RG3 to the rescue for long-suffering Redskins
The huge burgundy flag with the word ”REDSKINS” in gold
letters towers over the front of the team’s facility, dwarfing in
both size and height the four U.S. flags that help frame the
parking lot. The arrangement makes quite an impression, especially
when viewed from the practice fields, and serves to help symbolize
something that’s been true for a long time.
Those Washington Redskins sure think a lot of themselves.
”When you set a standard of Super Bowl trophies,” coach Mike
Shanahan said. ”Anything less than that is unacceptable.”
The coach made that statement after the end of training camp
while paying tribute to the team’s alumni at the annual Welcome
Home Luncheon. Never mind that the last of those three Super Bowl
trophies was won more than two decades ago, and most of those
former players, as well as the fans at the banquet, have since
watched in frustration as the franchise descended into mediocrity
and worse, let down time and again by the latest new hope who was
supposed to help redeliver the glory days.
Heath Shuler. Michael Westbrook. Deion Sanders. Bruce Smith.
Marty Schottenheimer. Steve Spurrier. Joe Gibbs, part two. Albert
Haynesworth. Mike Shanahan. Donovan McNabb. The parade of names has
combined to produce just three playoff berths in the last 19
seasons, and the current run of four consecutive last-place
finishes in the NFC East is unprecedented in team history.
Enter the next could-be icon, one who fits the role perfectly,
right down to the superhero figurines in his locker and the random
references to having powers like Captain Planet: Robert Griffin
Heisman Trophy winner. Worth a package of premium draft picks.
He can throw. He can run. He’s marketable. He’s a player, according
to Shanahan, who ”can do some things that people haven’t
The No. 2 overall draft pick from Baylor also represents
Shanahan’s last stand. The coach who won a pair of Super Bowls with
the Denver Broncos in the 1990s now has a run of five straight
seasons without a playoff appearance, three in Denver and two in
Washington sandwiched around a year off to recharge the batteries.
The coach has put his faith in McNabb (2010) and the combo of Rex
Grossman and John Beck (2011) at quarterback with the Redskins and
failed each time.
The upside is that Shanahan also spent that time building the
rest of the roster to his liking, creating a consistent culture
that’s had been lacking under the frequent coaching changes made by
owner Dan Snyder. The Redskins have managed to stick to the same
philosophy with the same head coach, offensive coordinator and
defensive coordinator for the third year in a row, making Griffin
feel like one of the final pieces of the puzzle, not one of the
”He’s still a young kid. He still has a lot to learn,”
cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. ”We still have a lot of weapons we
need to put around him, too, but we feel like we have adequate guys
around him, a lot of playmakers to where we can definitely make
that transition a little bit easier for him.”
Still, this is a team that went 5-11 last year. While the
defensive front seven looks solid, there was no significant upgrade
to an offensive line that allowed 41 sacks in 2011. Shanahan says
this squad has more depth, but that could also mean he has lots of
Grade B players and not enough Grade As. There’s not a running back
on the roster who has rushed for 1,000 yards in a season, and
33-year-old Santana Moss is the only wideout who’s had 1,000 yards
Maybe that’s why the bravado is toned down a bit.
”I’m not going to make any predictions or anything,”
linebacker Brian Orakpo said. ”We’re just going to keep quiet and
create some havoc.”
At least, unlike in previous years when the losing made the
seasons seem endless, the Redskins should be a thrill to watch as
Griffin develops week by week. He does indeed have the talent and
poise to be the player who, finally, makes the Redskins once again
as proud of their present as they are of their past. It just
probably won’t happen this year.
”Last time I checked, they still have us fourth in the NFC
East,” Griffin said. ”And not that we care, but we’re going to go
out and try to make sure that we’re not.”
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Online: http://bigstory.ap.org/NFL-Pro32 and