Washington Redskins: Dan Snyder

Some Redskins items from recent days that you might have missed:

More work: Quarterback Robert Griffin III will work with quarterbacks coach Terry Shea next week. Griffin worked with Shea earlier this offseason for a week, but wanted another tune-up before training camp begins July 24. Shea focused hard on Griffin’s fundamentals, including narrowing his base, getting his feet to turn with his body in the pocket and raising where Griffin held the ball -- at times last year he held it too low, leading to a wind-up throw. Griffin clearly has worked hard this offseason. I'm curious to see how that pays off this summer and during the season. He’s also said to have his explosion back, as has been discussed for a while – as multiple people have talked about seeing a difference in that area. But the real key for him is developing in the pocket. Griffin needs to succeed without that extraordinary explosion, though it certainly does help when defenses fear your legs.

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John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty ImagesWashington hopes the offseason work Robert Griffin III has put in will pay off in the fall.
Skepticism over RG III ranking: Last week Mike Sando wrote a terrific piece, ranking quarterbacks based on a poll of executives and coaches and evaluators . Griffin did not fare well, being placed as a tier 3 quarterback tied with Cincinnati’s Andy Dalton. The rankings prompted Kevin Seifert to question why Griffin had fallen so far after just one bad season; he also asked if they had forgotten a record-setting 2012 season. People fall in and out of love quickly in the NFL and I think Griffin is the latest example. Watch how fast opinions change if he gets off to a good start.

Vinny on Snyder's fight: Former Redskins executive Vinny Cerrato knows Dan Snyder well, which is why he doesn’t think he’ll abandon his fight to keep the nickname. Snyder is not going to suddenly think the other side has a point, not when he views the matter much, much differently. Besides, what has been evident over the years is that he’s ultra-competitive and does not want to lose this one. Cerrato’s point is one that others have mentioned, too: The only way Snyder might relinquish the battle is if (and he stressed if) he somehow gets a new stadium out of it in a decade or so.

Family torn on name: The Wetzel family is a pivotal one in the Redskins’ battle over the nickname as Walter Wetzel is the one who designed the current logo used on the helmet since 1972. Wetzel’s son, Donald, tells The Washington Post – and has told other outlets in the past – that he’s proud of the name and the logo. But his nephew told the Post that he definitely is on the other side with his thoughts. Guessing this is a microcosm of the debate played out among Native Americans.

Redemption: A lot of Redskins have talked about getting the “bad taste out of their mouths” from last season. Niles Paul joined that chorus in an interview with Omaha.com. Paul said, “This is clearly a redemption year for us, and we want to let that be known.” I did a two-week look at players with something to prove, but there’s no doubt the organization as a whole has a lot to prove. But the Redskins have said the right things in the past only to do ... nothing. They can back up these words if Griffin rebounds, the pass rush is terrific, the tackling in the secondary is a lot better and the inside linebackers produce.

Redskins mailbag: Part 2

July, 5, 2014
OK, I have to admit that I lied to you: Turns out I could -- and did -- do a second mailbag this week. Saw more questions, got a burst of energy and here it is, with topics ranging from culture shift to Robert Griffin III's study habits, the secondary and the defensive line. Enjoy.

John Keim: Let's not get too carried away with this just yet because the culture was changed dramatically when Mike Shanahan was hired too. A lot of the stories at that time focused on that very topic. He was trying to bring in players with a certain mindset and he had that winning aura. And then they finished last in three of his four seasons. So his changes did not lead to the one change everyone wants. The culture of an organization always starts at the top. But in terms of the coaching hire, that was on Bruce Allen and then the subsequent assistant hires was on both he and Jay Gruden. There is a positive energy right now with the coaching staff and players and a good vibe among the players, but until they win -- and do so consistently -- it will always be about "changing cultures" at Redskins Park. And they'll try to do so every four years. Keim: Griffin receives a lot of credit for how hard he works; part of that includes studying film. I know he watches a lot of film, but the bottom line is right now the area that people want to see him improve involves pre-snap reads, getting off primary reads faster. Once he starts doing that, you'll hear more about the other habits that go into that improvement, like film study. To be honest, not sure I've read a lot or heard a lot about other young quarterbacks and how much film they watch. If you're a starting quarterback in the NFL it's assumed that you watch a lot of film. Griffin is no different. Really, it's not about watching film as much as it is processing what you're seeing. It takes a couple years for any young quarterback (or player for that matter) to reach a comfort level in this area. Many, many times I've talked to players about watching film and they consistently say it took them a while to do it well. Keim: I need to see them in game action. I need to see if the safeties are tackling better, what Ryan Clark has left, if David Amerson has improved and if Brandon Meriweather is more consistent. It is impossible to tell most of that from watching them work in just shorts and a helmet. I do like what I saw from Amerson and in what I heard from him. He had a good grasp on what he needed to be doing to improve. In less than a month we'll get a chance to see how he's really doing. As for the starters, it's easy right now: Amerson and DeAngelo Hall at the corners; Meriweather and Clark at safety. They need Clark's leadership deep, but they also need to make sure he can still play at a certain level. Keim: They'll typically keep five, including one fullback. Gruden kept a fullback in Cincinnati and Darrel Young has improved as a blocker during his time in Washington. He helps the run game and he helps on special teams too. But really this will depend on what they do at other positions. My guess is they'll want to keep nine or 10 offensive linemen. Would they really keep two kickers? How many safeties and corners? Usually 10 are kept, but they were willing to go with 11 two years ago. Would they really want to go with three running backs and a fullback -- or four running backs and no fullback? Last year's fourth running back, Evan Royster, barely played. They could always keep one on the practice squad just in case. Keim: My main issue with their line is not where they rank but their age. They have four potential defensive linemen 30 years or older -- and three of them will be coming off surgeries. So there's concern here. If they're healthy and if Jason Hatcher plays well if Chris Baker comes through to give them a young rusher, then I think this group will be fine. They'd have more depth and versatility than a year ago. The line did a solid job against the run last year; their issue was a lack of pressure. But if Hatcher has durability issues because of his knee and Stephen Bowen does not return to a solid level and Jarvis Jenkins still can't do much in nickel ... then they will have issues. They're a question mark, like many parts of the defense. 
We in the sports world like to simplify complicated economic issues, and so goes a question I've heard from readers and admittedly wondered myself: Why would a capitalist such as Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder oppose changing his team's name when he could make a ton of money from merchandise sales adorned with the new brand?

The quick answer: Because he probably can't, at least not in the short term. A poke through the NFL's labyrinth of financial rules and interviews with experts revealed two important factors. First, a chunk of that revenue would be shared with 30 other teams. Second, the immediate costs connected with a rebrand could extend into "the millions," according to one analyst.

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AP Photo/Nick WassRebranding the Redskins would likely cost the team millions of dollars in the short term.
Let's consider each issue separately.

The NFL's revenue-sharing system is set up for all teams but the Dallas Cowboys to share national merchandise sales. (The Cowboys opted out of the consortium.) So when you buy a Robert Griffin III jersey at your local sporting goods store, the NFL's portion of the proceeds is split equally among the remaining teams. The Redskins would receive 1/31 of it.

Teams are incentivized to set up their own points of purchase, however, and they keep the profits from those sales. So if you buy an RG III jersey from the Redskins' website, or at FedEx Field or when you visit training camp, the Redskins don't have to share their take.

The breakdown of sales between national and team-specific points of purchase is a closely held secret, but given the international appeal of the Redskins, it's safe to say that a good chunk of their total sales must be shared with the other 30 teams. As a result, the Redskins would miss out on at least a significant portion of whatever uptick a new name would drive.

And in the bigger picture, the experts I spoke with weren't certain of our basic premise: that a name change would drive massive sales of merchandise.

"It really depends on how the change is perceived," said David Carter, the director of the Sports Business Institute at USC. "Remember, fans don't like name changes. They learn to live with them. If they perceive the team has handled it well, that it was proactive and collaborative, if the community viewed it as a good decision, and they had a great marketing game plan and messaging, if they went that route, it could be a success."

Mark Conrad, the director of the sports business specialization at Fordham's Gabelli School of Business, said the name change could be a "bonanza" if it is proactive and well executed. If it's forced, however, Redskins fans might not buy in -- literally.

"It could be a bonanza if you get the right name and process," Conrad said. "If you did it right, by yourself without a court saying it or the NFL saying it, it could bring you goodwill on a local and national level. But if the owner is smirking or growling about it, if you're effectively saying, 'I don't like this new brand but I'm forced to do it,' as opposed to saying, 'This is a creative new way to maintain the identity of the franchise,' then revenues will be impacted."

Meanwhile, Conrad said it would be difficult to provide a specific estimate on the second factor: the costs relating to a name change. The Redskins would presumably absorb all of them.

Four years ago, Michael Jordan estimated it would cost between $3 million and $10 million to revert his NBA franchise name in Charlotte back to the Hornets from the Bobcats, a change completed this summer. (The final number is likely to be $4 million, Hornets CEO Fred Whitfield said in May.) Generally speaking, NFL franchises are bigger businesses than those in the NBA, but using a multiplier in this case would just be a guess.

"There are just so many factors involved," Conrad said, from potential consulting fees to physical changes on owned property to legal costs. "It could be millions of dollars in the short term. That, I think, is a good estimate."

Given the unprecedented nature of an NFL name change, Carter said it is possible that the league could step in to cover some costs, reducing the drag on the Redskins' bottom line. The league would also have to decide what to do with the Redskins' existing inventory of merchandise. It's possible the team would be responsible for buying it, especially if the NFL mirrors its policy for when players change their numbers. (Players must buy out the inventory before new merchandise is produced.)

These are all issues of short-term finances, of course. Both Conrad and Carter said the long-term matter of brand impact could be far more valuable. In an immediate sense, however, it's difficult to envision the kind of net revenue bonanza that seems intuitively obvious to those of us in the world of amateur sports economics.
Taking a look at what was said and written about the trademark ruling Wednesday involving the Redskins, from a variety of angles:

The nuts and bolts of the case: The news on the case is rather simple. The United States Patent and Trademark Office in a 2-1 vote cancelled the Redskins trademark because it was “disparaging to Native Americans.” ESPN's Darren Rovell has a lot of reaction in his story.

What it means: Well, it doesn’t mean the name is about to change (though ultimately that could be the case). A Massachusetts-based attorney, Michael McCann, who is an expert on sports law, provided his assessment for Sports Illustrated. (One note: They are obviously not based in Richmond, Virginia, as he wrote in the article, but the point remains the same because they are headquartered in the state). Here's another take from Slate's Jordan Weissmann.

Coming off the heels of the past year’s fight, it certainly feels like yet another step. Unlike in 2003 when they won an appeal on a similar ruling, there are louder and stronger voices involved, so this won’t go away quietly. The question is, can the opposition get sponsors to boycott the Redskins or annoy the NFL enough to the point that they force the team to change? The Washington Post Express’ Rick Snider provided a way out for owner Dan Snyder.

Poll results: ESPN SportsNation asked readers a simple question: Should the Redskins change their name? It’s not a scientific poll, of course, but here are the results: Out of 150,000-plus votes, 63 percent said they should keep the name and 37 percent said they should change. Every state in the country was in favor of keeping the name. The state where the vote was the closest? Oregon, with 48 percent in favor of a change. California cast the most votes (more than 10,000) and had a 55-45 split. Many will argue that this poll is irrelevant (or that the 37 percent is higher than some previous polls). Just pointing out the survey. Yes, I also know there are Native Americans who aren’t bothered by the name. No idea how many.

Stay out, government: I agree with this take from The Washington Post’s Sally Jenkins. If the Redskins are going to change their name, let it come from societal pressure and not from congressional action. She made it clear that she’s in favor of a name change, but also wrote: “You don’t really want government agencies to become the arbiter of acceptable words and images. You really don’t. The main reason you don’t is because, like it or not, what’s offensive is subjective.” Totally agree. This isn’t as much about them needing to take care of other issues as it is about that slippery slope. I'm not a fan of slippery slopes.

Redskins' response: The one thing I’ve heard from a number of people is that the Redskins’ response has altered their stance on the issue. (I have heard this from fans and players. The latter group is sensitive to what’s going on.) There was an arrogance from the franchise from the get-go, starting with Snyder’s “in all caps” response. It hasn’t helped the cause one bit. In hindsight, the team needed to take a sensitive approach from the start, privately meeting with various tribes to have an earnest discussion. I know some of that took place long afterward, but the initial phrase haunts the team and is lumped in with other miscues along the way. Add it up and the casual fans or fence-sitters have been turned off. Some aspects have helped (Bruce Allen’s letter, for example), but the rest have been like pouring gasoline onto a fire. For what it’s worth, I don’t think branding Snyder as a racist works either. A lot can and has been said about the man over the years; that’s not a label I’d use. Supporting the team name does not make you a racist -- I know very good people from all walks of life who favor the nickname. I'd be awfully careful using that term. You can argue for the name change without branding people who support it.
While counting down the days until they're in pads when we can really learn something, these are the things I’ll try to watch for during Wednesday’s OTA session open to the media:
  • Receiver DeSean Jackson. Is he practicing? You need to be cautious with players this time of year, but this is also valuable time.
  • The different ways players are being used. The Redskins worked their outside linebackers at different spots last week. They clearly plan to tap into the versatility of their top three outside linebackers. Sometimes things that are planned in May and June fall apart during the season. This one, I think, will stick.
  • Guard Shawn Lauvao. I haven’t spent a whole lot of time watching the free-agent pickup. Just want to see how he moves around, how he uses his hands. And then we’ll wait until the pads come on in August to learn a lot more.
  • Robert Griffin III’s passing. It was fine a couple weeks ago, but sporadic when we could watch last week. I’ve seen changes to his mechanics, how he’s consistently holding the ball higher to cut down the length of his delivery for example. Now we need to see some consistency in his accuracy. (Again, he was inconsistent in practices as a rookie, too. Just for point of reference. Last summer when we saw him he looked more off than on.) Griffin’s had a good offseason in terms of getting work done and tweaking his game. I do expect a bounce-back season, but to what extent?
  • David Amerson. Haven’t spent enough time watching him, just to see what sort of progression there is in his game. I do know he’s working a lot on press coverage, something he did not do in college and improved at throughout his rookie season.
  • The emphasis during practice. When we watched last week, they worked a lot on red zone situations from various spots. Griffin also dumped a lot of passes off to running back Roy Helu last week. Sometimes those are by design. In watching his games again from last season, Griffin needs to get to those checkdowns sooner; would have avoided more sacks. So if it’s a point of emphasis now, that’s a good thing, just to get in the mindset. I wouldn’t worry about him doing a reincarnation of John Beck versus San Francisco.
  • Rookie progression. Have to give them time, but what sort of steps have they taken? It’s tough to focus on everything, but is Morgan Moses doing a better job at all of staying lower and not bending at his waist? Is Bashaud Breeland cutting down on the holding/pass interference plays? That sort of stuff. Again, this will be a long process for all of them.
  • Haven’t seen a whole lot of Jason Hatcher this spring. He missed the session we watched last week for personal reasons. So I’m curious to see how he moves off the line, etc.
  • If any focus groups show up. OK, I doubt that will be the case. But apparently they used another focus group to gauge the feelings of various aspects of the organization – how fans think about owner Dan Snyder or president Bruce Allen, for example. I know this: They’ll like them a lot more if they win. No focus group needs to be used to determine that logic.
Some thoughts after watching the Redskins OTA practice Wednesday:
  1. Robert Griffin III did not have his best day throwing the ball and was high on some throws, including one to Andre Roberts in the corner of the end zone. His fundamentals were relatively consistent and on shorter routes he was fine, but his throws downfield were not always on target.
  2. I’ve said this before: Griffin was not always sharp in practice as a rookie, yet threw rather well in games. So take these showings for what they’re worth (the ability to extend plays obviously is huge).
  3. Griffin did work a lot on dumping the ball to tight ends and backs, Roy Helu in particular. Griffin had a nice throw to Santana Moss in the front corner of the end zone, throwing a bullet on the move to his right. Another time, Griffin kept the play alive to his left with linebacker Keenan Robinson in pursuit. Safety Ryan Clark was laying back, then stormed up. As soon as he did, Griffin dumped it over his head to tight end Jordan Reed.
  4. It was celebrity day on the sidelines as actor Matthew McConaughey stood with owner Daniel Snyder. I’ll have some reaction from players later. We did not get a chance to talk to him; McConaughey is in town to attend the movies with Alfred Morris Wednesday night. As I’m sure you’re aware, he’s a Redskins fan.
  5. Did not see Bashaud Breeland grab as much as he had the first couple times I watched him. Breeland made an excellent play downfield against receiver Aldrick Robinson. My attention was focused elsewhere at the start of the play, but Breeland was right on Robinson’s hip down the middle and knocked away a deep ball from Kirk Cousins. A well-played ball that earned plenty of slaps on the back from teammates and praise from coaches.
  6. Best moment of Jay Gruden's news conference: When he said of the press room (housed in a garage-like setting): "It's hot in here. You guys can't afford air conditioning?" It was met with laughter and applause from the, uh, sweaty media.
  7. Earlier, Robinson caught a ball over Breeland. However, secondary coach Raheem Morris was thrilled with Breeland’s coverage. His point: With a rush, the quarterback might not have had the time to make that throw. Morris loved how Breeland reacted to Robinson’s double move (kept his eyes on his work, as they like to say) in a cover zero call.
  8. That also led to a funny exchange. While Morris shouted, “Hell of a job!” Robinson yelled back, “Don’t tell him that!”
  9. Another time, a ball skidded off Robinson’s hands, leading Morris to yell, “That’s the Al we know!” Yes, Morris was kidding. Though they’re not goofing around, players and coaches are more relaxed.
  10. Griffin also made a nice throw to tight end Jordan Reed from the 5-yard line. Griffin had to slightly alter his release, but did what he did two years ago: avoided trouble and completed the pass. Reed was on his knees in the end zone and the throw hit him right in the numbers, away from danger.
  11. The Redskins worked a lot in the red zone, with quarterbacks throwing fades and back-shoulder passes during individual work. Washington did not run a lot of fades in the red zone under coach Mike Shanahan.
  12. Morgan Moses worked at left tackle, the position he played last season at Virginia. Moses eventually will contend for the starting job at right tackle. It's unclear if it will be this year, but that’s why they drafted him in the third round. The Redskins want him to learn both tackle spots, otherwise, they’d have no backup for Trent Williams (unless they keep both Moses and Tom Compton).
  13. Anyway, Moses was OK here. But I did see rookie Trent Murphy beat him inside with a quick spin move (it’s a good one; curious to see how Murphy fares with this against veterans). The Redskins completed a screen pass on the play, but if there had been referees it would have come back. Moses grabbed a whole lot of Murphy’s jersey trying to stop him. Murphy got his hands right into Moses’ chest on another rush, but didn’t have an impact on the play.
  14. The last player working on the field? Tight end Jordan Reed. As teammates exited, getting stopped for interviews, Reed ran routes against an imaginary defender.
  15. Receiver Pierre Garcon spent every available minute during training camp last season catching passes on the side. So if there was a special teams drill going on, he’d be catching passes. Or if it wasn’t his turn in a drill, he’d be catching passes. Naturally, during a special teams drill, Garcon spent it catching more passes.
  16. Your punt returners Wednesday: Andre Roberts, Nick Willliams, Rashad Ross, Lache Seastrunk and Santana Moss. The kickoff returners: Ross, Seastrunk, Williams and Roberts. Chris Thompson did not practice, but was on the side doing agility work with end Stephen Bowen. End Jason Hatcher also wasn’t at practice for personal reasons.
  17. Linebacker Keenan Robinson showed, once more, the ability to run by staying with Reed on a downfield pass. That should not be a surprise; Robinson’s strength is his ability to run. What the Redskins will need to see is how he fits against the run when the games begin.
  18. I will have more on this at a later date, but linebacker Brian Orakpo said he’s worked a lot on using his hands better as a pass-rusher, thanks to outside linebackers coach Brian Baker. He’s having Orakpo do drills to emphasize this, something that has not been done in the past.
  19. With Hatcher out, Jarvis Jenkins worked at right end (Chris Baker stayed on the left side).
  20. Backup quarterback Colt McCoy had a nice toss to rookie tight end Ted Bolser in the end zone and also threw a perfect fade to Aldrick Robinson.
Bobby Mitchell remains conflicted about the Redskins nickname – but he stopped short of saying it should change.

Mitchell, one of the more beloved players in franchise history – and the first African American acquired by the team -- isn’t sure what will happen or even what should occur. He understands the complaints; he doesn't want to abandon his past.

“That’s a tough one. That’s a tough one,” he said at the NFL Hall of Fame FanFest in Cleveland, via ESPN NFL Nation’s Pat McManamon. “Because if you go down in my basement, everything is Redskins. Tons of it. I don’t know.”

He did say that owner Dan Snyder should ”answer it a little better than he has” and that “things do change.”

Mitchell is the latest ex-player to deliver an opinion on the Redskins nickname, admitting to conflicting feelings. London Fletcher admitted recently he felt uncomfortable about it and even spoke to general manager Bruce Allen. Art Monk and Darrell Green discussed the topic last summer; in a subsequent interview Green cleared up any perception that both wanted the name changed.

Mitchell said reporters have tried for six months to ask him about this topic, though he did an interview on it more than a year ago with Hogs Haven.

On Sunday, Mitchell said when he arrived in Washington, he doesn’t remember anyone having a problem with the nickname. And on his first day in town, he was in owner George Preston Marshall’s basement to discuss a contract.

I’ll let Mitchell take it from there:

“I was sitting there talking to him and I didn’t hear much of anything he said because I was so impressed that all around that room were portraits of Indians chiefs. He had every Indian chief that he could name. Big portraits. He was talking and I was just looking. I was so impressed because at that time, Redskins, everybody was going nuts. Mr. Marshall never had an empty seat in his stadium in those days because every team coming up from the south was full of fans. So he was in the black all the time. I was caught up in it like everybody else, the Redskins fans. And that’s where it’s been all these many, many years.

“And yet I had a couple Indians buddies who was walking around when I was getting my butt kicked about ‘you come in here, changing things.’ They were part of the group saying, ‘You should be helping us.’ I said, ‘Well nobody’s helping me.’ Some of those guys I’ve known for years, the Indian guys. I know what they’ve gone through, I know what they feel. They have more people speaking out now. In that time there was only two or three of them. So this is a difficult, difficult situation. Dan Snyder has to answer to it a little better than he has. Because things do change. Things do change. When I hear Redskins I still feel the same way about it as I did when I came here in all our glory years. It’s just that now when you say, ‘Yeah Redskins’, you can’t help it. Because as a black man I understand what the Indians are saying. I understand. So I don’t know how this will work out.”
A little this and that:
  • Senator Harry Reid, and many others, have used the NBA’s decision on Donald Sterling to continue their fight against the NFL and the Washington Redskins’ nickname. But the NBA felt compelled to act because Sterling threatened its brand and, therefore, its pocketbooks. Multiple sponsors dropped the Clippers and if this had continued, others would have followed suit. Finances were affected.
  • Regardless of what your stance is on the Redskins name -- this is not my battle one way or another -- my guess is the only way it will change is when sponsors start doing the same in the NFL. The NBA made the right decision without a doubt, but it also placated Sterling for years, despite evidence of worse wrongdoing than what he said on a taped conversation. When the business and brand was threatened, the NBA acted. If players start threatening not to play for the Redskins because of the name ... if sponsors pull out ... then there will be intense pressure and a chance for change.
  • The Redskins will hire Bret Munsey to help with scouting and other areas. Munsey currently is a scout with Philadelphia, but has ties to coach Jay Gruden. They worked together in both the Arena Football League and the United Football League.
  • I will be curious to see if anything happens with receiver Anthony Armstrong, who is in the Redskins' minicamp this week as part of a tryout. The Redskins need receiver depth as well as one who, if the fifth or sixth guy at this position, can play special teams.
  • This is a few days old, but Chip Kelly said the release of DeSean Jackson was a football decision. Of course, how a player fits in the locker room and conducts himself falls into that category because it impacts a team. It would be tough for Kelly to point to production considering Jackson set career highs in catches (82) and yards (1,323).
  • If Kelly truly feels this way, he owed it to Jackson to say so much sooner rather than let so many rumors and stories about gang ties circulate about his off-field life. (That said, it’s not like teams were surprised by any of them; there’s a reason those who were interested were not willing to trade for him.) Otherwise, your silence gives these stories credence and lets the question build. And, while Kelly said he didn’t make a statement when they released other players, this one was dramatically different.
  • While there was no access to the Redskins minicamp this week, it’s tough to gauge things in practices at this time of the year. It’s helpful to measure progress by players coming off injuries. It’s also helpful to see what kind of shape players are in (last year in early May it was clear that Josh LeRibeus was in bad shape and it set a storyline for his entire season).
  • So there’s no way to really know who looked good or who did what or how the changes in Robert Griffin III's fundamentals have helped. But considering there’s still three months before camp, you could only take away so much.
  • I did see a shot on Redskins.com of safety Phillip Thomas backpedaling in one drill; he looked bigger than I remember, but that could have been due to the sleeveless shirt he was wearing. I liked him coming out of college – seems to be a smart player -- but that Lisfranc injury is a tricky one, especially if you’ve had surgery to repair it (as he did). If he regains his game and his foot is stable then Thomas is someone the Redskins clearly can develop as a starter.
  • Saw corner Richard Crawford at Brian Orakpo’s golf tournament on Monday and he was optimistic about his recovery from torn ligaments in his knee. Crawford even did a little backpedal in the parking lot to show what he could do. The key, of course, is regaining explosiveness and the ability to cut. He said he’s able to cut, but it has to be done at a certain level. For now, he feels good where he’s at and told ESPN980’s Chris Russell and me that Dr. James Andrews said he could play in a game “tomorrow” if necessary.
  • Crawford, though, is not participating in the voluntary minicamp this week. No need to rush anything. Still a long way to go for him. I did like the improvement he had shown covering in the slot before his injury. He’s a smart player. But he’s not a big corner and now coming off a knee injury. So I have no idea what to expect from him this summer.
POTOMAC FALLS, Va. -- The Washington Redskins aren’t crossing their fingers about how receiver DeSean Jackson will fit in with the team. Or if he’ll get in trouble. Rather, their focus is what he does on the field.

Which is why they’re anxious for the voluntary minicamp at Redskins Park this week. It starts Tuesday and runs through Thursday and will give them their first chance to see Jackson, and everyone else, in action.

Players have spoken about Jackson’s arrival, but no one in management has talked about signing him until Monday. Both coach Jay Gruden and general manager Bruce Allen, speaking at Brian Orakpo’s Leukemia & Lymphoma Society golf tournament, said they weren't worried about Jackson. Of course, that’s why they signed him in the first place shortly after Philadelphia released him.

“I don’t know about any red flags,” Gruden said. “I know he’s a great football player. We met him, I felt great about his character. Time will tell, but I don’t foresee any challenges in that regard. He’s a good player. He’s been productive. I think we’re excited to have him and anything off the field, we’re not concerned about.

“We’re counting on DeSean as a player and person moving forward that he’s going to be a fit in the locker room and obviously be a great asset off the field.”

Allen said the Redskins did their “due diligence” on Jackson and also were helped in the process by what players said. Allen also said they didn’t want to pre-judge Jackson.

“We try to form our own opinions on people,” Allen said. “The way it transpired it gave us a full day just to get to know him. We feel he has a lot of good football in him and he’s a good young man. He wants to be great in the NFL.

“The player community is a very small group and everybody knows each other. They know the good and the bad and the indifferent. We felt very comfortable what we found out about him and felt very comfortable after talking to him and spending a day with him and seeing how he’d fit into the locker room. Our players embraced him.”

Owner Dan Snyder said last week that the desire to land Jackson by both Allen and Gruden was instrumental. They both saw the same thing: a speedy playmaker. Jackson is coming off a career year with 1,323 yards.

“He’s a great player. It’s already documented; a lot of yards, a lot of catches in his career, been to some Pro Bowls. Gives us speed,” Gruden said. “You’re always looking for great players, a lot of guys can run but they don’t catch so well, a lot of guys can run but they’re not elusive after the catch. He’s got it all; he has everything you want in a receiver.”

Gruden likes the trickle-down impact Jackson offers.

“He benefits the team in general,” Gruden said. “He’s a deep threat. He can catch the short pass and take it the distance. He’ll take pressure off of not only Robert [Griffin III] but the running game.”
A little this and that for a Wednesday morning:
  • Saw this Tuesday (and it was first reported by Rivals.com last week), but just getting around to it now: Former Redskins coach Richie Petitbon’s grandson (by the same name) committed to the University of Alabama.
  • Turns out Petitbon’s offspring raised a Hog as his grandson is an offensive lineman. The Gonzaga High School product from Washington is rated as a four-star prospect. He chose Alabama over Maryland, Penn State and LSU.
  • The Eagles brought in linebacker Jordie Tripp for a pre-draft visit recently. From what I’ve heard, the Redskins had expressed interest in him as well at various points this offseason. He’s almost 6-foot-3 and weighs 234 pounds so his size would fit as an inside linebacker in the 3-4, which both the Redskins and Eagles run. Tripp has good speed (4.67 seconds in the 40-yard dash), but played collegiately at Montana.
  • Here’s the thing: He’s projected as a late-round pick, a guy worth developing who, if nothing else, would be a special-teams standout. The Redskins have guys like that already, but they're on one-year deals so adding another linebacker is a possibility. But I bring his name up as much because of this quote as anything: “I don’t want to sound arrogant, but I believe that I’m the most versatile linebacker in this draft,” Tripp told FoxSports.com. “I believe I can run and cover better than any linebacker in this draft.”
  • And this: “I just want to come in and contribute right away, and I believe that I can,” Tripp said. “I know I can be an impact player right away.”
  • Imagine if Dan Snyder owned the stadium that was hosting the Final Four and invited only a couple players into his suite? And one of them was Robert Griffin III? This is what happened in Dallas with Jerry Jones, who hosted two former Presidents (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush) and three current players (Tony Romo, Jason Witten and DeMarco Murray).
  • That led to this tweet from former Cowboy Marcus Spears.
  • Here’s one take on it from one of our Cowboys reporters Todd Archer. Romo also went to a Duke game with head coach Jason Garrett earlier this offseason. So now there are questions about whether the coach and player are too close. Imagine that debate. Actually, if Griffin and Jay Gruden showed up at a game together Redskins fans might celebrate after the negative Mike Shanahan relationship storyline that was a big part of the last year.
  • There’s always a fear that such relationships can have a negative effect in the locker room. Really, it depends on who you talk to because not every player feels the same way. I know in the past here it rubbed players the wrong way when they perceived players as having a cozy relationship with the owner. Certainly it bothered some -- but not all -- coaches. In most cases, they only care if the player is handling their business and still earning their keep. As long as they’re not exerting any influence because of that relationship then it typically doesn’t matter. But that was definitely the fear by some players after the season should the Redskins have hired Baylor coach Art Briles. Of course, that was never a legitimate option so it didn't matter.
  • Linebacker Rob Jackson told 106.7 The Fan's Grant Paulsen and Danny Rouhier that he wasn’t offered a chance to start at either Oakland or Houston so why sign at either place? So he returned to Washington. I’m not surprised another team would not have handed him a starting job, but I’m a little surprised they wouldn’t have let him compete for one. But this tells you the perception of him around the league. He’s a good backup -- nothing wrong with that. But he was never a real solution to replacing Brian Orakpo this offseason. If the Redskins and Orakpo do part ways after 2014, then they’ll target another player as his replacement.
  • In case you missed it on Twitter Tuesday: former Redskins corner Josh Wilson signed with Atlanta. I always enjoyed talking football with Wilson; he provided excellent insight into his approach and I felt I learned something about technique and a corner’s strategy. Like his play or not, he’s survived in the NFL for seven years and counting at only a listed height of 5-foot-9 (not sure he's that tall) because he understands the game and how he must play. But, clearly, his coverage here had slipped and the Redskins needed to replace him.

Leftover thoughts: DeSean Jackson

April, 3, 2014
  • I know DeSean Jackson said his number was not yet assigned and he mentioned the possibility of still having No. 10. But here's the thing, and I wish I had written this Wednesday: There's no way the NFL would allow Robert Griffin III to relinquish that number and Jackson knows this. It's too ingrained in the marketing, of both the Redskins and the league. I don't know what number Jackson ultimately will wear. It won't be No. 10. Receiver Aldrick Robinsontweeted Wednesday that, "Guess I gotta swag it out in #15 this year." So his No. 11 is available. That would make sense for Jackson: 10 from Philadelphia; 1 from Cal; 11 in Washington. I don't know if that's a done deal -- Jackson said on Redskins nation he might opt for No. 4, which he wore in college. Regardless it makes sense to change. New start for Jackson; new number, too. UPDATE:And then there was this tweet clinching the deal:
  • While many want to portray this as a typical Dan Snyder signing, the sense I got this week is that the organization was all-in and the desire did not just derive from the owner. The coaches wanted receiver DeSean Jackson, too. In the past Snyder steered the ship and pushed for players maybe others did not want. That's not the case here.
  • They were aggressive and that's a Snyder trademark, but that clearly was a good thing in this situation. The Redskins also knew if Jackson left the chances of him signing here would go way down. The aggressive tone begins with Snyder, but there was a sense of urgency by many, including the player.
  • I mentioned to one person in the organization about Snyder being aggressive in this pursuit to get it done and his response was, "This is on Bruce [Allen]." But you also can't dismiss the idea that if the team wants a guy, then Snyder will push hard to close. As he should. But this was a group effort to lure Jackson, from Griffin to DeAngelo Hall to coach Jay Gruden and the front office.
  • I liked Griffin's quote about still needing to accomplish something together. Too many titles have been won here in March and April. Too many things have looked good only to fail. There will be a transition here, just having a new coach and partially new offensive system. But when you have playmakers, you can compensate for the learning curve by just getting the right ball to the right guy at the right time.
  • The Redskins had 39 pass plays offensively of 20 yards or more and six for at least 40 yards in 2013. The Eagles led the NFL in pass plays of 20+ yards (80) as well as 40+ yards (18). Only Carolina had less than Washington. Obviously it wasn't all about Jackson in Philadelphia, but he will bring that element to Washington. Griffin needs time to throw long; he also has to connect. But bigger plays will be available.
  • One thing that will help is getting Pierre Garcon open downfield more. In 2012 he was able to do so because of all the misdirection and zone read option fakes that unclogged the middle or caused linebackers to make poor drops. But a year ago it seemed that too often his big yards after the catch came on horizontal routes. So a 10-yard run was sometimes only a 10-yard gain. They need that middle free so a 15-yard catch can turn into 25. With Jackson taking away pressure on the other side, that should help.
  • It also will depend on how teams play the Redskins. Clearly they'll try to take away the big play, perhaps with a lot of two-deep or cover-2 looks. That's when having running back Alfred Morris should help.
  • They can give more option plays to Griffin, where he can hand off or throw a pass and only he knows what he'll do. The Redskins can do what the Eagles did at times last year: Show the zone read to one side, a bubble screen to the other and have a route run down the middle. Lethal stuff when it works.
  • As far as the contract, it's favorable to both sides. Jackson did not get what he might have had he hit the open market as a true free agent. But his price tag was definitely lowered by having been cut. The thinking: There's a reason you've been cut and why other teams are guarded in their desire to land you. That worked to the Redskins favor and allowed a team with around $6 million in cap space to land a player such as Jackson.
  • Jackson's cap hit this season will be around $4.25 million. His base salaries in 2014 and '15 are fully guaranteed ($1 million and $3.75 million, respectively). He receives workout bonuses of $500,000 in the first three seasons of the deal (the fourth year will void). The cap hit would be $9.25 million in years two and three. He has roster bonuses that could total up to $1.5 million this season and $3.75 million in both 2015 and '16.
  • So it's a fair deal for both sides. The Redskins have done well in that regard this season. It's one area that Allen has done well, along with their cap specialist Eric Schaffer.
  • Jackson was asked about Eagles coach Chip Kelly on the conference call. But he turned it around onto Jay Gruden: "He's a very intelligent guy. I saw some of the success he had with A.J. Green and Andy Dalton and the Bengals. He has a lot of weapons. He has a lot of toys to mess around with. ... What's better off than to say, 'Let's get it on and have a great year.'
ORLANDO, Fla. -- NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Redskins owner Dan Snyder not only listened, but took action when it comes to issues surrounding Native Americans. The Redskins, of course, have been under heavier attack over the past year to change their name.

But starting in November, Snyder and others from the organization have met with 26 different tribes around the country. The Redskins announced that they had started the Washington Redskins Original Americans Foundation, designed to provide resources and support to tribes around the country.

“He’s not only listened, he’s has learned, and now he is taking action,” Goodell said of Snyder. “He is trying to address some of the very important needs that they have identified when he has been having those meetings. That was a presentation completely by the Redskins. It was their initiative and I think the membership appreciated hearing that.”

The Redskins say a number of teams have expressed interest in working with the foundation. The opposition likely won’t drop their quest to change the nickname. But Goodell remained firm in his stance.

“That has been discussed for decades now. It comes up every once in a while. People have strong views on it,” he said. “But I think Dan has been very responsive and has been listening. It’s also pretty clear when you look at public opinion here. When you look at the polls 90 percent of the Redskins fans support the name, they believe it’s something that demonstrates pride and the general population also supports it overwhelmingly. He’s trying to be responsive and he’s listening and recognizing that people have different views."

Jay Gruden: Meetings 'overwhelming'

March, 24, 2014
ORLANDO, FL. -- New Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden emerged from another meeting, ready to hustle somewhere else, and sounding a bit drained from the experience. Six straight hours of meetings, he said. It's part of the gig for a head coach; it's also a new experience for him.

"I'm a little brain dead now," Gruden said. "Being a coordinator and being a head coach are totally different, and it's starting to sink in a little bit with all the things you're responsible for on and off the field. It's overwhelming now, but once I take time to go back and read through all my notes, hopefully I'll be better prepared for it."

[+] EnlargeJay Gruden
AP Photo/Manuel Balce CenetaWashington's Jay Gruden is attending his first owners meetings as an NFL head coach.
But, speaking at the owners meetings here, Gruden also said being around the other head coaches has been fun. It's also a bit daunting as well.

"[Bill] Belichick, Tom Coughlin, these guys have been great coaches for a long time," he said. "Now to be in the same group with them is exciting. I have a lot of work to do."

But it's work that will be a little on hiatus until he leaves Wednesday.

"I always feel like anytime I'm away from the office I'm missing out on doing something," he said. "It's very stressful, but I know we're coming along at the right pace. Our schedule is intact for OTAs... and the draft and all those things are ready to roll. I still feel like I need to be there doing something."

His big surprise thus far? How easy things have gone since he was hired.

"The communication with the staff and [owner] Dan Snyder, so far it's been a smooth process," he said. "We haven't played a game yet, obviously, haven't had a chance to meet all the players yet. But I'm very happy the way things are going."

He also likes having two former head coaches on his staff in defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and secondary coach Raheem Morris.

"Having coaches who have been through it is very, very important," Gruden said. "I lean on them heavily."

The Redskins' players can start offseason workouts April 7, which is two weeks earlier than teams who do not have first-time head coaches. But it's still later than it used to be before the new CBA.

"We'll have plenty of time," Gruden said. "You'd like to have more time, you'd like to be able to meet with them now and go over the playbook. You'd like to go outside and play catch with them if you wanted to. Obviously the rules prohibit that. But we'll have plenty of time to get going mentally and physically. Sometimes it's good to get the player away from the building for some time so he can reflect and get ready on his own. A lot of these guys are self-starters anyway. They'll do a lot of work on their own. I know Robert [Griffin III] is working hard now. He has a bunch of guys in Arizona this week. It's exciting to see them work on their own and when they're here we'll help them along the way."

Redskins mailbag: Part 2

March, 1, 2014
Another round of questions; another round of linebacker Brian Orakpo and free agency. At this point, those have to be the main topics, right? But there are a couple other questions about defensive ends Adam Carriker and Chris Baker, trades and how many quarterbacks might the Redskins keep? Here you go.

If you had to lean solely on your gut, do you see us franchising Orakpo, giving him a long term deal, or letting him walk? #Redskinsmailbag


Buffett once dreamed of owning Redskins

January, 22, 2014
Warren Buffett spent part of his childhood in Washington, D.C., and worked Redskins games on occasion. That was enough for him to start dreaming big thoughts. And those thoughts included owning the Redskins.

Buffett moved to Washington in 1942 after his father was elected to congress. He graduated from Wilson High School in 1947 and followed the Redskins.

“When I was a kid, I thought if I ever made a lot of money, I would go out and buy a team,” Buffett said on the Dan Patrick Show Wednesday morning, when the topic of whether he ever wanted to own a team arose. “I was a water boy for the Washington Redskins for two games. I thought if I ever had a lot of money, I’d buy the Washington Redskins.”

To which Patrick chimed in, “They want you to buy it. They would love for you to buy it right now, Warren.”

Redskins owner Dan Snyder has had his troubles on the field as the Redskins have finished with double-digit losses seven times since 2003. But, of course, he’s not about to sell the Redskins, which remains his passion.

Buffett said, laughing, “I don’t know whether he would sell. But Sammy Baugh was my hero in those days. That’s a little before your time. It was the dream of every kid to have a sports team; well, it was the dream of every kid to be a superstar. But of course I never had a chance of that.”

Buffett is a big football fan -- he said he's a Denver Broncos fan -- and is a major supporter of the University of Nebraska program. At 83, that’s likely as close as he’ll get to football. Meanwhile, Buffett’s Berkshire Hathway company is backing a $1 billion payment, offered by Quicken Loans, to anyone who fills out a perfect bracket for the NCAA tournament. The listed odds of winning are 1 in 4,294,967,296. The odds of Snyder selling the Redskins anytime soon are probably higher.