ASHBURN, Va. - Coming to Redskins Park on the Wednesday after the team's most disheartening loss of the season, it was pretty obvious that there'd be plenty to talk about. Questions about team morale, offensive playcalling and injuries were sure to rule the day as head coach Mike Shanahan and his team are left to pick up the pieces heading into Sunday's matchup with the San Francisco 49ers.
But perhaps the hottest topic of the day was talk of a familiar face making a return to Fed Ex Field on Sunday. Current 49er and former Redskins cornerback Carlos Rogers will come back to the Landover stadium to play against his old team for the first time since being signed to a one-year deal by San Francisco this past offseason.
Rogers is enjoying his finest season as a pro, hauling in three interceptions -- one for a touchdown -- and is considered one of the NFL's top cornerbacks this season.
"I'm doing pretty good [this season]," said Rogers in a conference call with reporters Wednesday. "Not even just talking about the interceptions, you know everybody just looks at that - but I think all-around play, this is one of my real good seasons, including the interceptions."
Rogers, of course, was a polarizing player here in D.C., as fans fixated on one of his greatest struggles as a Redskin: catching the football. Considered one of the team's better cover corners, the ninth overall selection in the 2005 draft tallied eight career interceptions in six seasons with Washington. But what will always stick out with the fanbase are the plays he didn't make rather than the ones he did.
His was an interesting tenure in D.C, a six-year span that saw the epitome of Redskins mediocrity: Coaching changes, inconsistent play, high-priced free agent busts, off-field drama, etc. All of these led to Rogers' realization during the 2009 season that Washington was not a place in which he wanted to stay. In his mind, for all the change and promise that came with Shanahan's arrival a year later, it was already too late.
"It was two seasons [ago that I made the decision to leave]," he said. "I was kind of ready to get out of there with the changing of coaches. ... Once you've made it big and you know coaches, things just start to look different. I was just ready to go."
Rogers' mind was so made up that even his old teammates were resigned to the fact that he would not be sticking around to see Shanahan's rebuilding project past its first year.
"I didn't [think Rogers would be back this year]," said his former secondary mate DeAngelo Hall. "The writing was kinda on the wall. It's been on the wall for a while. He wanted out, and I'm pretty sure they probably didn't feel he fit in to what they were trying to do, so it was pretty mutual."
"I think it felt like it was time for me to leave," Rogers continued. "I didn't think that the Redskins were going to re-sign me anyway. Since I'd been there, I think the only draft picks that they did sign was Chris Cooley and Chris Samuels."
His hunch that the team would not bring him back turned out to be on point, as his asking price seemed too high compared to what the club believed he was worth.
"If he was as consistent as we would have liked, then we would have signed him long term," Shanahan said. "But the reason why we didn't is we decided to go in a different direction."
That direction included bringing in John Wilson, who was brought on to be Rogers' replacement as the team's second cornerback. So far, Wilson's season has yielded mixed results. Earlier in the season he was solid in coverage, but in recent games found himself victimized on big plays.
Meanwhile in San Francisco, Rogers looks to be on the right side of the split. Not only is he enjoying individual success, but his 49ers are a surprising 6-1 as they head into their match up with the Redskins on Sunday.
"He's finally started to catch the ball," said a grinning Hall. "We definitely could have used that."
All of this begs the question - should the Redskins have kept Rogers?
Of course, hindsight is 20/20 and it's easy to see now that the Redskins secondary misses him dearly. He was a versatile corner, one who was adept has covering receivers both on the outside and inside the slot in nickel situations. No one on the current roster has shown the ability to pick up the slack left by Rogers' departure.
One of the things that tainted Rogers' tenure as a Redskin (besides the drops) was that for much of his time in D.C., he played for an organization in turmoil. The country-club atmosphere around Redskins Park during his early years clearly wore on him as time went on, and from his vantage point, change was the best option. He often spoke of times where he felt like not every player was held to the same standard, that draft status or the size of one's contract dictated how the coaching staff or front office treated a particular player.
Most if not all of Rogers' assertions about the organization at that time were true, but it was clear the franchise wanted to turn a new leaf with the hiring of Shanahan. What was apparent throughout the 2010 season was while Rogers recognized that Shanahan was going to bring accountability to the entire organization -- as evidenced by his highly publicized duel with Albert Haynesworth and Donovan McNabb -- he wanted to leave anyway. The team believed Rogers was going for his big payday, and while true, he ultimately didn't get it. The one year deal he signed was for $4 million dollars, less than Wilson's yearly average of $4.5 million.
If a change of scenery and being in a relaxed mood is enough to improve one's ability to be a good football player, then the case of Carlos Rogers' is one that shows the power organizational tranquility can have on its players. Because the Redskins didn't have that tranquility for so long, they let another solid player in Rogers slip through the cracks.