Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 1, 17 days before the Washington Redskins and the rest of the NFL assemble in Indianapolis for the NFL Combine.
Question of the day
We’re changing up the format of Need to Know for the offseason. Every day I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.
Today's question is from Twitter:
@Rich_TandlerCSN Skins have never adjusted to the salary cap era. Fair statement?— Allen Sisson (@AllenSisson) January 31, 2015
This is an interesting topic to dig into a bit on a Super Bowl Sunday morning. The Redskins have not been to a Super Bowl during the unrestricted free agency/salary cap era, which started in 1993. The cap was set up for parity, to give every team a chance year in and year out.
But there have been 22 opportunities for an NFC team to make the Super Bowl since that season and the Redskins are 0 for 22. Perennial losers like the Bucs and Cardinals have been, as have the Panthers, who didn’t exist until 1995.
Where have they gone wrong? Stop me if you’re heard this before, but they have been too reliant on free agency to build year in and year out rather than placing an emphasis on the draft.
The organization did not suddenly become infatuated with free agency when Dan Snyder bought the team in 1999. It’s part of the team’s DNA, its culture. Some pre-Snyder free agent pickups during the 1990’s included defensive tackles Dana Stubblefield and Dan “Big Daddy” Wilkinson. The latter actually was a trade, which was the worst of both worlds. They gave Wilkinson a big contract and gave up their first- and third-round picks in the 1998 draft.
But the Redskins were buying free agents before 1993. CB Pat Fischer, DT Dave Butz, and LB Wilbur Marshall were all signed after their contracts expired with their old teams. The rules at the time required draft pick compensation for such signings. John Riggins was signed when a one-year window allowed for unrestricted free agency to take place. A “gentlemen’s agreement” was in place that discouraged signing free agents (it would be called “collusion” today). But George Allen was having no part of that and signed several players, including Riggins.
Butz, Marshall, and Riggins all helped the Redskins win Super Bowls and without a salary cap their salaries didn’t matter all that much. That changed in 1993. The way to go became to use draft picks to build your team with relatively cheap labor and then give the big money to your homegrown talent. An occasional free agent pick up to bolster a weak spot is fine but it needs to be a supplement to the draft, not the other way around.
It has become a cycle in Washington. When there is a hole in the lineup it gets plugged with a free agent. If a player is drafted at that position he doesn’t get an opportunity to develop. So when the original free agent gets too old or too expensive there isn’t a player ready to take his place. Snyder gets out the checkbook and another free agent signs on the line.
Scot McCloughan knows the right way to do things. He had a hand in building the Brett Favre teams that went to the Super Bowl twice in the late 1990’s, the 49ers that went there in 2012, and all three of the Seahawks Super Bowl teams, including the one that is playing today.
Can the new GM change the Redskins’ culture and get a franchise that keeps on trying to build a team using methods that worked 30 or 40 years ago but don’t any more to start doing it the right way? That is his biggest challenge.
—It’s been 35 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 224 days until they play another one.
—Days until: NFL Combine 17; NFL free agency starts 37; 2015 NFL Draft 88
If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.
In case you missed it