It’s been over 20 years since the Washington Redskins’ last Super Bowl title. After the Redskins defeated the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXVI after the 1991 NFL season, the franchise has experienced a complete regression in subsequent years. Not only has Washington not come close to realizing another Super Bowl appearance, but the organization has had only six winning seasons since their last Super Bowl championship. Needless to say, a culture of losing has permeated Washington’s beloved Redskins.
Team owner Daniel M. Snyder tried to build a winning team in Washington by signing high priced free agents, as well as trading draft choices for superstar players. Players like Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Donovan McNabb, and Albert Haynesworth are prime examples of the Hall of Fame talent Snyder added to his team in an effort to recapture the Redskins’ glory days. Unfortunately, Snyder’s strategy failed miserably, as the aforementioned players never lived up to their lofty reputations. Ironically, the Redskins failed to make the playoffs with Sanders, Smith, McNabb, and Haynesworth on their roster. Needless to say, Snyder didn’t get a return on his investment.
Enter Mike Shanahan as the Redskins’ new head coach in 2010. He brought accountability and discipline to a franchise that needed both of those things. One of his first moves as head coach was to bench McNabb midway through the 2010 season, much to the shock and dismay of many Redskins’ fans. Shanahan also put Haynesworth, a former All Pro defensive lineman with the Tennessee Titans, through some humiliating practice drills because Haynesworth wasn’t playing up to his potential. The handling of McNabb and Haynesworth put the team on notice that there was a new sheriff in town, and they’d better shape up fast.
Shanahan didn’t have adequate replacements for McNabb and Haynesworth at the time of their replacement. However, Snyder trusted Shanahan’s judgment, considering he led the Denver Broncos to two Super Bowl titles in the late 1990s. After finishing 5-11 in 2011, Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen decided to trade first round selections in the 2013 and 2014 NFL draft, as well as a second round selection in 2012, for the rights to draft quarterback Robert Griffin III (above) in 2012. The gamble on Griffin III worked, as he won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012.
In addition, Shanahan will insert players based on character and discipline, not talent. Tenure and reputation means nothing to Shanahan. Case in point: 2012 sixth round draft choice Alfred Morris won the starting running back job in training camp. This change despite having 2011 leading rusher Roy Helu Jr. on the roster. Morris responded by finishing second in the NFL in rushing yardage with 1,615 yards.
It doesn’t stop there. Talented but mercurial cornerback DeAngelo Hall was released by the Redskins after the 2012 season as a salary cap casualty. Hall was resigned by the Redskins, but at a reduced salary. To further complicate matters, Washington drafted cornerback David Amerson in the second round of the 2013 NFL draft to solidify an ailing secondary. While Hall most likely will retain his starting position, Amerson is waiting in the wings to step in if Hall or Josh Wilson struggle as starting cornerbacks.
The Shanahan regime produced the Redskins’ first NFC East title since Snyder purchased the team in 2000. Washington will have few draft picks to use to solidify their roster because they had to sacrifice draft choices as payment for their failed trades. Shanahan has changed the culture in Washington for the better, as the Redskins are no longer the laughingstock of the NFL. That’s a statement that Washington Redskins’ fans can build on in an effort to the franchise getting back to their glory days.