It has been said that drama finds the Washington Redskins. Dan Snyder is suing a newspaper, Albert Haynesworth is suffering from the ill effects of road rage and Donovan McNabb's relationship with the team continues to baffle. Even in an offseason devoid of free agency, the Redskins have taken center stage. Without a doubt, drama is the key word. But let's be honest: they bring it upon themselves.
The Redskins modus operandi has been to lure fans back to FedEx Field year after year with marquee names, promising they will be the ones to restore success to a woebegone organization. Each splash brings a rush of excitement, which comes crashing down by midseason amidst the realization that mediocrity reigns supreme. The results of this cavalier approach have been disastrous, as Washington has never made it beyond the divisional round of the playoffs since Joe Gibbs' first retirement.
We could argue for the entire offseason about what ails this team. There's no shortage of ideas on what the Redskins must do to win on the football field and succeed beyond the annual offseason spoils. Fortify the trenches, build through the draft, snag that elusive franchise quarterback, implement a system with staying power; all of these philosophies possess their merits, and you can find supporters for just about any theory under the sun. Analysis comes from just about everywhere these days, and I'm sure I've heard about 100 different formulas on what it takes to become a winning franchise.
But in football there isn't any one way to win. The Redskins of old had a tremendous offensive line. This season, the Packers didn't. The Patriots and Colts have based a decade of winning upon the draft, and it didn't hurt that they bagged franchise quarterbacks along the way. Meanwhile the Ravens and Buccaneers got by with solid, dependable veterans under center. The Rams made their mark on offense while the '85 Bears won with defense. Terrell Davis carried Denver to the Super Bowl in '97, but the Steelers weren't riding their 23rd-ranked rushing offense to a berth in Glendale.
The point is that there isn't any one thing which these championship-winning teams had in common aside from the actual accomplishment of winning a championship. Title runs come in all shapes and sizes; they aren't limited to one breed of team. The current state of the NFL is a testament to this. A commitment to a particular brand of football is important but innovation and flexibility within such a system are just as crucial.
However, on-field excellence isn't what I'm getting at here. The other side of the blueprint to success is more clear cut and less debatable. A high level of character is essential to providing a stable locker room where ego is downplayed and vocal leadership maintains order. A delicate balance is necessary to affirm such stability exists year in and year out. And at this juncture, the Redskins haven't learned to embrace a culture that fosters such a balance.
Things could be changing for the better. The cause of much strife should be on his way out in Haynesworth. The prize of the 2009 free agent market can't stay out of the headlines for all the wrong reasons, emphasized by his recent alleged altercation with a motorist. Yet the Redskins did give his evil twin, Shaun Rogers, a look-see on Friday. Not an encouraging sign if you're waiting for them to turn the page on the disgruntled nose tackle market.
Furthermore, the McNabb situation is ever-present, along with all the drama accompanying it. The Redskins and McNabb have been playing nice all offseason, leading to some of confusion for this writer. If Washington intends to keep him, then why would they have signed him to such an enormous deal back in November? He certainly isn't worth a $10 million option bonus in 2011 and they seemed to know that when they benched him for Rex Grossman ... twice.
Odds are the relationship is being kept a cordial one until a trade can be made (hinging upon a new CBA), but the moves to acquire both McNabb and Haynesworth epitomize the aimless wanderings of this franchise over the past decade. The copy/paste mentality has led to a litany of problems now inherited by a coach who appeared to stoke as many fires as douse them in 2010.
Players arrive in Washington expecting to be paid handsomely for a few seasons of complacency. Mike Shanahan has somewhat changed that view, but has simultaneously botched affairs with both Haynesworth and McNabb, furthering the impression that Washington isn't the place for a player to sign with if winning is his top priority.
The structure of the team is flawed because of the many knee-jerk reactions from the front office over the years, and can only change with a commitment to a unified group that puts a premium on high character players who fit the system. Easier said than done, but it is undeniable the Redskins must bite the bullet and relinquish their claim upon being undisputed offseason champs. Should they ever want to hoist the real hardware, the late winter drama best be a thing of the past.