On the day that the Redskins announced that Mike Shanahan would be fired as the team’s head coach, Bruce Allen also announced that he would take over control in the personnel department.
“We are going to redefine some of the characteristics that we’re looking for in players,” Allen said at the time.
This week at the NFL Combine, Allen was asked just what he meant by that. Part of it, he said, was that there were going to be some scheme changes that will ask different things out of some players. But the bottom line of what he was talking about was more about what a player has above the shoulders.
“What I was saying was we are going to find mentally tough players,” said Allen. “We want to find people who love playing the game of football.”
By saying that the Redskins are looking for mentally tough players strongly implies that Allen believes that the team has too many players who are mentally soft. That issue could manifest itself in a few different ways.
One of them is special teams. Virtually every player who puts on a uniform is capable of covering kicks and blocking on returns. What separates the ones who can’t—and many on the 2013 Redskins couldn’t—from those who can is often what’s inside the player’s helmet.
Another is the ability to hold on to a lead. In the past two years alone, the Redskins have lost 12 second-half leads. They did manage to recover to win a few of those games but perhaps a mentally tougher team can maintain those leads.
The mental toughening of the Redskins probably can’t take place over the course of on offseason but it will be interesting to see who Allen ends up taking and how they stack up in that important but hard to define category.