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Need to Know: Redskins culture change will take time

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Need to Know: Redskins culture change will take time

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, June 12, 4 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.

Question of the day

A few days a week I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

I’ll also take your Need to Know questions via email. Hit me up rich.tandler+csn@gmail.com with “NTK” in the subject line. Just keep them relatively brief, please. 

Today's question is from Twitter:

There has been plenty of talk about a culture change around Redskins Park. That’s not uncommon for a team that has finished in last place six of the last seven years.

We’ve heard talk of culture change and similar concepts before at Redskins Park but by December that has all gone the way of the more aggressive “unleashed” defenses we have been promised over the years. Sweet sounding talk in the spring and summer tends to become vaporware when the games start counting.

The Redskins may or may not develop a winning culture. But if they don’t it won’t be because Chris “Swaggy” Baker would get a kick out of a moment on HBO’s Hard Knocks. A winning culture can incorporate characters. The Patriots can win despite Gronk’s self-promotion and other antics. In Joe Gibbs’ first era they had John Riggins and the Hogs not quite fitting the standard mold. Gibbs II made the playoffs twice and had characters like Fred Smoot and Clinton Portis.

The Redskins won’t win or lose because Baker hopes that the HBO cameras capture his dance. But they will win or lose based on whether or not Baker does things like this again:

https://twitter.com/dcsportsbog/status/541669206560100353/photo/1

This picture is from the second quarter of the Redskins’ game against the Rams last December. Ryan Kerrigan sacked quarterback Shaun Hill, forcing a fumble. Baker celebrated the sack while paying no attention to the ball that had squirted past him and was loose on the ground behind him (the ball is just to the left of the goal post on the edge of the hash mark).

While concentration during preparation is important, finishing plays is vital. Baker can have all of the dance-offs he wants to during the week as long as he plays through the whistle and doesn’t celebrate prematurely and fail to make an important play.

The question that Jay Gruden and Scot McCloughan have to ponder is whether or not a player like Baker, who likes to have fun, can be the kind of player who has laser focus on game days. Not every fun-loving player can take things seriously enough on the field. I have heard some veteran players wonder out loud of Baker goofs off too much. Players like Riggins and Gronk are few and far between.

A winning culture is not built overnight. It isn’t built during one set of OTA’s or one training camp. It takes some time. If Baker (or any of a number of other players who committed bonehead sins of commission and omission last year) gets through 2015 without prematurely celebrating a play then that’s fine. The test will be when a player does show a lack of focus or a lack of preparation. Are there consequences? Is the player back in 2016?

So, let’s check back in a year or so on this. If we get through 12 months and the Redskins have players who can have fun off the field while being deadly serious between the white lines on Sundays we might have a culture change starting to brew. If we see a lack of focus on the field tolerated or even rewarded with increased playing time or a new contract, things are back to square one.

Timeline

—It’s been 166 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 93 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.

Days until: Redskins minicamp starts 4; Redskins training camp starts 48; Preseason opener @ Browns 62

If you have any questions about what's going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I'm always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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In case you missed it

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Jay Gruden wants DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon back, but 'won't blink' if they're gone

Jay Gruden wants DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garçon back, but 'won't blink' if they're gone

The Redskins face the very real prospect of losing receivers DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon via free agency. Head coach Jay Gruden wants both players back, but is prepared to roll with the guys on the team if Jackson and Garçon depart. 

"Obviously DeSean and Pierre had great years. 1,000 yards each. Those are going to be hard to replace," Gruden said to reporters in Indianapolis. 

It's still possible the Redskins keep both Jackson and Garçon, or keep one of the two, just as both players could leave the organization. In his comments, it seemed like Gruden does not expect one or both guys to be back, and that the team will move on without them. That could mean losing Jackson's 1,005 receiving yards or Garçon's 1,041. 

"Coach the guys that we have. Free agency you’re never going to be able to sign everybody you want as a coach," he said. "I’d like to have Alshon Jeffery, Pierre and DeSean. Heck, give them all to me. I know that's not going to happen."

Gruden tends to joke often speaking with the media, and clearly the prospect of signing Jeffery, a star wideout for the Bears that will hit free agency next week, along with Jackson and Garçon isn't going to happen. The receiver market in free agency will be interesting to watch, as a number of top options will be available. Jeffery, Jackson, Garçon along with Cleveland's Terrelle Pryor and younger prospects like Kenny Stills and Kenny Britt. 

Asked if it was "necessary" to bring at least one of Garçon or Jackson back, Gruden bristled. 

"Would never say necessary. I’d love to have them both back, I'd love to have one back. If we are unfortunate enough to lose them both, I'm not gonna blink."

The coach explained the team has a good crop of young pass catchers already on the roster. 

"I do feel very good about Jamison Crowder, Ryan Grant, Josh Doctson. I love the fact that Mo Harris got a lot of work in, he’s gonna develop."

The coach should feel good about the young receivers, their development is part of his job. Crowder looks like a future star in the slot. Still, Jackson and Garçon accounted for more than 40 percent of Kirk Cousins' passing yards in 2016. That's a lot of yardage to lose. 

Of course, Doctson's development will be a major theme this offseason. A first-round pick in 2016, the Redskins got next to nothing from him as a rookie as he dealt with an Achilles injury. A healthy 6-foot-2 Doctson could offset some of the lost productivity that would come with the departure of Jackson or Garçon.

And then there is always free agency. It's entirely possible Washington could sign another, perhaps cheaper, wideout on the marketplace should they lose two the same way. Gruden said the team has 'other free agents' the team could pursue.

"We have Plan B's and Plan C's ready to go," Gruden said. 

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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The Redskins aren't willing to trade Kirk Cousins unless they are

The Redskins aren't willing to trade Kirk Cousins unless they are

Shortly after Kirk Cousins got the exclusive franchise tag from the Redskins on Saturday, two sort of conflicting reports. One, from Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, was that Cousins “is not going anywhere” and a trade is essentially off the table. Mike Florio of Pro Football talk, quoting “a source familiar with the dynamics of the situation” reported that the Redskins would have to be “blown away” by a trade offer in order to pull the trigger on a deal.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 4.0

On the face of it, the reports conflict. One says that Cousins is available, the other says that he isn’t. But that valuation of them assumes the sources for these reports were intent on putting out the truth. The fact is that Cousins is very much available for the right offer.

A conversation along the lines of this one could well take place in Indianapolis this week:

“How much do you want for your house?”

“It’s not for sale.”

“No, really, how much do you want.”

“Really, it’s not for sale.”

“I’ll give you $50,000 over whatever it gets appraised for.”

“Sold!”

In short, you don’t need to have a “for sale” sign up in front of something to sell it. In fact, sometimes it’s better to act as though you have no intention of selling whatever it is. That can intrigue potential buyers even more.

The analogy falters a bit as it seems that the Redskins are unlikely to get a premium over whatever Cousins’ valuation on the open market might be. The receiving team will have to give the QB a massive contract. In addition, a team that wants Cousins is likely to be able to get him with no compensation in a year, when Cousins is likely to be an unfettered free agent. But you get the idea.

More Redskins: What happens next with Cousins?

The message from the Redskins is, don’t come at us with a couple of mid rounders. There is some point where the compensation for giving up Cousins a year earlier than they might have to isn’t enough. It literally would be better to rent Cousins for one more season than get, say, a third-round pick with a 2018 fifth thrown in.

That being said, they are not going to get the RG3 type haul—three firsts and a second—in exchange for Cousins. The likely would accept something south of that in exchange for Cousins’ rights.

So, he’s not available at any price—unless the price is right.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.