and former ‘Skins offensive coordinator) Kyle Shanahan. This would leave the Redskins to either turn to Colt McCoy or sift through the free agent recycle bin, where Centreville, Virginia native Mike Glennon is allegedly the best of the bunch.
This is what baffles me the most: What is Allen and/or owner Dan Snyder seeing that they don’t like? What is so bad right now that it’s worth taking a wrecking ball to one of their best two-year stretches in 20 years? The insurance policy against the failed RG3 experiment has worked out well. McCloughan put together a great 2015 draft class that paid immediate dividends and largely remained productive last year. Even the lackluster defense had enough solid performances to provide hope that they’re just two or three players away from being pretty good.
Now there’s a very real possibility that the Redskins enter 2017 with McCoy, Doctson, and Rob Kelley as their “Big 3” on offense (more like “Lowercase 3”). Even if the defense improves by massive leaps and bounds (which I don’t think is possible if Chris Baker leaves in free agency), that’s the recipe for a return to the days of 6-10 and 5-11 — especially in an NFC East comprised of the revamped Giants and the young, up-and-coming Cowboys and Eagles.
The 2017 season promises to be a pivotal one for the Redskins. A strong free agency/draft haul would help them keep pace with Dallas and New York, but those hopes seem dim now. While the prospect of adding players like Calais Campbell, Dontari Poe and Jonathan Cyprien is intriguing, the players already in the ‘Skins locker room are taking note that standout performers like Cousins, Garcon, Jackson and Baker aren’t being valued properly, and that the only grown up in the front office is MIA.
The inescapable truth is this: Snyder is, at best, a hindrance to the Redskins’ ability to become a Super Bowl contender, and McCloughan and Cousins have represented the team’s greatest hope of overcoming Snyder to date. Yet both could be gone by week one. We can already see the dark clouds over Ashburn. We’re now just waiting for the inevitable storm to begin.