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Need to Know: Why have the Redskins not been to the Super Bowl in 24 years?

Need to Know: Why have the Redskins not been to the Super Bowl in 24 years?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, February 7, 17 days before the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.

Why have the Redskins not been to the Super Bowl in 24 years?

The numbers are stark. In a league that is supposed to be defined by parity, the Redskins have gone 24 years without a Super Bowl appearance. There are 16 teams in the NFC and the Redskins have been unable to break through.

The situation been worse than that, actually. The Redskins are not only unable to get to the big game, they are unable even to get to the doorstep. They are one of two NFC teams who have not played for the conference championship since the 1991 season. The other one, perhaps coincidentally and perhaps not, is the team they played in the 1991 NFC title game, the Lions.

The era of unrestricted free agency and the salary cap came about in 1993, a change that was supposed to level the playing field and give every team a chance at ultimate success. But the Redskins have been unable to take advantage.

Or, perhaps the better way to put it is that they have taken advantage of unrestricted free agency too much. Stop me if you’re heard this before, but they have been too reliant on free agency to build year in and year out rather than placing an emphasis on the draft.

A myth that many fans buy in to is that the organization suddenly became infatuated with free agency when Dan Snyder bought the team in 1999. Not true—it’s part of the team’s DNA, its culture. Some pre-Snyder free agent pickups during the 1990’s included defensive tackles Dana Stubblefield and Dan “Big Daddy” Wilkinson. The latter actually was acquired in a trade, which was the worst of both worlds. They gave Wilkinson a big contract and gave up their first- and third-round picks in the 1998 draft.

But the Redskins were buying free agents before 1993. CB Pat Fischer, DT Dave Butz, and LB Wilbur Marshall were all signed after their contracts expired with their old teams. The rules at the time required draft pick compensation for such signings. John Riggins was signed in 1976 when a one-year window allowed for unrestricted free agency to take place. A “gentlemen’s agreement” was in place that discouraged signing free agents (it would be called “collusion” today). But George Allen was having no part of that and signed several players, including Riggins.

Butz, Marshall, and Riggins all helped the Redskins win Super Bowls and without a salary cap their salaries didn’t matter all that much. That changed in 1993. The way to go became to use draft picks to build your team with relatively cheap labor and then give the big money to your homegrown talent. An occasional free agent pickup to bolster a weak spot is fine but acquiring veteran plays is a method that needs to be a supplement to the draft, not the other way around.

Free agency became a cycle in Washington. When there was a hole in the lineup it was plugged with a free agent. If a player was drafted at that position he didn’t get an opportunity to develop. So when the original free agent got too old or too expensive there wasn’t a player ready to take his place. Snyder got out the checkbook and another free agent signed on the line.

Scot McCloughan knows the right way to do things. He had a hand in building the Brett Favre teams that went to the Super Bowl twice in the late 1990’s, the 49ers that went there in 2012, and all three of the Seahawks Super Bowl teams, including the one that is played in the last two Super Bowls prior to this one.

McCloughan started to point things in the right direction in his first year on the job. But one season does not make a culture changeCan the new GM change the Redskins’ culture and get a franchise that keeps on trying to build a team using methods that worked for a couple of decades a long time ago but don’t any more to start doing it the right way? That is his biggest challenge.

Timeline

—The Redskins last played a game 28 days ago. It will be about 217 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 17; NFL free agency starts 31; 2016 NFL draft 81

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Redskins' Jay Gruden is looking for Kirk Cousins to become a coach on the field this year

Redskins' Jay Gruden is looking for Kirk Cousins to become a coach on the field this year

Gruden is looking for Cousins to become a Redskins coach on the field

While it’s still possible for the Redskins to trade quarterback Kirk Cousins, team president Bruce Allen has said that no talks have taken place and coach Jay Gruden is looking forward to having Cousins at the helm for the third straight year.

“He’s getting ready, he’s excited about the season, been in contact about what he wants to work on,” said Gruden on Tuesday at the NFL meetings in Phoenix. “We’ve addressed that so when OTAs hit we can hit hard. It’s great to have a guy who’s been in the system for two years now can just jump right in to hard core situational work, just really fine tune the other things like cadence, just the little things you want to fine tune without starting from scratch. He can be a big part in the teaching process also with the young players.”

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Actually, Cousins has been “in the system” for all three years that Gruden has been the head coach in Washington. He started five game in 2014 before turnover problems sent him to the bench. The following seasons Gruden named Cousins the starter at the end of August and he has played every meaningful snap since then.

Cousins has played well, passing for over 9,000 yards and leading the team to its first back-to-back winning seasons since 1997-1997. Gruden will be looking for more out of his quarterback, who will be making $24 million this year if he plays on the franchise tag.

“In a perfect world, you want your quarterback to be an extension of the coaching staff,” said Gruden. “I think that’s why you look at the great quarterbacks, Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, they’re extensions of the coaching staff. The coach doesn’t have to go out and tell everybody what to do all the time. Sometimes the quarterback can just go right out and whisper it to them. It helps that we’re saying the same thing and speaking the same language and that takes time.

“It’s not perfect yet but being in the third year of the system I think he’ll be a lot more comfortable in that role. I hope he does because we can’t see everything out there on the field all the time and it’s good to have the corrections come within the team and not just from the coaches all the time.”

MORE REDSKINS: Doctson's short tweet delivers good news for Redskins

Although Cousins’ future with the team is very uncertain—even if he is around this year there is a good chance he will be able to leave as a free agent in 2018—the quarterback and Gruden will do the only thing that they can do. The will get ready for the coming season and let the chips fall where they may after that.

Gruden pointed out that Cousins is not the only player on the roster with just one year left on his deal. Indeed, WR Terrelle Pryor, OT Morgan Moses, CB Bashaud Breeland, and C Spencer Long are all set to be free agents a year from now.

“We’re going to have a number of guys on one-year contracts and I fully anticipate them coming in and working their tails off and being prepared and doing everything they can to win a championship,” said Gruden. That’s what it’s all about. And at the end of the year we’ll come back to the negotiating table to try to get something done. But ideally, you’d like to have everybody under long-term contracts and that’s obviously not possible.”

Gruden confirmed that Cousins was in Tampa yesterday along with some of his receivers including Pryor, Josh Doctson and Jamison Crowder getting in some work with Gruden’s brother Jon. It looks like it will be business as usual unless and until something happens change things.

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.

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Need to Know: Redskins' rule change rejected but others will make game safer, move faster

Need to Know: Redskins' rule change rejected but others will make game safer, move faster

Here is what you need to know on this Wednesday, March 29, 29 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 19
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 44
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 56
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 108
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 156

Rule changes with commentary

—Prohibits the “leaper” block attempt on field goal and extra point plays.

Tandler: While it’s a fun play when it’s executed properly I can see the player safety angle of it. I’m not sure why teams didn’t just run some placement kicks with delayed snaps to get a free five yards because once a player has committed to the leap he can’t stop.

—Makes permanent the rule that disqualifies a player who is penalized twice in one game for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. 

Tandler: One of the few times that this came into play was in Week 3 when Giants center Weston Richburg got the boot for multiple penalties against the Redskins. I suppose most Redskins fans will be fine with it until a Washington player gets kicked out of a key game. Last year the rule was experimental and this makes it permanent

—Changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line for one year only. 

Tandler: I think this is kind of a dumb rule but it's designed to reduce kickoff returns and they did go down from 1,138 in 2015 to 1,012 last season. That’s an 11 percent drop and they want to give the experimental rule another year to see if that was just a statistical anomaly. It should be noted here that the Redskins’ proposal to place a kickoff that goes through the uprights at the 20-yard line did muster 11 votes but that’s far short of the 24 needed to pass it. The No Fun League indeed.

—Gives a receiver running a pass route defenseless player protection. Makes crackback blocks prohibited by a backfield player who is in motion, even if he is not more than two yards outside the tackle when the ball is snapped. 

Tandler: These are two different rules but I’m combining them into once comment—good for player safety, not sure why it took them so long to pass these rules.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

—Replaces the sideline replay monitor with a hand-held device and authorizes designated members of the Officiating department to make the final decision on replay reviews. 

Tandler: This is good for so many reasons. We should get better, more consistent decisions (although there’s no guarantee that my evergreen “Siri, what is a catch” tweet will be retired permanently). And the time that replay uses up should be greatly reduced.

—Makes it Unsportsmanlike Conduct to commit multiple fouls during the same down designed to manipulate the game clock. 

Tandler: This keeps teams from grabbing multiple receivers to prevent a Hail Mary attempt at the end of half or a game and prevents them from holding multiple players on a punt attempt to run out the clock at the end of a game. It’s a loophole that was closed, forcing a team to play defense or execute a punt instead of committing intentional penalties. The key is that the clock is reset to where it was when the ball was snapped.

—Makes actions to conserve time illegal after the two-minute warning of either half.

Tandler: This just takes the penalties that result in 10-second runoffs in the last minute of a half, mostly false starts when the clock is running, and makes them illegal any time after the two-minute warning.

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.

Tandler on Twitter

Responding to a tweet saying that the rule to put replay in the hands of official at the NFL offices:

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