And now it begins. For the Washington Redskins, there will be no postseason play this year—something that became palpably evident around late October. Instead, the team will return to where it does most of its usual winning: the offseason.

Summer success is quite common in the District and after another distasteful campaign, fans will again be looking for something to regain hope over. But with two high-priced professionals seemingly on their way out the door in Donovan McNabb and Albert Haynesworth, it’ll be interesting to see if the club sticks with its money mantra and goes free spending again. Or, they could do it the “right way” and focus their rebuilding effort towards the NFL Draft.

Without their third- and fourth- round draft picks (courtesy of last year’s McNabb trade), Washington doesn’t have the favorable ammunition to restock their team with talented youngsters. But the club does possess a pick in each of the first two rounds, something Washington hasn’t enjoyed since the 2002 draft. This year’s draft class is loaded full of promising quarterbacks. With Washington scheduled to pick 10th overall, the club should be in line to nab a signal caller of the future to start their rebuilding process. The free agent market hasn’t been kind to the Redskins over the years and the 2009 hiring of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Bruce Allen should hopefully push along a speedy recovery if the front office decides to go with a youth movement.

Allen came from a similar situation with Tampa where the team was in transition of flooding out its old veterans and instilling youthful building blocks. The Buccaneers severed ties with likely Hall of Famers in Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and Simeon Rice and even parted ways with coveted coach Jon Gruden. Yet, a few years later, Tampa is again back atop the NFC despite missing the playoffs with a 10-6 record and the league’s youngest team. The casual NFL fan probably couldn’t identify one single name associated with the Buccaneers but that didn’t stop them from making a seven-game improvement from their 3-13 season in 2009. Maybe Allen can transfer some of his magic to an ailing Washington organization in dire need of a makeover.

Several players could be on the chopping block this summer including popular veteran tailback Clinton Portis for starters. Fans will know soon enough about Washington’s revitalization plans over the next few months. When the Washington Redskins start releasing big time names, it’s clear a change in philosophy has arisen. The pay-plug-and-play approach hasn’t gotten the team anywhere and it’s past due time to give the draft a try. Ironically, Washington’s 6-10 mark this year was an improvement over the previous season’s misery but if the team elects to go with a youth movement like most expect, things will probably get worse before they get better. But at least the team will be walking in a different direction for a change.

 

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO