One thing this brief Redskins season has proven is that if you don’t finish drives with touchdowns, if you don’t stop the other team when it matters most–on 3rd down–you belong in the very bottom of the NFL. No matter how much greatness there may be lurking beneath the surface, and no matter how much potential a team may have, if you don’t bring it on the field with complete focus and abandon, other more hungry men will beat you.
I would never shift the blame for a lack of onfield execution away from players and coaches to the owner. That’s a cop out. But, the owner creates a culture. And when you have an owner with a habit of overcompensating guys, does that not fuel the lack of hunger? Doesn’t it produce a mentality among the players inside and outside the team that this is where you come to cash in, to retire, to maximize one’s earning potential as a professional.
It’s hard to fault that kind of thinking if you are Albert Haynesworth, Deangelo Hall, Deon Sanders, and the rest of the guys who have cashed in here.
The best teams in the league–Steelers, Colts, Patriots, Giants, Eagles–are the teams that have a culture of hunger, focus, execution, and putting lesser teams away.
That said, I think these Redskins are the eye of the tiger away from being a very good football team, capable of beating any other team. Without having that edge, they are capable of losing to any other team.
The direction of this team’s culture, perhaps for the duration of the Snyder era, will be determined in the coming weeks. I believe Joe Gibbs and the nucleus of this team have set up something that can achieve greatness. I still believe that. And I do think Zorn could get this team over the hump. But there must be a culture here that accepts nothing less than all-out grit and determination to win. Not to be famous. Not to make money. Not to be loved by the fans.
The ironic thing, as the first Gibbs era has shown us, that if you have that killer instinct, these other things follow. Even teams with only above average overall talent can win it all. Again. And again.
I am eager to see how this group responds. I am not ready to throw in the towel and downgrade my prediction that they make the playoffs and win some games in the playoffs. 11-5 may be tough, but until they are X-6, there is still hope.
But, if they don’t respond and get the killer instinct, the eye of the tiger, and bring it to every single thing they do, this season is going to be even more painful than it is today.