They Are Who We Thought They Were



By Daniel Gregory


In October of 2006, Dennis Green gave football fans one of the greatest post-game tirades a coach has ever delivered. Following a Monday Night Football game where his Arizona Cardinals squandered a 23-3 lead, Green unleashed a press conference that is not easily forgotten by anyone who has heard it (to be see here for anyone who hasn’t had the privilege).

While it is the raw emotion from the late, Coach Green that makes the press conference so iconic, the enduring quote from the presser remains: “They are who we thought they were.”

For my money, I cannot think of a better quote that embodies how Redskins fans should feel about their team’s front office, following the dismissal of Scot McCloughan.

My own, dear brother texted me telling me he wasn’t sure he could be a Redskin fan anymore following this recent PR and football operations disaster. To that I replied, why are you surprised?

I don’t think it was Shanahan’s idea to trade three, first-round draft picks and a second-round pick to draft Robert Griffin III. You know how I know that?  They drafted Kirk Cousins, the team’s current 2-time franchise tagged quarterback, with the next pick in the draft.  The Shanahan’s made RGIII work because they were saddled with him, not because they wanted him.

Maybe that’s an extreme situation though. Snyder only interjected when he saw the opportunity to draft a dynamic franchise quarterback, right?

Well, let’s think back to Shanahan’s first season. The team traded several picks for Donovan McNabb. While promoted to fans (my dad got a McNabb jersey for renewing his season tickets that year), the Shanahan administration was far-less enthused. In fact, Shanahan didn’t want to surrender the picks and, not too long after the Monday Night Massacre, McNabb was benched in favor of sexy Rex Grossman.

Yeah, all that happened but it’s completely surprising that “Scot McCloughan” lowballed Kirk Cousins, a Mike Shanahan guy, last year offering him only $16m a year when he set the franchise record for passing yards in a season (Oh by the way, Brock Osweiler made 18.4 M/year after only 8 mediocre starts).

That wasn’t the only time ownership and a coach had a disagreement over who should have control over personnel matters. The team fired Marty Schottenheimer after an 8-8 season in favor the old ball coach, Steve Spurrier.  Snyder cited “irreconcilable differences.”

Schottenheimer’s agent Tom Condon explained those differences, “It was a philosophical dispute over whether Marty should continue with the final say over all personnel matters as well as coaching,” he said. “As they [the Redskins] went through the year, they decided it was a job that should be done by more than one person. He’s certainly disappointed. There was never any dispute over his coaching ability. . . . We felt like things were going in the right direction, and we felt like he made a positive contribution.”

They are who we thought they were.

But is that the worst part? No it is not. To most people, the worst part is the way McCloughan has been cast as a degenerate alcoholic by the team.  It began with Chris Cooley aggressively-speculating on his radio show (on a station owned by Snyder, no less).

Many surmised that McCloughan’s muzzling at the Senior Bowl, plus the team’s refusal to refute Cooley’s statements, could be a strategy to make McCloughan resign. When it became apparent he wouldn’t, the team deferred to more sinister efforts.

Regardless of how bad the circumstances with McCloughan and his drinking were, the Redskin’s front office handled this about as terribly as possible.  But, again, are you really surprised?

Don’t forget the shaming of Jim Zorn. The Redskins stripped Zorn of his play calling duties in an effort to make him quit, in an effort to forgo paying the remaining $6 million on his contract (he seriously considered it if you listen to his teammate and hall-of-famer Steve Largent).

They are who we thought they were.

Coming of the first consecutive winning seasons under Snyder’s ownership, (it’s still fluky considering it’s 8-7-1), this upheaval is hard to swallow as a Redskins fan. The team seems to be moving in the right direction! That is what makes this harder to swallow.

But, remember when Brad Johnson won the division in 1999 and was a field goal away from the conference championship? He threw for 4,000 yds that year. The next year the Redskins wanted Jeff George instead. Brad Johnson and the Buccaneers went on to win a Super Bowl under Jay Gruden’s older brother, John.

They are who we thought they were.

The last month for the Washington front office could be politely referred to as a chaotic. If you want to be a bit more poetic (and accurate), you could refer to the situation as a dumpster fire.  To many, the events have signaled something is rotten in Ashburn Va.  But, if you’ve been following the team long enough, the last four weeks should come as no surprise.

This tragedy is 18 years in the making.




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