Much was made of the Washington Redskins 6-3 start to the 2018 season. Perhaps too much.
We know all the cliche sayings. Winning is the only thing that matters. Wins are wins, no matter how they’re attained. But in the modern NFL, some ways of winning are more sustainable, and more reliable. The Redskins did not cater to the most efficient strategy amidst their misleading winning streak.
While the Redskins were, on paper, in the playoff race until the final week of the regular season, they weren’t a true playoff team for most of the season. Even when Alex Smith was healthy, in fact, they were an average team. Football Outsiders ranked the Redskins at No. 29 in the league in DVOA at the end of the year, behind playoff exclusions such as the Bills, Lions, Jets, Buccaneers, Bengals, and Jaguars.
Couple the advanced metrics with the watered-down ones (the Redskins’ only offensive strength was the running game, and even that wasn’t very efficient, and the defense leveled out at league average to end the year), and this team by no means had the makings of a playoff contender. Teams with no offense can only even win a postseason game if they have a dominant defense. The Redskins did not, although they advertised their unit as such at times.
And therein lies the problem. The Redskins are not ready to win. Between front office miscues, uninspiring coaching, and lack of player cohesiveness across the roster, from both a contract and personnel standpoint, the Redskins are not close to being a perennial winner
Yet, for all these flaws, the Redskins still meet Bruce Allen’s definition of “close.” They were 6-3 at one point. They were just two games out of the playoff race. They were close. They’ve always been close.
And yet, they still haven’t gotten there.
Win against a playoff team? Bueller? Bueller?
Bruce Allen needs to look past his immediate desire to attain results and re-evaluate the quality of Washington’s success in 2018. Because, in actuality, the Redskins may have never been more than an average team with luck on their side. Who did they beat? Arizona, who has the No. 1 pick. Green Bay, Carolina, Tampa Bay, New York, and Jacksonville, all of whom missed the playoffs. Their only win against a playoff team was at home against Dallas, who hadn’t yet traded for their playoff catalyst, Amari Cooper. And they survived at the whim of a missed field goal.
When the Redskins did play against playoff teams? This team was outmatched time and time again. They were beat by at least a touchdown twice against the Eagles. They were dominated by the Colts in Week 2, when the Colts were far from their peak. The Saints embarrassed them on Monday Night Football, just as the Falcons did weeks later on a Sunday.
The injuries did hurt down the stretch, but even when the offense was healthy, they did not have the luster of a playoff unit. Perhaps Alex Smith could have hit his stride with more time. Perhaps if Brandon Scherff had stayed healthy, they could have maintained some efficiency.
If “if’s” and “but’s” were candy and nuts…
But, playing the what-if game is dangerous when discussing the future of a franchise. Ask yourself: Did the Redskins ever look like a team that could compete with the Saints, Rams, Chiefs, or Patriots? What stood out more? Their occasional bright moments, or their all-too-familiar blunders? I think we all know the answer.
The Redskins need to be aggressive and come up with a plan to rebuild the foundation of the franchise. They need to start getting rid of bad contracts and aging players, as the thinly-opened playoff window has long passed. The front office needs to start stocking up on draft picks and start anew, while they still have a semblance of a young core to glean value from. They need to tear the walls down, and reset.
But to do all that, they must re-evaluate the quality of their success in 2018. Because victory is a volatile, deceiving thing.