WASHINGTON — Hear me out.
The Redskins missed the playoffs, which sure feels like a step back coming off their surprise 2015 NFC East title. But, honestly, is it?
Sure you can excuse this as a hot take of the “winning is the best deodorant” variety, to which I probably wouldn’t object, but would last week’s firing of Joe Barry — presuming that’s something that needed to happen — have happened if they had made the playoffs?
If it’s a necessary change, the team falling short of expectations sure seemed to help it along.
The Redskins have reached a pivotal point in Scot McCloughan’s long-term rebuild and, something I’ve been thinking about since last offseason, did making the playoffs set unreal expectations for 2016 and, by extension, the remainder of the rebuild?
It’s easy to look at 2015 and trick yourself into believing the Redskins were close to something greater, but the playoffs have a way of exposing depth issues, as the Packers exposed the Redskins in the second half of last year’s Wild Card game, and just as another opponent surely would have done to them again had the Redskins survived the Giants in Week 17. Look at the beating Green Bay just gave the Giants.
Now the Redskins have the benefit of a higher draft pick — they’ll pick 17th — which translates to selecting from better-quality talent throughout the 2017 NFL Draft, and in turn they can build more efficiently toward next season and beyond. Would another quick playoff appearance have been worth the sacrifice of better future talent?
The organization can now shift its focus toward improving its personnel.
With somewhere in the ballpark of $67 million in salary cap dollars to spend at their leisure — and let’s assume for argument’s sake they’ll franchise tag Kirk Cousins again, so that number’s closer to $43 million — the Redskins are now positioned to take a giant — and better — leap forward in 2017 and beyond.
They have plenty of weaknesses to address: defensive line, back end of the secondary and, since it seems unlikely they’ll re-sign both DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon (and potentially neither), wide receiver.
These issues were going to materialize whether the Redskins made the playoffs or not. Isn’t it better they address them while putting their best foot forward?
This isn’t an argument for how players should approach a season — that certainly isn’t a recipe for a “winning culture.” But, if the players on the current roster gave it their all and still came up short, something was missing and they more than likely weren’t going the distance if they’d squeaked into the playoffs (which, as a reminder, they did not).
In 2010, Pete Carroll and McCloughan’s first year in Seattle, the Seahawks won a woefully dreadful NFC West with a 7-9 record. Critics dismissed their success as a fluke, the result of a terrible division — sound familiar? — which seemed fair enough. Those critics were even justified when Seattle fell short of the playoffs with the exact same record the next season.
That offseason, Seattle selected Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner and some dude named Russell Wilson with their first three picks in the draft, returned to the playoffs with 11 wins and won the Super Bowl the following year.
All of this isn’t to say the Redskins are the 2013 Seahawks-in-the-making; it is to say if they’re at least heading in that direction, no one will look back on their 2016 season with any sort of regard whatsoever.