The 2019 campaign was a disastrous one for the Redskins, but there's more optimism surrounding the organization now than there has been in years.
Almost all of that optimism has to do with the changes the franchise has made this offseason, with the hiring of head coach Ron Rivera being the biggest addition.
Since the well-respected head coach has arrived in Ashburn, it's been nearly impossible to hear a bad thing about him. During Zoom conference calls this week, both coordinators Scott Turner and Nate Kaczor have raved about the head coach. Rivera has preached accountability since taking over, a trait that has been absent from Washington for a long time.
In a recent interview with the Redskins Talk podcast, NFL Network analyst Dan Hellie was asked his opinion on the addition of Rivera. Hellie explained he may not have initially been as high on the hire as others, but he believes it was a smart move for the franchise.
"I like the hiring of Ron Rivera," Hellie said. "At the time, I didn't feel like it was that splash, home run hire that [Redskins owner Dan] Snyder has tried to go for in the past. It was kind of like a solid double; you're in scoring position now."
Hellie has been impressed with the changes Rivera has made during his first few months on the job. But as he explained to Redskins Talk, he believes the organization must be patient with Rivera as the head coach attempts to turn around the culture in Redskins Park.
"[Rivera is] preaching all the right things. He's preaching character, family, responsibility, building for the long haul," Hellie said. "I hope he's given the opportunity to do that. I think the most important thing for the Redskins right now is having one voice. There's not going to be that infighting that there was when Bruce [Allen] was there. I believe the hiring of Ron Rivera is going to enable them to get better as an organization over the long haul."
During Rivera's introductory press conference, the head coach explained it wouldn't be a quick fix. Building a winning culture takes time, and the new head coach knows that.
Hellie explained that hiring Rivera was a big step in the right direction, but his arrival doesn't mean they'll necessarily be a good football team right away.
"I love the direction they are headed right now, I just wouldn't expect them to be better in a hurry," he said.
His reasoning makes sense, too. The Redskins are coming off a 3-13 season, and making a complete turnaround from that requires a lot more than just a coaching change.
Hellie also doesn't believe the Redskins will turn things around right away under Rivera's leadership because Hellie has a lack of faith in Dwayne Haskins. The analyst expressed that he doesn't feel that he saw enough from Haskins as a rookie that showed the passer can truly be great.
"I'm not completely sold on Haskins," he said. "I think he has the tools, but we've seen a lot of the guys that had the tools in a Redskins uniform that weren't able to produce. I hope I'm wrong. I hope he's great. I just haven't seen greatness from Haskins on the NFL level."
Hellie admitted that Haskins' sample size as a rookie -- seven starts and nine total appearances -- was not big enough for him to truly judge the passer. Additionally, he questioned the Redskins decision of not throwing Haskins into the fray right away, unlike his draft class counterparts in Kyler Murray, Daniel Jones and even Gardner Minshew.
Haskins had his growing pains as a rookie, but the quarterback finished the 2019 season playing his best football. Over his final two starts, Haskins threw for nearly 400 yards, four touchdowns and zero interceptions while completing 72 percent of his passes. He's made major changes to his body this offseason and been grinding in the classroom, earning praise from his new offensive coordinator in Turner.
Besides his lack of faith around Haskins, Hellie believes the odd circumstances of the 2020 offseason due to the coronavirus pandemic is another thing that will hurt every team come this fall, but will especially impact a young roster like Washington's.
The Redskins have added several new pieces and have a completely new playbook. For the players, learning an entirely new system is already a hard enough task within itself, but attempting to learn it via video chats is even harder.
"You add all these new pieces and you're having virtual OTAs," Hellie said. "It's going to be very difficult for young teams to improve quickly given the trials and tribulations during this offseason that we have never seen before."
So, when you put all these factors together, Hellie explains the 2020 season might be another tough one for Washington. But as he emphasized throughout the entire interview, the franchise is taking the right steps to be much better in the long run.
"I think the Redskins have nowhere to go but up," he said.
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