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Browns GM admits trade talks with Redskins' Bruce Allen but 'takes two to tango'

Browns GM admits trade talks with Redskins' Bruce Allen but 'takes two to tango'

As the days inch closer to the NFL Trade Deadline on October 29th, the Redskins still sit with a giant hole on their roster as standout tackle Trent Williams continues his holdout. 

It doesn't have to be that way, but Redskins Team President Bruce Allen has said repeatedly he doesn't intend to trade Williams this year. And judging by the words from Browns GM John Dorsey right, Allen is telling the truth. 

"We’ve had a few conversations,'’ Dorsey said via Cleveland.com. "It takes two to tango."

The indication being Allen rebuffed the conversation, which is similar to what sources said during training camp that at least three AFC teams called to inquire about Williams and were told there was no discussion to be had. Well, the clock is ticking, and as each day passes, it makes less and less sense to have Williams in Washington. Or more accurately, to have Williams under contract with Washington but not actually in Washington.

Redskins interim head coach Bill Callahan got asked about the trade talks and said quickly: "I don't know anything about that, so we’ll see about that."

The head coach then added, "You’re always looking to improve your roster by any means. Whether you’re acquiring by trade or acquiring it through free agency or obviously guys off the waiver wire, we’re always looking."

Cleveland is certainly interested in Williams, Dorsey made that clear without naming him. At 2-4, his team is underperforming against expectations, and star second-year QB Baker Mayfield has been sacked 16 times in six games. Dorsey knows he needs to bolster the Browns offensive line. 

"It’s a hard position to acquire, especially at this time of year. We’ll make a million phone calls. We’ll constantly work the phones," Dorsey said. "If nothing happens, we’ll move onto the next project. If we think we can improve the position, we’ll make a move if it’s right for this organization."

Compensation will be key as the Williams situation unfolds. The team will want a lot for the seven-time Pro Bowler and some teams might be unwilling to pay with a first-rounder. Williams is under contract for through 2020, but might want a new deal or more guaranteed money in his current contract. 

The calls will keep coming to Ashburn asking about WIlliams. The question will be if Allen will pick them up. 

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At 1-9 and sinking, Redskins coach and players know that 'close' is just a myth

At 1-9 and sinking, Redskins coach and players know that 'close' is just a myth

Redskins team president Bruce Allen famously described his team as “close” multiple times during the last few years.

Close? Close to what?

Allen never really answered that, but in some alternate universe, there was often talk about a 6-3 record midway through the 2018 season and coulda-beens and shoulda-beens. 

“It means you’re close. It means you’re close to being better. We have to find the right ingredients and right chemistry to do that,” Allen said last January. “We were two games out of the playoffs, and no matter how you want to look at the season, we were two games out of it. And the year before we were one game out of it, and the year before we were one game out of it. So we have to find the right ingredients to get over that hump.”

Of course, none of that mattered in the real universe. Ever. 

In the time since Allen’s infamous close comments, the Redskins are 1-9, fired head coach Jay Gruden and seven-time Pro Bowl tackle Trent Williams has made clear he will never return to the organization. 

Now, however, in a fit of honesty, a top Redskins official has admitted that the team is, in fact, not close. 

"I don’t think we’re close today. I have to be honest with you,” Redskins interim head coach Bill Callahan said after his team lost 34-17 to the New York Jets on Sunday. 

Callahan provided the unnecessary qualifier that the Redskins weren’t close in the Jets game, but the reality is the Redskins aren’t close in any capacity. On Monday, the Redskins coach expanded on his comments.

"The translation is what really gets to me, taking plays from the grass to the game," Callahan said. "Nobody wants to hear it and I understand that. No one wants to hear how hard you practice and how hard you prepare because everyone does in the National Football League. You’ve got to come to the game and you’ve got to make plays. When that doesn’t translate, yeah there’s disappointment."

The coach deserves some level of credit for the honesty, but the reality absolutely backs up his sentiment. This Redskins team just don't make enough plays to validate much conversation around their proximity to real competition.

The team is not close to a competent defense, particularly after going down 34-3 to the Jets before a late two touchdown rally. 

The team is not close to an explosive offense, particularly after getting just three first downs in the entire first half against the Jets. 

The team just isn't close. 

The Redskins are 1-9 and on a solid path to a 1-15 record. It would be the worst mark in Washington since 1961. Jack Kennedy was president then. 

Even if rookie QB Dwayne Haskins improves and can lead this team to a few victories, the Redskins still won’t be close. The team lacks playmakers on offense, the offensive line has struggled much of the year, and the defense has been a mess most of the season. 

Players recognize the conversation about competing and being close isn’t accurate, and simply isn’t good enough anyway. 

“The message can't keep being, 'We're close, we're close.' The message can't be 'I'm proud of your guys' effort, get ready for next week'. We have to put points on the board, put touchdowns on the board. That's what wins at this level,” Redskins WR Paul Richardson said after a Week 9 loss in Buffalo. 

Richardson is right. Pro football isn’t about participation trophies. It’s about wins. 

For years the Redskins’ brass has talked about effort as a panacea to bad football. Effort alone won’t change anything. Effort needs to be met with capable players, and capable players also need to exert maximum effort. There’s a legitimate question how much of either the Redskins are getting. 

The only thing the Redskins are close to is their worst record in nearly 60 years. 

Close to what? Close to nothing. 

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Here's how Bill Callahan justified the Redskins starting Montae Nicholson against the Jets

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Here's how Bill Callahan justified the Redskins starting Montae Nicholson against the Jets

The Redskins chose to start Montae Nicholson at safety in Week 11 against the Jets, a game that took place just a few days after Nicholson's reported girlfriend, Julia Crabbe, died of an apparent drug overdose at his house early last Thursday morning.

On Monday, Bill Callahan was asked multiple times to justify that decision.

His first answer focused solely on the process of physically clearing Nicholson to play and didn't address Crabbe's death or how Nicholson was handling it emotionally. The defender had been dealing with an ankle injury that kept him out of Washington's previous two contests.

"I don't think there was a huge decision relative to his health," Callahan said. "We had worked him out prior to the game and he was OK to go, and we monitor that pretty closely and felt pretty positive about inserting him and starting him in the game."

A follow-up was then posed in an effort to get an answer about Nicholson's mindset and ability to play football when he was still processing the recent death of his reported girlfriend. 

Callahan explained he "didn't get into all of that" with Nicholson, but others within the franchise did.

"He spoke to a lot of other people in the organization relative to that situation," the interim coach told reporters. "From my perspective, in terms of playing him and the decision of playing him was strictly based on coaching gathered with all of the other information I had."

Callahan was then pressed one last time on the matter of how Nicholson was feeling mentally and whether he should've been allowed to suit up. According to the coach, the Redskins were content with letting Nicholson make the call.

"There was a discussion. He was prepared to play," Callahan said. "Those questions were put forth and it was ultimately his decision to play. That's why, when you work out a player before a game and you go out and you take him through any type of pregame conditioning, pregame test or standard drill for that matter, it's always a player's decision whether they're ready to play or not. He was physically ready to play and he wanted to play, so that was strictly his decision and he had the freedom to make that decision."

All in all, Callahan's comments felt callous, and his first answer — in which he acted as if the only thing to take into consideration was whether Nicholson's ankle was stable enough — bordered on preposterous.

A member of the Redskins public relations staff later came to the media to clarify that Callahan wasn't trying to gloss over the tragedy. All he was looking to do, per the official, was walk through the gameday process of getting a player ready to go. 

Of course, this is a very difficult thing to talk about. A 21-year-old died and it's important that everyone discussing it keeps that in mind. Perhaps Callahan hoped his first response would suffice and he wouldn't have to delve into anything more. It didn't suffice, however, and neither did his other quotes.

Unfortunately, the overall justification to play Nicholson wasn't nearly enough, in what was another misstep for the Redskins in a season full of them.

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