The NFL’s most disappointing team this season also faces a troubling question about its long-term future: Is the worst yet to come for the Washington Redskins?
The Redskins, who are in their bye week, are 2-5 and meet teams with winning records in seven of their final nine games. The performance of the offense in general and the quarterback in particular has been spotty, and the defense plummeted in league rankings from top 10 to bottom seven.
The future, however, looks even more distressing. The Redskins entered this season as the oldest team in the league, and they’ll head into the offseason with few draft picks and little salary cap space to use to make improvements.
The Redskins’ rivals in the NFC East — the Philadelphia Eagles, New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys — have stockpiled young talent. The Redskins, meanwhile, have stockpiled veterans on the downside of their careers. Their opening day roster consisted of players with an average age of 27.83, the highest in the NFL.
Eight of the Redskins’ starters on offense and defense already are thirtysomethings: quarterback Mark Brunell (36), offensive tackle Jon Jansen (30), guard Randy Thomas (30), defensive end Phillip Daniels (33), defensive tackle Joe Salave’a (31), linebackers Marcus Washington (30) and Warrick Holdman (30) and cornerback Shawn Springs (31).
Four other starters — offensive tackle Chris Samuels, center Casey Rabach, defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin and linebacker Lemar Marshall — will join them within a year.
The flow of rookies into the starting lineup, on the other hand, has been decidedly small: Samuels, guard Derrick Dockery, tight end Chris Cooley, cornerback Carlos Rogers and safety Sean Taylor are the only such players to enter the lineup since 2000.
That list seems all the shorter in comparison to the other teams in the division.
The Eagles start 13 such players, including Pro Bowl cornerback Sheldon Brown and star running back Brian Westbrook. The Cowboys start 12, including Pro Bowl safety Roy Williams and tight end Jason Witten. The Giants start nine, led by quarterback Eli Manning and Pro Bowl tight end Jeremy Shockey.
That trend won’t be reversed soon.
The Redskins will have only one or two picks in the first four rounds of next year’s draft, depending upon the compensation they are required to give for their preseason trade for running back T.J. Duckett.
Their division rivals, meanwhile, are better positioned for the draft. The Cowboys and Giants each have all of their picks in the first four rounds, and the Eagles hold a pick in each of the first three rounds.
The Redskins long have operated in such a manner, often to great success. The George Allen line, “the future is now,” has served as their motto for nearly four decades, whether Allen, Bobby Beathard, Dan Snyder or Joe Gibbs called the shots in the front office.
The Redskins never believed in losing today to build a better tomorrow. Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi always hates “to see holes” when he looks at his roster of picks for the next draft, but the Redskins generally have traded picks like so many Pokemon cards.
Allen drafted only one player before the fourth round in his seven seasons in charge. Beathard traded six of his final seven first-round picks. Snyder, in charge of the 2000, 2002 and 2003 drafts, and Gibbs, who has ruled the front office the past three years, haven’t been as trade crazed. Still, their combined six drafts produced only 13 players, five of them starters, on the current roster.