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Redskins are Close, but so Far Away!

February 6, 2018
As the Philadelphia Eagles won Super Bowl LII on Sunday night in Minneapolis, those of us that are not driven by a silly hatred of a team that did many things the right way, felt good for their accomplishment.

They did it with class and purpose. They did it through the draft and free agency. They did it with crippling injuries at many key positions. They did it with bold moves and decisions that almost always seemingly paid off.

If you have any ability to see beyond your venom, you should tip your cap and salute how the Eagles took care of business, not only on Sunday night but over the last two years.

You should also be able to see two things. How close the Redskins are and how far away the Redskins are – from pulling off what the Eagles did.

How could that be? Could they really be both? Perhaps in my somewhat sadistic mind they are and could be.

Here’s why the Redskins are close:

1 – The Eagles were (7-9) in 2016, losing to the Redskins twice, in Doug Pederson and Carson Wentz’s first season. In 2017, the Eagles cranked it up to (13-3) and won the top seed and obviously all three of their playoff games. The Redskins, of course, finished at (7-9) this past year after (9-7) and (8-7-1) the previous two seasons.

2 – Philadelphia was able to overcome all odds and injuries. Carson Wentz, Jason Peters, Darren Sproles, Caleb Sturgis, Jordan Hicks and Chris Maragos were all on I-R for parts of the regular season and the postseason run. Some huge names and yet the Eagles persevered.

They didn’t have as many season-ending injuries as the Redskins had and Washington is wearing out that tune this off-season. Bruce Allen said recently on SIRIUSXM that they are basically getting 23 new additions to their roster in 2018. While that is complete nonsense, a seven-win Redskins team should get their starting left tackle, tight end, running back (s), defensive end, inside linebacker and starting safety back to start training camp or right around that time.

One could make a solid argument that if the Redskins had a few of those players available for longer than they did, they could have won eight or nine games. I think that’s fair. What isn’t fair is the notion that the Redskins were a great team outside of injuries. They were very flawed and exposed badly due to injury. However, if they get some/all of these players back – they easily could be in playoff contention.

3 – The Redskins will play an easier schedule in 2018 than in 2017, much like the Eagles did in their run to a championship so that should help. As of early December, the Redskins had played against the toughest schedule in the NFL.

4 – The Redskins have better linebackers than the Eagles have. Ryan Kerrigan, Mason Foster and well….the rest of the impact players at the position are an unknown at this point.

5 – The Redskins have a more experienced head coach and new quarterback than the Eagles do.

Here’s why the Redskins are NOT close:

1 – Yes, the Eagles went from (7-9) to a Super Bowl champion in one season, but unlike the Redskins, they got their trade up to # 2 overall for a quarterback very right. As long as Carson Wentz can bounce back from a torn ACL (sound familiar) with no problems, the Eagles should be able to keep soaring.

2 – The Eagles invested in their running back position with a cheap veteran deal for LeGarrette Blount and then doubling down with the addition of Jay Ajayi, in a trade with the Dolphins. Both played a significant role in the Philly run to the playoffs and beyond. Blount averaged 4.4 per attempt on 173 carries plus 29 attempts for 130 yards and three touchdowns in the playoffs. Ajayi obviously didn’t play the full season with Philadelphia but averaged 5.8 per attempt in the regular year and 4.4 on 42 attempts in three postseason games.

The Redskins could have signed or traded for either and did absolutely nothing. Instead, for a second consecutive offseason, they felt secure at a critical position with an undrafted second-year player who was hobbled and unproductive at the end of his rookie season and Samaje Perine, a fourth-round rookie.

In theory, the plan could have worked and at times, did work. The problem is two-fold. Consistency is a major issue. Health is another issue. The Redskins are not consistent enough at running the football, because their offensive line is not as good as many think it is AND because their running backs are not as good as they think they are. Especially in short yardage situations.

3 – The Redskins made excuse after excuse (many were/are more than legitimate) about the injuries they suffered. Did you ever hear the Eagles cry once or not look forward full-speed ahead?

It’s a mindset and a philosophy. Yes, the Redskins had more to deal with in terms of quantity but their former starting quarterback (Kirk Cousins) was a rock of stability.

4 – The overall depth of the Eagles roster is incredible. With mostly smart personnel decisions, they came up with an answer for everything and obviously, first and foremost, was the quarterback position with Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles overcoming all the negative headlines to prove everyone wrong.

Think about this: The Eagles traded the # 8 overall pick in 2016 plus a third-round pick, # 77 overall, in 2016 along with a fourth-round pick, # 100 overall), a 2017 first round pick and a 2018 second-round pick for the rights to Wentz with the # 2 overall pick and a 2017 fourth-round pick

That’s a lot to surrender for a guy that is now dealing with a torn ACL and wasn’t available for the final three games of the regular season and the playoffs. Yet the Eagles still found a way to win.

It helps because they found a way to turn Sam Bradford into a first-round pick to offset the cost of trading for Wentz, just a few months after that deal was completed. The Eagles recouped the 2017 first round pick they gave up in a deal with Minnesota and also gained a fourth-round pick in 2018, for a player that was somewhat expensive and injury prone.

If the Redskins could have done something like this after their failed trade for Robert Griffin III, maybe things wouldn’t have been so bad in 2013 and 2014.

Of course, Washington also had a death blow of a salary cap penalty to absorb in those two years. One, that while ridiculous, was completely the fault of Bruce Allen who thought he was out-smarting everyone and instead got slapped in the face by the NFL.

The Eagles didn’t have to deal with that and were able to improve their roster elsewhere.

Philadelphia was able to bring in   Alshon Jeffery on a one-year, $14 million deal  and convert that into a long-term deal because of a productive season after a slow start.  They also were able to bring in Torrey Smith, Timmy Jernigan and productive corners, Patrick Robinson and Ronald Darby (via trade). The Redskins hit a home run with Zach Brown, who while far from perfect, was a major addition along with D.J Swearinger but struck out big time with Terrelle Pryor and Brian Quick. 

These five acquisitions should not be overlooked because in some ways they are just as important as the decision to draft Wentz or to trade Bradford. Or to correctly fire Chip Kelley or to smartly hire Doug Pederson.

5 – Speaking of Pederson, he is the most aggressive coach in the NFL on fourth down and he called the playoffs in an aggressive manner too.

This one is going to hurt: I respect the job Jay Gruden has done and there’s no doubt, he’s a creative pass route designer. He goes for it on many fourth-down situations, as well. He’s not Doug Pederson and it’s not really close.

The pre-snap play designs and formations are the main difference in my eyes. When you watch the Eagles (much like the Chiefs), you see a lot of “eye-candy” as some in the NFL call it. You occasionally see a “too-cute” component to Pederson and the Eagles offense, but that is going to happen when you push the envelope.

Pederson is not only aggressive and confident in his players, but his staff presents a lot to deal with as the play is about to be run, which confuses opponents and slows them down.

If you watch Gruden’s Redskins, you see some of this but nowhere near enough of it in order for the Redskins to take a big step forward, Jay Gruden is going to have to step up the creativity in a big-time way.

This is why the Redskins could be considered close to being next year’s Eagles but oh so far away. 

Chris Russell has covered the Washington Redskins for eight seasons for multiple media outlets and was a part of the Redskins Radio Network broadcast team for five years. He covers the Redskins, Washington Valor and Baltimore Brigade for Monumental Sports Network (  Listen to Chris on Washington D.C.'s # 1 sports radio station, 106.7 The FAN