WASHINGTON — Former Washington Redskins defensive lineman Ricky Jean Francois is headed back to the Super Bowl with the New England Patriots, in one of the great turnaround stories of the NFL this season.
It started six days into the new league year when Jean Francois was cut by the Redskins. Sure, the team had signed Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee, but it didn’t help that Jean Francois that he had been a little too honest in his outlook on the Redskins in an interview with Sean Salisbury.
“It just seems like we’re getting back to the norm, we’re getting back to the dysfunctional, we’re getting back to the drama,” Jean Francois said, just days before the team finally fired general manager Scot McCloughan, who had signed him after years together in San Francisco.
“It just feels like at no given time we’ve never had that period, where we were just comfortable with everything and everything was just running smooth.”
The Green Bay Packers scooped him up eight days after his release, keeping him through the offseason and preseason. Jean Francois had a tough time finding playing time and bounced between the roster and free agency for several months, also getting calls from New Orleans along the way.
The experience offered perspective for the eight-year pro, who was a full-time starter with the Indianapolis Colts before signing with the Redskins.
“I’ve got to treat every day walking into this building like it’s my last,” Jean Francois told the media in September. “If I’m only here for the time that [player] is hurt, then so be it. If I’ve only got to be here for that period of time, I just need to do my job, help these guys out, make sure they’re in the right position to do what they’ve got to do.”
After appearing in six games, he was cut again in early November and returned home to wait for the next phone call. It came a few weeks later, from Foxboro, where the Patriots were also dealing with injuries on the defensive line. Even if it wasn’t a stable job, it was with one of the most stable franchises in the NFL, a far cry from what he witnessed happening with the Redskins.
“That shows you how good this team has been in being consistent,” Jean Francois said in a recent interview. “The biggest thing and the biggest downfall in a lot of people and a lot of teams is being consistent.
“This team has always been consistent in what they did and they always stick to what they know and that’s winning. Besides winning, they stick to the process and they stick to the journey and they stick to the grind – everything that leads up to a game like this and they keep doing it and you see what position they are in each and every other year.”
Jean Francois appeared in six games down the stretch and punched his unlikely ticket to the playoffs.
On Sunday, he started his first playoff game since 2013, when he played at New England as a member of the Colts. This time, he dressed in the home locker room and got the nod to start ahead of a healthy Alan Branch.
He finished the game with five tackles and a chance to play for an elusive Super Bowl ring in two weeks:
At this time last year, there’s a good chance that Francois expected to play out the final year of his contract with the Redskins. Instead, he spoke his mind, put in his time and ended up with a chance to play for the Super Bowl.
It hasn’t been an easy ride, but it’s one that Jean Francois is ready to enjoy.
“I’m enjoying the journey,” Jean Francois said before Sunday’s game. “I’ve been through the ups and downs. I started with Green Bay and I’m now, it’s funny, I’m here with the Patriots. It’s been a roller coaster, but it’s actually a roller coaster that I’m enjoying.”