When Bruce Allen stepped behind the microphone Monday afternoon at Redskins Park, the franchise the newly empowered general manager described and the one that actually exists couldn’t have been more different.
Amid the petty theatrics and windy statements that followed Mike Shanahan’s ouster came the opportunity for wholesale change to the woebegone Redskins.
Instead, they continued the short-sighted thinking that has transformed the franchise into a national punchline.
Come on down, Bruce Allen.
“The power will be with me,” he said.
Don’t look for a front-office overhaul here. Without a touch of irony, Allen insisted structural changes aren’t needed. In fact, the man now holding the final say over personnel decisions doesn’t believe anything is inherently wrong in an organization that has recorded double-digit losses in seven of the last 11 seasons.
Listen to Allen’s slick words and you’d think this season’s 3-13 disaster was an isolated occurrence, an unpleasant anomaly for an otherwise model franchise.
“I think coming into this environment, knowing that there is a nucleus,” he said, “I think it will be a very attractive position to coaches.”
And don’t forget: “The attractiveness of coming to one of the flagship franchises in the NFL is exciting to coaches.”
Really? Such is the delusion that thrives at 21300 Redskins Park Drive. The statements would induce belly laughs after the organization-wide histrionics of the last four months if they weren’t uttered with such seriousness.
They’ve had two winning seasons in the last eight years, haven’t made back-to-back playoff appearances since 1991-92 and lost the final eight games of this season for the team’s longest such streak since 1960. In the perpetually confused world of the Redskins under owner Dan Snyder, such impotence equates to “attractive” and “exciting.”
Through the double-talk and issue-skirting in Allen’s meandering press conference, he offered a simple equation.
Subtract Shanahan … and onward to prosperity.
Results can’t get much worse than this season, but credulity is strained to believe exiling Shanahan, even after four largely ineffective seasons, is the magic elixir for problems that existed long before $35 million lured the coach to Washington. That’s the easy way out, of course, to point the finger at one man and cling to the fantasy that the team can subtract its way to success.
Such a sustained run of failure would lead to top-to-bottom change in even the most unwilling organizations. But Redskins Park isn’t exactly known as a bastion of forward-thinking. So, seven of Shanahan’s assistants, including Jim Haslett, coordinator of a defense with a startling inability to tackle, remain employed. And Allen, described by Snyder as the “personification of an NFL winner” upon his hiring as general manager in 2009, assumes more responsibility.
This is the sort of organizational inertia that keeps teams like the Redskins on the treadmill to irrelevance. They expend effort and blustery words and resources, but never go anywhere. They pass off recycling executives like Allen as legitimate solutions. They may change a few faces, but the flawed process remains the same. So do the results. Somehow this predictable formula surprises them.
The Redskins could’ve brought in a team president and hired an up-and-coming executive with a strong personnel background from one of the league’s model organizations as general manager. They actually exist, those fresh voices, fresh ideas, fresh perspectives from teams less invested in off-field soap operas than, you know, winning.
Instead, you get statements like this:
“No, we’re going to keep everybody in their role,” Allen said, “and we’re going to make sure they can focus on their job that they have to do.”
There’s the bold change offered by the Redskins.
Allen is known for handling the business side of football and navigating the salary cap, not as a personnel man. Yet he will have the final say on personnel decisions that was once wielded by Shanahan. Even accounting for the ex-coach’s dominant role in the front-office hierarchy, Allen held the general manager’s title during the 40-loss tenure. If he didn’t bear some level of responsibility for the mess on and off the field, then what, exactly, occupied his time?
When the Buccaneers fired Allen in 2008, he left behind a reputation for ineffective drafts and a signing a string of free-agent busts. The moves weren’t all bad, to be sure, but the track record wasn’t one of an executive who will stock the Redskins’ roster with talent by any means necessary.
The half-measures speak to an organization drowning in self-importance that believes things really aren’t that bad.
The Redskins couldn’t even fire their head coach — one thing they have enough experience to do efficiently — without inviting national mockery for the ham-handed manner in which it was handled.
Their answer? Allen, empty talk and emptier promises. Nothing that amounts to organization-wide change.
That’s why the team will repeat the same tired dance three or four years from now, shooing media away as another freshly fired head coach speeds out of Redskins Park.
That’s not crazy. That’s just the Redskins.