HOFFMAN: The Redskins are at a crossroads and leadership is nowhere to be found

Craig Hoffman
September 29, 2019 - 10:12 pm
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The Redskins are 0-4. They are through one quarter of the season. They have won zero games.

This is the equivalent of an NBA team starting 0-20 or a baseball team starting 0-40. That is how far we are into the 2019 season and the Redskins have zero wins.

The reasons why are far and wide, and specific to the Giants game, there is plenty of blame to go around. However, for the zoomed out, big picture predicament the Redskins are in, the blame squarely goes at the top of the organization.

The predicament itself is that they have no identity as an organization. Team President Bruce Allen famously said "we're close," and then they proceeded to draft a quarterback with their first draft selection and are locked in a holdout with their franchise left tackle. They say they want to win now and either choose to not act like it or do not know how to do so.

That falls squarely on the shoulders of Allen and owner Daniel Snyder. It should be discussed exclusively as such.

Jay Gruden and the football staff – to include other coaches and front offense personnel with more of a football lens – did not want to take Dwayne Haskins with the 15th pick, not because they think he's a bad kid or can't turn into a really good NFL quarterback. They did not want to take him at 15 because they knew he wasn't ready to play in the NFL, and wouldn't be for awhile. His inexperience was why so many QB needy teams in front of Washington passed on the Ohio State signal caller.

Everyone acknowledged his talent. Nobody thought he was ready, and the fact that the Redskins coaching staff hasn't been able to close that gap isn't an indictment on them or their ability to develop talent. It is also not an indictment on the decision to not give him reps with the starters this summer or through the first quarter of the season, a somewhat asinine storyline that made its way around the Redskins universe this week.

Gruden not playing Haskins isn't because they hate Haskins. It's because they're trying to protect him.

It's also not an indictment on Haskins, who is coming early and staying late and taking extra meetings. He's trying. It's just not happening at a speed that's suitable for him to currently be playing NFL football at an acceptable level.

It is an indictment on Allen and Snyder, for going against the wishes of the experts they pay to make these kinds of decisions and then sticking them in the situation to figure it out.

To make it worse, they do this while taking no accountability, in terms of public interviews, all while their coach gets hammered from every corner of media and social media for something he can't really explain without throwing the future of the franchise quarterback or his bosses under the bus.

This is not surprising. This is how Allen and Snyder have operated for most of the near decade that Allen has been in charge of the team. This is my fifth season covering the team. I have been to zero Bruce Allen press conferences where he fields questions from the press pool in Ashburn. It is not because I have missed any. It is because there haven't been any. He is the organization's primary decision maker.

Most organizations do not do this and especially not the good ones.

When Kevin Durant tore his Achilles' tendon in June, Golden State Warriors President Bob Myers stepped to the podium in tears to take accountability and answer any questions the press had. Warriors coach Steve Kerr, accountable as any coach in sports, directed all questions about the injury to Meyers, because that was how the organization had decided to handle the event.

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Other NFL teams regularly open their chief decision makers up for questioning. They especially make themselves available after major events or when answers are needed.

This is not about the press being self-indulgent and putting on a show in a press conference. It is about getting answers for fans who are the backbone of any organization.

To me, the criticism is fairly simple and straightforward: If the people making decisions are scared to answer questions about their decisions, because they are not defensible, they should not be making those decisions in the first place. If they do not feel they owe their fans any explanation of their decisions, they also should not be allowed to make them.

While the criticism of putting Gruden in an impossible spot with Haskins should be enough, it is far from the only time Allen has wielded his power at Gruden's expense.

It was Allen whose negotiations with Kirk Cousins – a quarterback Gruden eventually guided to three straight 4,000-yard seasons and a division title – went sideways. While it is up for debate if Allen should actually be credited for not giving into Cousins' contract demands, there is no debate that trading for and extending Alex Smith without explicitly getting the blessing of his quarterback expert head coach is not how a better run organization would have proceeded.

If the move was to draft a quarterback, after Smith's devastating injury turned a questionable decision into a nightmare, one of two things needed to happen:

One option was to give Gruden an extension as a sign of good faith that he was and is the right coach to guide this franchise into its next half decade. That would have completely eliminated the circus that is currently surrounding this franchise. It would allow Gruden to publicly calm the hysteria around playing Haskins by simply saying, "I'm here for the long-term with Dwayne. We can't wait for him to be ready, but he's not there yet so we're playing someone else."

The other option was to fire Gruden, or "mutually part ways," as he likely did not want to oversee a rebuild. This would have allowed a new coach to come in and pick his quarterback in April's draft (Haskins or otherwise) and then grow with that quarterback without the pressure of winning any games this year. That would have also led to some different decision-making at other positions.

For instance, if the reboot was on, the Redskins could have moved on from Josh Norman, traded Trent Williams and moved other players for assets. Instead they are involved in the last holdout in the NFL and have multiple high salary players playing ahead of draft picks on an 0-4 team.

The Redskins tried to split the difference. They tried to rebuild on the run, and maybe it would have worked if Williams didn't hold out and Jordan Reed didn't get hurt, not to mention Derrius Guice, Brandon Scherff, Terry McLaurin and Chase Roullier, who all missed Sunday's game due to injury as well.

However, considering it is Allen and Snyder who refuse to make changes to a much maligned medical staff, perhaps the ire intensifies with that data instead of lessens.

When I finally got the chance to talk to Allen in the spring in a one-on-one interview at the NFL's Annual League Meeting, I asked him what he'd learned in nearly a decade with the Redskins. He said that was "a better question for my brother. He's a shrink."

He laughed. I didn't.

The answer seems to be nothing. He has continued to freelance and in turn has a 60-88-1 record (.402 winning percentage) to show for it. There have been few executives in sports history who have had as poor of a record and as long as a tenure, which is why some of this ire has to go towards Snyder.

It is the owner who allows Allen to keep running his franchise. It is the owner who has talked to the press exactly zero times in any on-the-record capacity in the last five seasons. It is he who could change anything he wants with one fell swoop and does not.

Instead, the status quo continues. The status quo of the Allen/Snyder era is losing. It is losing games. It is losing fans. It is losing employees. It is losing respect around the league. It is losing hope.

We often use the phrase "once-proud franchise" to describe the Redskins. The problem seems to be the men in charge are still proud of what they are, despite what they are: a losing franchise with no clear direction for the future.

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