The Redskins 2015 NFC East title came as a result of a number of good players and strong strategic decisions, good coaching and perhaps even a little luck. That's the case for most title teams, whether it be a mere division title or something bigger, regardless of the sport.
In the time since last Saturday's NFC East clinching win in Philadelphia, much well-earned recognition has gone to head coach Jay Gruden, quarterback Kirk Cousins and GM Scot McCloughan. All three men deserve the praise, lots of it.
Gruden made the tough call to bench Robert Griffin III and start Kirk Cousins before the season began. Under the guise of injury or not, Gruden did what needed to be done for his franchise to win despite an outpouring of criticism from some fans, and perhaps some private heat from within the organization. Further, Gruden had the fortitude to stick with Cousins even when early season results were uneven.
Cousins rewarded his coach, and Redskins fans, by emerging from an up and down first eight weeks to become one of the best statistical quarterbacks over the last month of the season. His play in two games the 'Skins needed to win - Buffalo at home and at Philadelphia - was superb. For three years Cousins said he just wanted a chance to compete and prove he belonged as an NFL quarterback, in 2015 Gruden gave him the chance. Cousins ran with it.
And of course McCloughan deserves a ton of praise. His personnel moves have largely been strong, especially the 2015 Draft. Brandon Scherff has started every game at right guard this season, solidifying the Washington offensive line. Matt Jones and Jamison Crowder look like important offensive pieces both now and in the future, and Preston Smith has shown flashes of what could become a Pro Bowl defensive talent. While some of McCloughan's high-dollar free agent imports have failed, largely because of injury, the cheaper veterans the GM has brought in have worked out well.
But perhaps another Redskins official, and former punchline, deserves a bit of acclaim: Bruce Allen.
That's right, time has served well the man who made "winning off the field" an unintended slogan of the Redskins repeated failures. About a year ago Allen was lampooned at a press conference, and then within weeks hired McCloughan, the man who deserves so much credit for the culture change in Ashburn.
Allen really had only one year in charge of the Redskins in 2014, his years prior to that Mike Shanahan had firm control over personnel. So let's re-examine 2014, which had both hits and misses, but the hits are starting to pan out. Four players from the 2014 draft are now starting for Washington in Trent Murphy, Spencer Long, Morgan Moses and Bashaud Breeland.
Breeland, selected in the fourth round, looks like a potential Pro Bowler and a steal for his draft slot. That pick was a home run.
Moses, a third round pick, has started all season at right tackle, and while at times the play has been rocky, he's provided a much better performance than Tyler Polumbus before him. Long is starting in place of injured Shawn Lauvao, and Murphy has proven to be a capable NFL linebacker. While a second round pick should deliver more than Murphy has thus far, he is far from a bust. Ryan Grant, a fifth round pick from Allen's draft, has also provided good value from his selection.
It's silly to give Allen complete credit for the 2014 draft, but that haul has produced some solid, and one great, results. Credit is due.
Yet Allen still has an ace up his sleeve: DeSean Jackson. Signing Jackson in 2014 took guts, as he was cut by Philadelphia amid allegations of off-the-field issues. What the Redskins have gotten? A terrific player that has not been even remotely a problem. While Jackson may choose to skip voluntary workouts, his vertical ability in the passing game more than makes up for it. Cousins emergence this season coincided as Jackson returned to the field; it's a safe bet one had something to do with other.
Allen had misses too.
Jason Hatcher was overpaid considering his age and production. Lauvao played poorly his first season in Washington after being signed to a $17 million deal, but was playing much better in 2015 before an injury ended his season. The point here is not to suggest Allen is a personnel guru. Far from it. But it's also high time to credit the team president, both for what he did in 2014 and what he has done since.
Hiring McCloughan looks to be a transformative moment for the franchise, and don't think it was an easy move. From a football standpoint? Absolutely, McCloughan was a clear star. But there was baggage after flameouts in San Francisco and Seattle. Allen maneuvered all of that, publicly and privately. Not to mention it takes humility to acknowledge the need for help, for a better player personnel mind.
Winning off the field remains an all-time Redskins soundbite blunder, and it should. But now, the 'Skins are winning on the field, and appear to be in position to do so for the foreseeable future. Allen helped.
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