Washington Redskins: O.J. Atogwe

  • I have no idea what Alex Santos will do in his current role, but his promotion to director of pro personnel as Morocco Brown's replacement made sense. He’d been in the scouting department since 2006 and had a strong reputation in the building. I do know of some others around the league who would have been interested in the job who had more experience (but in one case their situation changed so it became irrelevant).
  • One person who worked with Santos considered him an opinionated talent evaluator with an affable personality, able to unify and with excellent people skills. Plus, and this can’t be underscored, there’s a willingness to grind.
  • Yes, the Redskins have had an awful lot of stability in the front office for a team that has finished last five of the past six seasons.
  • Does that record mean those behind the scenes have failed? Well, you win as an organization. But the tough part to always know: How much are the reports being listened to?
  • I know of at least one player in recent years who was not written up favorably by the defensive coaches – and I mean all of them – and others but were still brought in because one person wanted them. He was OK at best. Another player, safety O.J. Atogwe, was signed because he had played under coordinator Jim Haslett. Was that a scouting mistake? Doubt it. Scouts I spoke with in other organizations felt Atogwe was done at least a year earlier.
  • That doesn’t mean everything that happened in the past was the coaches' fault. It’s too easy now to blame everything on Mike Shanahan. He did have the power, though. However, what it means is that I can’t dismiss a promotion from within only on the basis of the team has been bad for a while so therefore it's a bad move.
  • And, yes, I’m sure some would have preferred a fresh set of eyes in the front office. Just because.
  • Neither Doug Williams nor A.J. Smith was going to get this job, by the way. The hours are a killer – 100-hour weeks for a job that is No. 3 in power in the front office and, in terms of the organization would be even lower because they’d be behind a head coach, too. It’s a job best given to those on the way up. If Smith, for example, wants to get another general manager’s position, he won’t get there being a No. 3 in charge. His résumé as a GM already is built. Smith’s focus this offseason was more on the draft than anything else; Santos’ job will be more about pro scouting.
  • Regardless of who they brought in, though, the power rests with general manager (and, don’t forget, team president) Bruce Allen and then director of player personnel Scott Campbell. I don’t know if a new, young hotshot would have made a dent, certainly not more than the coach Allen hired or the coaches he retained. The fresh set of eyes, for better or worse, belong to Allen and coach Jay Gruden. Allen has new power; Gruden offers a different way of doing things than Shanahan.
  • Is that good or bad? Don’t know; they haven’t gone through a season with this setup so for now anything is a guess. For now you can paint it however you want, depending on your level of faith or cynicism.
  • Nor do I know what sort of job Santos will do. It’s always easy to measure a team because there’s a won-loss record, but it’s tougher behind the scenes. Then it becomes more like politics in terms of who gets credit or where blame is focused. Front-office type when things go bad: “We got him the players. They need to coach them better.” Coach: “They needed to get me better players.”
  • The pressure here remains on Allen. He has to prove he’s capable of building a winning organization with power he’s never had in the past. It’s hard to trust a lot of what the Redskins do because they haven’t won consistently in a long time. Until they do, everything will be (justifiably) viewed cynically. For those wanting that perception to change, there’s one way out: win. Of course, that's been said for too long now.

Mike Shanahan defends franchise direction

November, 18, 2013
ASHBURN, Va. -- The record suggests one thing; Mike Shanahan sees another. A day after the Washington Redskins stumbled to 3-7, Shanahan defended his program -- and said he remains encouraged by the direction of the franchise.

The Redskins are 24-33 under Shanahan, but won the NFC East last season. They're now last in the NFC East, even trailing the resurgent New York Giants, winners of four straight to get to 4-6. Shanahan said the foundation remains strong, particularly on offense.

“You have to take a look at a number of things,” Shanahan said. “Take a look at the direction of a team. Take a look at the offensive numbers [in 2012 and ‘13]. That just doesn’t happen naturally with a lot of new players. The numbers we’re putting up are pretty impressive, especially with losing the $36-million salary cap over those two years. You don’t have the type of depth, but you’re able to put a solid team together. In the future it will get better. We have the ability to get more depth. We’ll get the ability to add some players on both sides of the ball. That gives you a chance to get better.”

The Redskins, of course, lost that salary-cap space because of an NFL-imposed penalty for how they handled the 2010 uncapped year. It hurt their ability to add players, though free agency does not always guarantee a quality starter in return. The Redskins have signed receiver Pierre Garcon, nose tackle Barry Cofield and end Stephen Bowen in free agency. They also signed safety O.J. Atogwe and receiver Josh Morgan.

The Redskins also point to the lost offseason by quarterback Robert Griffin III due to rehabilitating his knee.

The big question will be whether or not Shanahan receives a contract extension, or if he’ll finish the fifth and final year of his original deal. He would not say whether or not owner Dan Snyder has given him assurances of a fifth season.

“I don’t talk about those things during the season for obvious reasons,” Shanahan said.

Shanahan said he’s disappointed about not being able to finish the past two games better, driving downfield but failing to score potential game-tying touchdowns in the final minute.

“We’re playing good teams, we’re not finishing games,” Shanahan said. “When you’re no. 1 in rushing, that means you’re doing some things good. How you win games is not turning the ball over, which we didn’t do last year, which we’ve done this year. That doesn’t help you win games. There are a couple areas we have to get better, but when you can lead the league in rushing, usually you’ve got a chance to have success.”