Structural Foundations 101
Today is draft day, a good time to review your notes from Structural Foundations 101. In a copycat league where schemes, coaching strategies, techniques, and even formations are often mimicked to resemble those of winning franchises and teams who have had proven success with such, I often wonder why the Burgundy and Gold never seem to adopt such methodologies, yet seem to “stick with their guns” with the way they run their operation, build their team, and perhaps not so coincidently find ways to lose. I don’t know how many Sundays I have stood in a circle of peers in the parking lot at FedEx, drinking a cold one and pondering the never ending “what if?” questions that enter every fans head at some point, and heard the various comments from people of what the Redskins need to do because “Team X does it this way. . . So why don’t we?” From “where is our wildcat formation?” to “where did our draft picks go?” There is one common entity that remains the same year in and year out with the Redskins in my opinion; The Redskins always seem to be the “slow kid in class,” or at least the kid who didn’t study for the quiz, and stares at it, jaw dropped in front of him thinking “Oh crap.” The Skins seem to be the last franchise to recognize how success is built and adapt to new and trending league strategies when building a successful franchise and putting a winning team out on the field. But enough of the pondering already ShanAllenhan . . . let your eyes wander to the smart kid’s scantron next to you and copy away . . . because everybody’s doing it.
In 2008, The Green Bay Packers were 6-10, finished 3rd in the NFC North, and quickly fired 8 assistant coaches including their defensive coordinator, and decided to bring in Dom Capers to install their 3-4 base defense. Sound familiar? With their 1st pick in the following draft they decided to address the key position that makes the 3-4 defense work. They drafted B.J. Raji out of Boston College to be their nose tackle, and then traded back into the first round to grab the linebacker they coveted that would become the pass rusher to benefit from Raji and the gaps that he and the front 3 would create. Wise choice, Clay Matthews is pretty good. Because the Packers had a solid foundation of defensive players already in place including 2009 DPOY Charles Woodson, as well as quality depth made up of late rounders and undrafted FA’s that would end up being key fill-ins during their super bowl run, they made sure they addressed the biggest holes at key positions to make it work. Not by overspending for another teams’ player who would go wherever the dollar signs took him, but by drafting young, hungry, rookies who would become “home grown” Green Bay Packers. On the offensive side of the ball, they had been slowly drafting weapons and key components of their 2010 Super Bowl team for years, not all in the 1st rounds of drafts (Jordy Nelson 2nd, Jermichael Finley 3rd, Greg Jennings 2nd, James Jones 3rd, Mason Crosby 6th rounder, etc.) and realized that as soon as their young inexperienced quarterback began to “figure it out,” and finally put some notches on the proverbial belt (you know . . . the belt Aaron Rodgers always lets us know he wears), the pieces around him would already be in place and only further assist in developing their franchise player.
Teams like the Packers, Steelers, and Patriots win perennially for a reason, they value the importance of the draft and look years down the road, not months, so that when so many pieces are in place at key positions, and you have depth at those positions to cover yourself from injuries that will undoubtedly occur, your championship team that was once envisioned will begin to take shape. The Patriots and Steelers carry numerous examples just like Green Bay of instances in which key draft picks and smart planning have been the basis and foundation of their success, and fueled their way to super bowl championships. BJ Raji and Clay Matthews didn’t win Super Bowl XLV for Green Bay by themselves, they were simply the final and important pieces of a puzzle. A puzzle put together as a result of smart strategic planning and good drafting. When a team with lots of young talent and a change in defensive philosophy recognized where their biggest flaws were, they took care of it, and turned a 6-10 team into a 11-5 wildcard team, and then into a Super Bowl Championship winning team.
The blueprint is there for the taking Coach Shannahan. Adopt the winning ways of certain franchises around the league, and things will begin to look bright in D.C. Green Bay built a solid foundation of youth and talent over years, struck gold with a franchise QB who needed a season or 2 to get his feet wet, and needed 1 final key draft move to solidify a defense that was going through a schematic change, but needed just a few more pieces. The Super Bowl blueprint is there to copy for the Redskins. So lets stop being stubbornly steadfast and looking confused while struggling for D’s and F’s, and let’s copy our way towards an easy A.