Washington Redskins: On Defining a Good Team

By on December 4, 2015
(Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)

(Photo by Matt Hazlett/Getty Images)

Definition: “Good” – adjective ˈgu̇d

: of high quality

: of somewhat high but not excellent quality

: correct or proper


These 2015 Washington Redskins are not the same ball club that Redskins Nation has been watching for the past 15 or 20 years… it just isn’t. While the team has had big wins like the one last week before the New Orleans Saints before, in the past those victories were sporadic and rarely repeated in a season. The team has beaten a few bad teams and should have but in reviewing its history, one would have to go much farther back in time to find any real blowouts.

The recent 47-14 win by Washington over the Saints was an example of what good teams do to bad teams. But are the Saints really and truly a “bad” team? As well, can the Redskins be classified as a “good” team? If one was to go by the score and play of the players, one would have to come to the conclusion that the answer to both is “yes.” But it’s hard to think that any team on which future Hall-of-Fame QB Drew Brees plays can be called truly “bad.” Even in the midst of all the talk about how bad the Saints’ defense is, Brees was still running a Top-5 offense — up until he took on the Redskins. Washington held his offense to 14 points. Brees is the same quarterback that lead his team to score 31 points against the Atlanta Falcons and 52 points against the New York Giants, right?

Let’s create a Logic/Conditional (If/Then) Statement with regard to last week’s game and figure out if it fits this current Redskins team:

IF good teams blow away bad ones and IF the Saints are a ‘bad’ team; THEN the Redskins must be a good team.

Hmmm…. What makes a ‘good’ team?  Let’s check based on what we know of NFL football.

Good teams have real General Managers.

The Redskins fit into this category (finally!)

When Bruce Allen met with the media at the end of last year, he said the Redskins were going to do whatever it took to make the team better and get it back to winning. They followed through and GM Scot McCloughan was brought in.

McCloughanGeneral Motors Corp. has had a stellar first year, bringing in good football players both via free agency and the draft and keeping  the players he should. Here are a few names that come to mind: TE Niles Paul, LB Ryan Kerrigan, LT Trent Williams, RT Brandon Scherff, WR Jamison Crowder, RB Matt Jones, S Kyshoen Jarrett, CB Chris Culliver, CB Will Blackmon, S Dashon Goldson… see where this is going?

Good teams play the best performers.

The Redskins fit into this category.

A recent example of this is the competition at middle linebacker. For the last two years, Keenan Robinson and Perry Riley, Jr. have been the constants at the position when both were healthy. But during the times one or the other has been hurt, MLB Will Compton has played. An undrafted free agent from Nebraska in 2013, Compton filled in admirably while on the field. He played well enough, in fact that he could start against the Carolina Panthers. Riley has had some injury issues (calf) and Robinson has been limited in practice for the past couple of weeks due to a shoulder/rotator cuff issue. If Compton is performing at a higher level than either Robinson or Riley, the former Cornhusker will get the nod.

The safety position is another one in which this rule applies. After starter Duke Ihenacho went down in training camp, the general thinking was that Jeron Johnson — who was brought in as a free agent from the Seattle Seahawks — would get the nod. But Trenton Robinson was playing better at the time and the latter started for several games. That has changed now and Johnson is now starting because Head Coach Jay Gruden and defensive coordinator Joe Barry have both said he deserves to in light of his the work he has put in during practices and on special teams, etc.

Of course, the most obvious situation – that of the quarterback – falls into this category. Regardless of which player the coach named to be the starter during the off-season, it was widely felt that, since the team gave up so much for Robert Griffin, III, if healthy he would remain starter. But backup QB, Kirk Cousins, has been The Man since late in preseason and the public was told it was because he earned the opportunity by his performance in OTAs, mini-camps and training camp. Without going into all of the speculation and conjecture out there about other reasons; or whether or not it was smart for the coaching staff to change their tune when they did, the point is that Cousins was playing better than Griffin and he is the one on the field rather than the higher-priced, big-name guy.

Good teams have the intangibles in the locker room

The Redskins fit into this category.

This is a tough one to describe but there’s something very different about past Redskins locker rooms and the current one. This season, there’s a focus, a determination and a sort of “grit” to the guys on the team.

One explanation for this may be that many of them came here from winning organizations. They aren’t used to losing and simply hate it, whether a rookie or a vet. Scherff, a former Iowa Hawkeye, came from a Big 10 school and that goes a long way toward translating to success in the NFL. He’s used to playing on a big stage. Three of the four years he was a Hawkeye, Iowa had a winning record.

Second-round pick and linebacker Preston Smith came from Mississippi State and, in 2014 the Bulldogs had a 10-3 record. They had a winning record the year before as well. Again, Smith comes from the SEC… he’s used to playing on a big stage himself.

It goes on and on with the rookies… Jones, a third-round draft pick, played at Florida and the Gators had a winning record in 2014 and are an Securities and Exchange Commission school. Big stage. Winning culture.

Many of the free agent veterans McCloughan brought in came from winning teams and they are teaching other guys what it takes to win. Goldson said way back in training camp that it was one of the reasons he was brought here. While he had a stop in Tampa Bay with the Buccaneers, he was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the fourth round during their winning years. He knows what it takes and he’s a vocal guy.

Defensive linemen Terrance Knighton and Ricky Jean Francois both came from winning teams, namely the Denver Broncos and Indianapolis Colts/SF 49ers respectively. Culliver also came to Washington from San Francisco, drafted by the 49ers in the third round in 2011. Some of these guys have been to the playoffs and one or two have been to Super Bowls. McCloughan knew what he was doing, bringing in guys to help teach their teammates what it takes to win.

Again, in this 2015 locker room, these players do NOT like to lose. That’s not to say Redskins players from previous years didn’t mind before. It was more like it was just accepted whereas now it simply is not. These guys want to win and feel they can. This is their focus and it drives them to intensity and competition with each other. Some of the scuffles that have gone on in practices are a testament to that.

Good teams don’t shoot themselves in the foot.

The Redskins (now) fall into this category.

Since the first game of the season against the Miami Dolphins (except for against the Philadelphia Eagles), the number of penalties this team has committed per game has steadily decreased. Against the Dolphins, Washington had 11 penalties for 88 yards. Since then, the count is as follows: versus the St. Louis Rams = 7 penalties for 53 yards, versus the New York Giants = 7 penalties for 58 yards, versus the Eagles = 10 penalties for 110 yards (good teams also overcome these and the Redskins won this game 23-20). And down they’ve continued with the Atlanta Falcons = 5, against the New York Jets = 3, against Tampa Bay = 4, against the New England Patriots = 5 and against the New Orleans Saints = 5.

Good teams consistently win at home

The Redskins fall into this category.

In 2013 and 2014, Washington won seven games. Of those seven games, they won five at home; two in 2013 and three in 2014.

So far in 2015, the team has won four games and all four of the victories were at home. Now they need to learn to win on the road. This is a focus of Gruden’s and he’s got four more away games to prove he’s coached the up in this category.


The Redskins have a long way to go to be sure before they get back to the glory days when they were a dynasty. Be that as it may, they are showing signs of moving up. This week’s game against the undefeated Carolina Panthers will speak volumes about where the team really is in its development. The Panthers are ranked just behind the Patriots in most power rankings and are certainly one of the best teams in the league. If they can move the ball against Carolina’s ninth-ranked defense; and if Washington can get close to containing QB Cam Newton and his beast-of-a-tight-end Greg Olsen (among others), one could absolutely say that the Redskins are in fact, a good team.

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This article, Washington Redskins: On Defining a Good Team, first appeared on SportsJourney.com.

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