A day after a humbling loss to Green Bay, Redskins coach Jay Gruden said his team needs to "demand more of ourselves than being ousted in the first round."
A stark turnaround from last season, the 2015 season registers as a success for Gruden and the Redskins. An NFC East title to go with a 9-7 regular season record, Washington took a major step forward despite the ugly loss to the Packers in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.
"There's a lot to be encouraged about," the coach said. "Being NFC East champs is something to be proud of."
Even as the coach talked about winning the division, it was obvious the accomplishment did not leave Gruden satisfied.
"It's not our ultimate goal," Gruden said, "but something to build off of."
Much like he did in the immediate moments following the loss to Green Bay on Sunday, Gruden reiterated that the Redskins goal is to win championships, not just the division. While the sentiment is obvious, considering the expectations for the team beginning this year, it's remarkable to now hear the coach talk about Super Bowls. Washington is not a title-caliber team yet, but the growth in 2015 certainly allows for the coaches and players to be encouraged,
"I feel good about the nucleus [of our team]," Gruden said. "I feel good about the coaching staff."
One player that showed tremendous growth was Kirk Cousins, and now, the organization must work out a new contract with the quarterback. Asked about that situation, Gruden deferred to GM Scot McCloughan. A new deal for Cousins will dominate the offseason conversation surrounding the 'Skins, not just if a deal gets done, but what type of contract. The franchise tag is in play for Cousins, but some reports suggest a longer term deal could be in the works.
Cousins' success also meant the demise of Robert Griffin III, the former rookie dynamo that was relegated a to a third-string role in 2015. For his part, Gruden said RG3 did everything right this season.
"Obviously he wasn’t very happy, he’s a great competitor," Gruden said of Griffin. "He handled it like a pro. In the long run hopefully it will make him a better quarterback."
Where RG3 lands will be another story Redskins fans will be sure to watch, but he isn't the only player that will suit up in a new uniform next season. Gruden knows his roster will have turnover, and the team may lose some players they want to keep.
"We can’t keep everybody," the coach said. "It's unfortunate but that's the way it is in pro football."
For the first time since 2012, the Redskins season ended with a playoff appearance, albeit a first round loss. Unlike 2012, which saw RG3 suffer a major injury and questions abound, next season for the 'Skins seems to have a blueprint for success. Certainly questions exist, as well as ample spots for improvement, but optimism reigns in Washington as the Redskins head to the offseason.
At least for now.