The NFL’s 19-week old lockout is blessedly on the verge of ending. That’s great news for the owners, the players, the coaches and other team employees caught in the middle of the labor impasse these past four months, as well as for the fans.
However, it might not be as welcome a development for the Washington Redskins as for, say, their NFC East rivals, the New York Giants, Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys.
The Redskins are coming off three straight last-place finishes and were one of just six teams to rank in the bottom third of the league in both scoring and points allowed. Their quarterbacks have combined to start all of three games in coordinator Kyle Shanahan’s offense. No NFC defense allowed more yards in coordinator Jim Haslett’s system.
Coach Mike Shanahan, who has won just one playoff game since Dan Snyder bought the Redskins in 1999, has lost more than precious fourth months in trying to remedy these woes while being forced to hang onto franchise headaches Albert Haynesworth and Donovan McNabb because of the halt to any NFL transactions.
Meanwhile: the Eagles are coming off an NFC East title season under 13th-year coach Andy Reid and Pro Bowl starting quarterback Michael Vick; the Giants (10-6 last year) have been under the leadership of coach Tom Coughlin, offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride and quarterback Eli Manning since November 2004; and the 2009 division champion Cowboys, who played much better once Jason Garrett was promoted from offensive coordinator to coach at midseason 2010, welcome back star quarterback Tony Romo.
Aside from the unhappy quarterback choice of Rex Grossman or John Beck, the Redskins don’t have a nose tackle of any repute or a running back who has started as many as 10 games, will likely lose No. 2 cornerback Carlos Rogers shortly to free agency and might not be able to re-sign No. 1 receiver Santana Moss, inside linebacker Rocky McIntosh or right tackle Jammal Brown.
Left tackle Trent Williams, the sixth pick overall in 2010, has been away from the positive influences of his coaches and teammates for more than six months after a inconsistent rookie year.
Two of Washington’s five Pro Bowl players other than Moss – inside linebacker London Fletcher and fullback Mike Sellers – are 36, not a good age for an athlete.
Sure, Snyder, will, as always open his wallet wide during what will be an incredibly compressed free agent signing period, but none of the newcomers – nor Washington’s 12 rookies – will have had the benefit of the offseason program to learn each other and their holdover teammates nor the Redskins’ offensive and defensive systems.
Training camp is supposed to start on Thursday, the second day of free agency, ensuring that top-echelon players – as opposed to the usual street free agents – will be coming and going as Mike Shanahan tries to reverse the course of a franchise that is just 12-30 since midseason 2008 and reached postseason just three times during the past 18 years.
In contrast, the Eagles have made the playoffs three years running, the Giants have done so in three of the last four years and the Cowboys in three of the last five.
So yes, celebrate the NFL’s impending return, but don’t expect the party to last long in Washington. The season, and the annual losing, starts in just 51 days.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the former President of the Pro Football Writers of America. A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.