The Redskins are now 2-5. This is not good. However it is important to remember how scary the situation looked just a few weeks ago. The Redskins are now consistently competitive.
I know it's the fourth year of the Shanahan regime, and it can be frustrating to be satisfied with "competitive" this far in. But of course they got to reset their clock after the franchise went all in on Griffin III. It's unfortunate that two full years were squandered as a result of the misguided attempt to build around Donovan McNabb, but that's also water under the bridge at this point. For all intents and purposes we are only in the second year of this program, and given that it's centerpiece is coming off of major knee surgery I can't be too disappointed in the progress to date.
I don't like continually being optimistic for next year any more than you do, but if you think of 2013 as year two in a rebuild there several reasons for optimism:
- Robert Griffin III is playing like a talented but inexperienced quarterback who missed out on one of his two offseasons. Many Redskins fans mistakenly got the impression that he was already a polished passer last year, despite the fact that he was helped enormously by a new offensive approach the defenses hadn't spent an offseason preparing for, remarkable running ability that fit into the structure of the offense (as opposed to wild scrambling about a la early Vick), and a fair amount of luck - he had lousy mechanics and made some poor decisions last year, but usually got away with them. I am eager to see how Griffin's game matures after a full offseason of work. Any disappointment with Griffin's current play should tell you how foolish it is to anoint one 22 year old a "savior."
- We already know the Redskins have a running game that can succeed, due to a combination of sound scheme and two young running backs can execute it. That means the passing game has some room to grow.
- The defense, while still probably the weakness of this team, more than held its own against possibly the best quarterback in the history of the game. Rookies like David Amerson and Bacarri Rambo gave every appearance that their poor early season performance was just rookie growing pains, and there is still talent to develop there.
- Between the first round picks given up to draft Griffin and the NFL's salary cap penalty for refusing to participate in brazenly illegal collusion, it is not surprising that this roster has holes. But largely due to an ability to find productive talent in the later rounds, the Redskins have managed to develop a more promising core than would be expected given the circumstances. Once access to first round talent and real salary cap room gives Mike Shanahan roster flexibility, I have no reason not to think a good team can be built around the quarterback.
Think about how our collective state of mind would be different if the Broncos had dominated in the first quarter rather than the fourth, and the Redskins staged a resurgence to turn it into a ball game. The Broncos are quite possibly the best team in the league this year. Good teams shouldn't be satisfied with moral victories. But rebuilding teams can find cause for encouragement in them.
A team in the second year of a rebuild, whose prodigal talent is slowly recovering from a devastating injury that robbed him of a key opportunity to develop his craft, with little roster flexibility, has shown itself capable of hanging with quality NFL teams despite some obvious and unsurprising weaknesses. Nothing that happened today, or at any point this year, has indicated that the Redskins are not headed in the right direction.