- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 8, 2013


There’s much love among the Washington Redskins this spring. So much, in fact, that it spreads all the way to Dallas.

Winning has a way of proliferating good vibes. (As do ongoing positive results of a certain quarterback’s knee rehabilitation.) The Redskins finally are realizing that.

This is what owner Daniel Snyder had in mind when he hired general manager Bruce Allen and coach Mike Shanahan little more than three years ago. The process of building the franchise into a winner had to start with a culture change.

The wood was rotted. Also, there were termites behind it. The organization lacked skilled coaching in some areas and competent stewardship from the GM’s office. Player insubordination and dissent occasionally were toxic.

Culture change is difficult to quantify, but eventually it becomes evident in the standings. The Redskins‘ 10 wins last year and their first division championship in 13 seasons indicate the infestation is gone now and new boards are in place.

More proof exists, though; proof that’s as important as wins because it indicates sustainability. The scene Saturday night at Lucky Strike, a bowling alley adjacent to Verizon Center, depicted the core of the Redskins‘ turnaround.

Defensive end Stephen Bowen hosted a bowl-a-thon to benefit his foundation, Skyler’s Gift, which helps provide care for families that have endured the loss of premature infants. Bowen’s son, Skyler, died in 2011 after being born four months prematurely.

Dozens of Redskins were there. Snyder and Allen attended with their wives and some family members. And when Shanahan arrived a bit late because of the team’s rookie camp, he joined them. They all bowled on the same lane.

Shanahan finished one particular frame with more than a few pins standing. The coach smiled as he retreated and gave out high fives, including one to Allen’s wife, Kiersten. The group laughed and savored the fellowship.

Of course, the Redskins‘ turnaround is ongoing because of the talent they have assembled during the past three offseasons. No night of bowling trumps that. But the bowling alley scene shows what makes the process work over the long term.

Culture change is about people. So is assembling the roster. The two are so interconnected that an organization’s survival can depend on it.

Snyder, Allen and Shanahan share the same goals, and Shanahan, who has final say in roster decisions, has their respect. So when there was an opportunity to trade three first-round picks and a second rounder to acquire a franchise quarterback last year, they seized it. In contrast to the Vinny Cerrato-Jim Zorn era, there is working harmony in the offices at Redskins Park these days.

Consider that two-time Pro Bowl linebacker Brian Orakpo is the only player out of 83 on the roster playing on a contract signed with the Redskins before Shanahan and Allen were hired. They have hand-picked almost the entire team. As a result, there’s loyalty and respect in the locker room.

Restricted free agents Logan Paulsen, Darrel Young and Nick Sundberg in March re-signed long-term deals that could be worth less in the first year than the RFA tender each was otherwise due. They wanted to be part of what the Robert Griffin III-led Redskins are building.

The locker room also is full of good men. Take Bowen, for example. He signed with Washington in 2011 after playing his first five seasons for the Dallas Cowboys.

His impact on others is so great that Saturday night, five lanes from the Redskins‘ brain trust, Cowboys stars DeMarcus Ware and Miles Austin bowled and mingled with Redskins players.

“It’s such a great cause,” Allen said, laughing at the thought of what his late father George, the architect of the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry, might say about the event. “The Bowens are special people. Both organizations know it, as well as the rest of the league.”

Ware added: “To have an opportunity to have a teammate like Bowen, it’s really not even looked at as he plays for the Redskins or the Dallas Cowboys. It’s just a great opportunity to come here and help. He would do the same for me. It’s like a brotherhood.”

The Redskins are building something similar. As this regime enters its fourth season, the foundation already is strong. And, for a change, these builders have the tools to make it last.

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