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The Girl Mopping the Floors

The Girl Mopping the Floors

Cinderella stories are great. Tales of an individual or, in the case of the 2007 Washington Redskins, a team overcoming adversity and long odds are uplifting and inspiring. The Skins' run to the playoffs is one that will resound forever in team lore.

That's all well and good, but there's one problem here. In the NFL, you don't want to be the girl at home mopping the floors while the evil stepsisters are off at the ball. You want to be the stepsisters in the story, the ones who are taking what they want. Or, better yet, you want to be the handsome prince in the palace, in a position of power and dictating what others are to do.

Instead, the Redskins have had to rely on their Fairy Godmother in two of the last three years in order to make their way into the NFL playoffs. The '05 and '07 seasons were remarkably similar in how they flowed. Both featured a hot start and a midseason swoon that featured some heartbreaking losses (Tampa Bay and San Diego two years ago, Philly and Dallas this year). In both cases, Joe Gibbs and company were able to turn pumpkins into coaches and rats into horses and were able to make it to the ball.

If Cinderella was around today, we might have a social worker examining the life choices that had her performing such menial tasks to eke out a bare existence. Evidently, she had some things going for her. Once she was cleaned up she was quite a looker and she had the charm to captivate a prince. So why was she mopping the floors to begin with? What paths taken or not taken led her to making a living with a mop and bucket?

The Redskins have a lot going for them. The business end of the team is a cash generating machine. That gives the team resources to spend on coaches, scouting, facilities, and signing bonuses. They have a good core of talent and, as we saw this year, some decent depth. The biggest stadium in the NFL should give them a huge home field advantage and would if the team would consistently give the 90,000+ who fill he place something to cheer about.

Despite all of this, for the past four years—actually for most of the last 16 years—the Redskins have found themselves in late November with the mop in their hands, wishing wistfully that they could be mingling with royalty. Two of the past three years they have made it to the palace only to find themselves ejected and sent back to working the mop well before midnight.

Like the social worker who might look at Cinderella's life choices, what the Redskins need to do to be in charge of the palace is study the choices they have made that have left them with a losing record in late November every year. What led them to think that committing large chunks of cap money to Adam Archuleta and Brandon Lloyd was a good idea? Were the issues that led to blowing numerous halftime leads more related to play calling or to execution? When the issues are identified, how do they go about fixing them? Can the offense be truly effective with all of its receivers standing under six feet or do they need a big body in the mix? What needs to be done to ensure better choices regarding in-game management such as using timeouts? Has the choice not to employ a general manager served the team well? And, even if the answer to that last question is "yes", considering that Gibbs likely has a maximum of three years left as coach, will the present structure be effective going into the future?

If the Redskins are to live up to the expectations that followed the hiring of Joe Gibbs, expectations that are reasonable for a team with the Skins' resources and tradition, they can't continue to be Cinderella. They need to make the choices that will lead to someone else trying on the slipper while they hold the keys to the palace and watch from on high.

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In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency

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USA TODAY Sports

In talking 2018 NFL draft, Doug Williams actually explained Redskins' free agency

The Redskins spent modestly in 2018 free agency, and plenty of fans thought the team should have shelled out much bigger bucks. Talking with sources around the Ashburn facility, a prevaling notion became clear that the Washington brass believed they had a strong team in 2017, but they lost their chance to compete because of injuries. 

Well, the secret is out. Doug Williams said as much on Tuesday. 

"Coming out of Richmond last year, I liked this football team. I think we’ve got a tough football team, a smart football team. Some things you can’t control," Williams said Tuesday in a pre-draft media session. "We were very competitive up to a certain point, and when you have the injuries that we have, at a certain point, that competitive edge, you lose it because your best players are not playing."

Williams' words were true, and telling. 

First the true part:

  • In Washington's first five games of 2017, the team went 3-2. The Redskins only lost to eventual the Super Bowl champs Philadelphia and AFC West champs Kansas City. Washington only gave up more than 100 yards rushing once in those first five games, before rookie Jonathan Allen got hurt and the defense began to look much different. After Week 5, the Redskins only held one team under 100 yards rushing and finished the year dead last in rush defense.

Now the telling part:

  • The Redskins signed free agent WR Paul Richardson, and kept free agent LB Zach Brown. Beyond that, the team added inexpensive veterans in OLB Pernell McPhee and CB Orlando Scandrick. No splash moves, and recurring speculation that Washington was not offering top dollar to free agents. Bruce Allen acknowledged as much during NFL League Meetings when he explained that his team identified exactly how much they would offer free agents, their own and otherwise, and wouldn't go beyond that dollar figure. 

That means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is about this weekend's NFL Draft.

That also means the focus of the offseason, at this point, is not about Johnathan Hankins or any other free agent. 

"We’re going to deal with the draft now, and the second wave of free agents, if it’s somebody out there we feel like can help the Redskins,that’s what we’re going to do," Williams said. 

Throughout the offseason, Redskins fans wanted more action from their front office. It didn't happen, and Williams' basically explained why on Tuesday. The brass likes their team, and by default, expects better health and luck in 2018. 

When Williams talks about drafting the best player available, it's not just the typical NFL front office tripe. Right or wrong, the Redskins believe they have a team ready to compete in 2018, and any rookies that come in will only supplement that position.

"At the end of the day, I like this football team we’ve got. Like, last year when I walked out of camp, I thought we had a pretty good football team and I still feel the same way today," Williams said.

"At the end of the day, you get the best football player, and if that best football player is the guy that you want to plug and play, that’s all right. But if that’s the best football player that’s going to help your team overall, I think that’s the route you have to go."

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Doug Williams says Redskins will listen to draft trade offers but a trade up is unlikely

Doug Williams says Redskins will listen to draft trade offers but a trade up is unlikely

The Redskins aren’t in the quarterback business, so it’s highly unlikely that they will look to trade up in the first round of the draft on Thursday. But their phones will be open for business to move down. 

Speaking at the team’s pre-draft press conference, Doug Williams didn’t rule out trading up from the team’s first-round spot at 13thoverall but he doesn’t think it’s likely. 

“The chances of trading up might be a little slimmer than trading down,” he said. 

Williams said that the phones in the room will be ringing and that they will listen to any offers. But usually the team that wants to move up initiates the call and because the Redskins are set at one particular position they probably won’t pick up the phone. 

“If we were in the quarterback business, which is what this league is about, if we were in the heavy quarterback business we’d talk about moving up,” he said. “At this time, we can sit back and see what comes up if we stay at 13.”

The Redskins are set at quarterback after they traded their third-round pick and cornerback Kendall Fuller for veteran Alex Smith to replace the departed Kirk Cousins. Williams thinks that the Redskins already got good value from the pick. 

“When I think about Alex Smith, I say we got the best third-round pick in the draft,” he said. “I don't care what nobody says. You can't get a better third-round pick.”

Because they think they got a good player, albeit an older one, with that pick, the Redskins are not necessarily looking to make a deal to move back and recoup that pick on draft day. 

Williams emphasized that in order to move back, you have to have a team that wants to trade up. Often that is easier said than done. 

“They don’t just call you to ask you, they have to get a player that they want,” said Williams. “At that particular time, they’re afraid that somebody else might pick him. They might call you to ask you if you want to move back . . . If we move back, that’s because somebody called us to see if we want to move back.”

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Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.