The Washington Redskins have a decorated history in the NFL. Under owner Jack Kent Cooke, the team dominated the 80’s and early 90’s with 4 Super Bowl appearances, including 3 victories over a 10 year period. The 1992 Super Bowl team fielded arguably the best team in NFL history. Such success has not been seen by Redskins fans since.
Dan Snyder purchased the Redskins in 1999. Since day one, he has been involved in making key decisions regarding the Skins roster. Throughout this time, the owner has made questionable choices in the draft and free agency. The Redskins are a mediocre 132-171-1 in the 19 years under Snyder.
Free Agency Woes
In past years, Washington made a habit of overpaying former stars who are past their prime. In 2000, the team signed 32 year old Deion Sanders to a 7 year, $55-million contract. Sanders played only one season for the Skins before retiring. In subsequent years, Redskins fans watched the team sign (and again, overpay) more veteran players like Adam Archuleta and Donovan McNabb who had great careers, but were shells of themselves by the time they got to Washington. Due to the salary cap implications from these deals, the Skins were unable to adequately build their roster by signing other talented free agents.
The most notable of all the Redskins’ signing fails was the one for Albert Haynesworth. In February 2009, Dan Snyder and the Redskins inked a 7 year, 100 million dollar deal with the veteran defensive tackle. Haynesworth was coming off of a pro bowl year with the Tennessee Titans, but his character issues were noted around the league. The defensive tackle was known for taking plays off and will be always be notorious for stomping on a player’s head during a game. Despite these problems, Washington signed Haynesworth to a deal that included a then NFL record, $41-million guaranteed.
Albert Haynesworth played 20 games in a Redskins uniform. He recorded 53 total tackles and 6.5 sacks during his brief stint in Washington before the team released him due to his consistent lack of effort.
Dan Snyder and the Redskins front office have struggled to make good choices in the draft as well. Other than the late Sean Taylor, the early 2000’s were full of forgettable players. Most notable – or least notable, for that matter— were Rod Gardner, Patrick Ramsey, and Jason Campbell. None of these players lived up their 1st round grades and were soon out of the league after their brief time with the Redskins. To make matters worse, Snyder chose to trade away draft picks to acquire some of these players. In the 19 NFL drafts that Dan Snyder has been a part of, Washington didn’t have a first round pick in 5 of them.
2 of those 5 first round picks were traded away in the 2012 draft. In that draft, Snyder traded away the team’s 2013 and 2014 first round picks to the Rams in order to move up to the 2nd pick to select Robert Griffin III. Initially, this seemed like a great move, as RG3 flourished in the read option offense and led the team to a division title and playoff berth. Griffin went on to win Offensive Rookie of the Year.
RG3 posted a 9-6 record as a starter in his first year. Riddled by injuries, he went on to go 5-15 in his starts in the following two seasons. After the 2014 season, the Redskins parted ways with the quarterback.
Robert Griffin III is no longer in the NFL.
Turning the Corner
Despite Snyder’s questionable move to acquire RG3, his other 1st round picks since 2009 have produced quality players. These picks brought in cornerstone players like Trent Williams, Brian Orakpo, and Ryan Kerrigan.
In January 2015, Dan Snyder decided to hire the team’s first General Manager in 15 years, Scott McCloughan. At that time, the new GM was regarded as one of the top talent evaluators in the league, despite reported issues with alcoholism. In his 20 years in the NFL, McCloughan held player personnel and scouting positions for the Packers, 49ers, and Seahawks. Each of these teams reached the Super Bowl during his tenure with the team or shortly afterward. McCloughan had a hand in selecting stars like Vernon Davis, Patrick Willis and Russell Wilson.
In his 2 years as the GM of the Redskins, McCloughan made a significant impact. He is responsible for selecting 1st round picks Brandon Scherff and Josh Doctson. Now starters, both players have showed signs of being true impact players for the Redskins for years to come.
Along with talented draft picks, the new GM also brought in a new philosophy regarding free agency. Rather than signing big name free agents to blockbuster deals, the front office of the Redskins now brings in less expensive options to create a more balanced roster. This method proved to be effective, as Washington won a division title in McCloughan’s first season with the team. In his brief time with the Skins, Scot McCloughan brought in starters Josh Norman and Vernon Davis via free agency.
Due to the team’s suspicion of McCloughan relapsing back to alcoholism, the Redskins parted ways with their GM in March 2017. Since then, the Redskins have continued to effectively build their roster using McCloughan’s philosophy. In last year’s offseason, Dan Snyder made sound decisions in the draft by choosing Jonathan Allen and in free agency by signing DJ Swearinger and Zach Brown. All 3 players made an immediate impact as starters for the defense.
The Redskins now have a team full of young talent along with a good mix of skilled veterans. In order to get this team to Super Bowl contention, Dan Snyder needs to continue make smart decisions in the draft and free agency. Using Scot McCloughan’s winning formula, Washington should look to sign affordable players, as they did when they traded for Alex Smith last month. With another solid offseason this year, the 2018 Redskins team will have the makings to achieve the success that the franchise saw in the 80’s and early 90’s.