Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan made a lot of good decisions last season and he made a few that weren’t so good. Some of those not-so-good decisions contributed to a situation in which a player basically received a $31 million gift from the team. While I think if handled differently, those millions might have ended up as the intended paycheck for services rendered, it was the coach’s first year here. Also, he had nothing to do with bringing the player under discussion to Washington. I shall refrain from criticizing the man.
After watching the way Shanahan handled this 2011 NFL Draft, I am even less inclined to judge.
The Redskins’ coach did just about what I expected him to do, both in terms of maneuvering trades to get more picks and in the positions he drafted.
By trading back with several teams throughout the event, Shanahan was able to double the amount of players drafted from the original allotment and so add some much-needed depth to the team. When it was all said and done, Shanahan had made deals with six different teams and Washington ended up with the most draft picks it has had since 1985. Well done.
This team must get better on defense to compete (they plummeted to a ranking of 31st last season). Shanahan addressed that need and others. He focused on both sides of the ball by drafting six defensive players (two backs, four linemen), three wide receivers (one of which is also a return specialist), two running backs, and an offensive lineman.
I give Shanahan & Co. a high passing grade for the event. One of the things I noticed was the emphasis on character drafted into his locker room. Many of the draftees’ scouting reports list intangibles like “hard working” and “team leader.”
Ryan Kerrigan (DE/OLB, Purdue), the Redskins’ first round draft pick, has strengths of “Team leader” and “Intelligent with solid work ethic” listed on WalterFootball.com. Even better is, “Person of high character. Outstanding work ethic on and off the field. Named 2010 team captain. Received team’s Pit Bull Award (exemplified and sustained tenacity and intense play) during 2009 spring practices. Named team’s MVP in 2009. Three-time Academic All Big Ten” on another website.
This youngster sounds like someone Joe Gibbs would love.
The great thing is that this type of narrative is typical for several of the rookies. For instance, there is:
Jarvis Jenkins, DL, Clemson (Round 2, 41st overall) – “Good motor… Disciplined,” “Team captain. Improving as a leader and is learning to trust his coaching more as he matures.”
Leonard Hankerson, WR, Miami (Round 3, 79th overall) – “Good character” and “Tough kid with good intangibles,” “Great work ethic. Will pay the price. Matured during career at Miami. One of the most improved players on the team in 2009…” “…continues to improve in 2010 due to hard work.”
Roy Helu, RB, Nebraska (Round 4, 105th overall) – “High character, respected by teammates,” “Has taken the leadership reigns offensively this past off-season. Hard worker both on and off the field. Active in community service.”
DeJon Gomes, DB, Nebraska (Round 5, 146th overall) – “Active in the community and charity work,” ”Accountable and well-respected by teammates and coaches. A film rat and puts in the necessary time to be successful.”
Evan Royster, RB, Penn State (Round 6, 177th overall) – “…not the type that is boisterous or a ‘chest beater’ preferring to let his performance on the field speak volumes for his… ability,” “…tireless work ethic,” “…quiet warrior,” “Few young players carry themselves off the field like he does, making family and staff proud to be part of his life on the football field and away from the game.”
Maurice Hurt, OL, Florida (Round 7, 217th overall) –“Respectful to teammates and coaches. Self-motivated and will work to improve as a football player. Passionate about football.”
Markus White, DE, Florida State (Round 7, 224th overall) – “Earned captain honors for seven games in 2010 and was voted a permanent team captain after the season. Has worked hard to improve as a football player since arriving to the program in 2008. Has very good football character.”
Chris Neild, NT, West Virginia (Round 7, 253rd overall) – “Developed into the leader and pace setter along the defensive line. Selected as a team captain during senior campaign. Awarded the John Russell award by the coaches during his junior season (2009) for his leadership skills.”
Considering the problem that Shanahan had last season with the afore-referenced defensive lineman, it’s no surprise that he would go out of his way to draft high character guys into his locker room.
The team basically gave a LOT of money to a player that made the most minimal of contributions to the team possible while still getting the check. Perhaps, with the character that these new rookies possess, they will make up for some of the missing effort from last year. Could youth combined with character be that “thing” that could have gotten ten more yards or possibly three more points last season? Could that have been the difference between winning and losing a few of those close games?
There are a lot of great guys wearing the burgundy and gold right now and I am not insinuating that any of them (save one) gave less than all they had last season. But there were off-the-field distractions that could subconsciously affect the hardest of workers. There was the issue of the wear and tear over the years on our guys that must be factored into the equation of wins vs. losses.
I will not predict any sort of record for the coming season at this point and obviously, we don’t know how many of the rookies will make the team. I will say, however that the intangibles, youth and talent that some of these young recruits bring to the table, added to the character already in the locker room, could mean that the 2011 Washington Redskins just might end up over .500. This, my fellow fans, constitutes a winning season.