It’s Redskins football season — hope springs eternal.
Just enough time has passed to nearly forget Week 17 of last season, the character assassination of our former savior/GM, and the penultimate failure to sign our first competent quarterback since the early 90s to a long-term deal.
I’m sure things will be fine though. This is our year — why would you look ahead? Did you see Terrelle Pryor’s one-handed catch? Amazing —that’s one hand for every year we have him under contract.
Aren’t you excited about Jonathan Allen? Who needs a GM when one of the best talents in the draft falls in your lap at pick No. 17? How about Junior Galette, D.J. Swearinger, and a revamped defense? You’ve gotta love the patented internal hire we went with for our new D-coordinator. I’m sure we turned down many worthy candidates who were itching to work with this organization.
Despite my sarcasm, I want to see this team evolve and take the next step. I want to count the minutes until September 10. I want to be hopeful. I want to drink the Redskins Kool-Aid. And for 20-plus seasons before this one, that is what I did every summer despite feeling like an idiot by winter.
Something is different about 2017. You can’t tell it from the glassy-eyed autograph seekers in Richmond, who — fueled by fleeting nostalgia — keep showing up for their annual dose of Skins Soma, but this season feels like a diversion from reality, which is that 2017 is the Redskins’ last best chance at a winning record for the foreseeable future.
The 2017 season of Washington Redskins football will be impossible to enjoy for all but the most shortsighted and delusional fans.
There are two likely outcomes for this season and both are crippling to the franchise’s future.
Outcome No. 1: The Redskins perform as well or better than they did last season
But wait, isn’t that a good thing? For a competent NFL team it would be, but not for the Redskins.
Bungling the Cousins contract situation cemented Snyder’s legacy of being loser-in-perpetuity.
For the Skins to have a successful season, Kirk Cousins must play well. Playing well again means that Cousins’ asking price for a new contract will only increase. After the team bet against him twice with franchise tags, do you think they’re going to get a home team discount?
The Redskins will be forced to meet Cousins’ terms for a deal, use the transition tag to hold him hostage for one final season at a price tag of $28.78 million, or let him walk.
All three of those scenarios stink. The reason we are in this situation is because this franchise lacks foresight. After wasting three years of his career behind RG3, Cousins earned the QB1 job by playing well in 2015. The time to work out a long-term deal was then. Instead, the front office was worried that Cousins still might not be quite as good as his numbers indicated. He did nothing to decrease his value in 2016, and with that, the Skins lost all leverage in negotiations.
Losing leverage is one thing, but having no contingency plan is criminal. The development of Nate Sudfeld is not a backup plan — we have no backup plan. Skins brass has their collective head in the sand about the future. They think it will eventually work out, but it won’t. Just because tagging Cousins has worked so far doesn’t make it a plan.
Our only chance at prolonged mediocrity (because that’s the ceiling here) is to pay Cousins his market value. Unfortunately, quarterback is a bull market in the NFL and that’s going to cost Washington $100 million-plus. If we pay him that amount, all the back-loaded contract terms in the world won’t help the team’s budget.
For some illustrations of how lucrative QB deals can affect the entirety of an NFL roster, look no further than Baltimore, and to a lesser extent Seattle, who have both seen their rosters depleted after forking over big bucks to their Super Bowl-winning (emphasis added) quarterbacks. Keep in mind those are two franchises with proven front offices and stability throughout the better part of the past 15 seasons. Imagine how well the Redskins would handle that scenario.
At this point, the Redskins fan base seems to be broken down into three factions: Cousins believers, haters, and doubters.
If you’re a Cousins believer, you pay him and figure out the rest later.
If you’re a Cousins hater, you’re happy going back to square one. How hard could it be to find another competent, marketable quarterback anyway?
If you’re a Cousins doubter (e.g. Bruce Allen, Dan Snyder), you probably believe the following:
For a doubter like Allen, the paradox is that if you pay Cousins $25 million or more, you won’t be able to afford to surround him with the supreme talent you believe he needs to win. The only way the doubters will be converted to believers is an improbable Super Bowl run.
A Super Bowl run this season is slightly more likely than an asteroid destroying the planet before February, so I don’t think we need to worry about that hypothetical.
In the Snyder Era, when has optimism ever been rewarded? Was it that one playoff win in 2005, or maybe the only other one in 1999?
When predicting this team’s future, it is always prudent to ponder the darkest timeline.
Outcome No. 2 — The train wreck scenario
The groundwork has already been laid for this one. It began when the Redskins couldn’t come to an agreement with Kirk Cousins on a long-term deal. Instead of issuing a cordial announcement of the fact, team president Bruce Allen issued a public statement that blatantly threw the team’s starting quarterback for the next season under the bus.
With that, the smear campaign was underway. For this scenario to come to fruition, Cousins must struggle this season. One slip up and anonymous leaks from the team will begin to surface every Sunday morning besmirching the QB, just as they did when the RG3 Project was being dismantled. After that it won’t be long until every article praising Cousins is dubbed #FAKENEWS. Sad.
The end result is a 5-11 record, March on Ashburn Part Deux, and fans burning Kirk Cousins in effigy.
If Bruce Allen can gaslight fans into thinking of Kirk Cousins as the greedy bad guy, he wins. It doesn’t matter if it involves fake fan accounts on social media trashing the quarterback. Under this horrific theoretical scenario, Snyder and Allen were right all along: Cousins is a fraud.
After two full seasons as a starter, there is now enough tape on Cousins that it would take something monumental to decrease his asking price. In case you were wondering which outcome Bruce Allen is likely rooting for, there are three ways for Cousins to lose value this season: poor play, injury, or being benched for Colt McCoy.
The irony is that if Cousins performs so poorly that his market dries up, and his value drops to what the Redskins believe he is worth, the team would be foolish to give him an extension. Has there ever been a scenario more fitting for Bruce and Dan to consider?
It bears repeating, this team doesn’t have a plan. They are making it up as they go, self-congratulating for moments of fortune and running smear campaigns when things don’t go their way.
Keep in mind, the team still hasn’t bothered to hire an actual General Manager. Just like their other “hirings,” this position will likely be filled internally by the best bootlicker, who will eventually be run out of town as a scapegoat. That is the natural order in Washington. Get out while you can, Doug.
Competence and stability is all Skins fans have yearned for, and after nearly two decades of theatrics it looked like we were close with Scot McCloughan making personnel decisions, and a quarterback who could actually perform well enough at the position to evaluate the abilities of everyone else on the field. But here we are again, staring down our sideshow fate before a game is even played.
Aren’t you excited?
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