New Executive Vice President/General Manager Bruce Allen didn’t just talk about banana splits and the old days during yesterday’s second radio appearance on ESPN980. Hosts Andy Pollin and Steve Czaban freely admitted that their opening “hey, remember when” questions were mostly preamble to the things that people really wanted to know; eventually they got to the meat of it, to the questions that the fans ask in their emails and blog comments and things like that.
Sometimes they didn’t get much in the way of specifics. Take a look at Allen’s comments on the offseason so far, for example:
“We started from the coaching end,” he said, “and are really pleased with the staff that Coach Shanahan has put together. We’re gonna blend a lot of new ideas into our new schemes that we’re gonna be running. I think that’s gonna lead us into free agency and then our offseason program where all of our players have to learn their new jobs and the work ethic that we expect from them, and the level of commitment that we demand from them.”
A careful review of that statement will reveal just about nothing beyond the most basic, obvious football stuff: work ethic, commitment, offseason program, etc. Which is not a bad thing, by the way — I certainly don’t want the team’s general manager explaining his plans in specific detail on the radio — but it makes it all the more notable when he does elect to reveal specifics.
His comments about his draft philosophy, for example, I found telling — and telling in a way that was probably not very reassuring to a lot of the aging players on the roster.
“Well, I’m not afraid of trades,” Allen said.
Then he continued, “If we can get a great player in a trade, there’s no reason to pass that up. But right now, this team, we do need an infusion of youth into this team. We need some players that are going to be learning the system from year one under Coach Shanahan’s staff, and that’s exciting. Now, we don’t have a third- and we don’t have a sixth-[round draft pick] right now, so maybe on draft day we could move around to pick up some extra picks, because we do need an infusion of youth.”
That repetition of “infusion of youth” can probably be used to illuminate his answer to a question about jettisoning contracts during a potential uncapped year:
“Well, it’ll give you some options and flexibility of what to do,” he said, “but really what we want is the players that are signed to contracts with the Redskins. We’re gonna try and make those players fit into our program, and we’re gonna give them every opportunity to help this team win. If players don’t fit into our program, they won’t be here.”
In the abstract, that could easily be read to mean something like, Hey, we’re gonna keep as many veterans here as we can; the whole “infusion of youth” thing seems to imply that the they won’t be here is the more crucial bit of that segment.
Allen also discussed changes in coaching philosophy, sort of. “My ideas have always been that you build a team around your coaching talents,” he said. “Whether you have an offensive head coach or a defensive head coach, you’ve gotta fit the players to the coaching philosophy. Especially this year, because we are gonna be running a new scheme on offense and defense than the Redskins have run in the past.”
So, Andy Pollin asked, a switch to 3-4 defense is a sure thing?
But when it came to specifics, Allen turned cagey again. “Yeah,” he said, “I’m gonna let — we’re gonna run the Redskins Defense. That’s what we’re calling it. There’s no reason to help out any of our opponents in their planning whatsoever. We learned secrecy from the seventies also, by the way.”
Something else that came from the seventies is what appears to be the team’s de facto slogan this year: The Future Is Now. The return of this maxim — made famous in this town under the coaching reign of Allen’s father — has been met with some confusion. Some thought it meant a return to largely-unsuccessful quick-fix efforts, others that it was a play on fans’ nostalgia, and still others hoped it was a reassuring call back to past successes and a reconnection with organizational history.
To hear Allen explain it, though, it’s much simpler than that. “I live under the philosophy of ‘The Future Is Now’,” he said. “Whatever we do today is gonna help us tomorrow, and that’s what ‘The Future Is Now’ is.”
Although, to be fair, his follow-up comment certainly leaned heavily on the expectation of fairly quick results. “This year’s free agency, if it’s uncapped, doesn’t have a lot of the type of players that you’ve seen in free agency the previous thirteen years. It’s a lesser crop of players in numbers, and it’s an older group of players in description. So we’re gonna have to find players any way we can to be better immediately. And not to put pressure on the coaches, but I believe our coaching staff is gonna be one of the best in the NFL, and if we get ‘em the right type of players, I think we can have great improvement.”
And, perhaps most importantly of all, based on the emails I get, Allen was emphatic that he and Coach Shanahan are the ones making the decisions to guide the franchise this offseason, and not owner Daniel M. Snyder. “I can’t speak about what happened before I got there,” Allen said, “but [Snyder] has told us ‘Run it the way you wanna run it, pick the players that’ll fit this system,’ and that’s the understanding that we’re going under. We have total autonomy.”
Allen was emphatic in saying that Snyder’s willingness to spend is a good thing. “You know,” he explained, “Dan’s enthusiasm and passion to go out and get these players is an admirable trait. You know, there’s a lot of teams in the league that … I don’t wanna point fingers, but they’ll say, ‘You can’t spend XYZ on any player, whether he’s good or he’s bad.’ So his comment to helping us put together a roster, I think is exciting.”
But, he insisted, the owner’s involvement goes only as far as his open wallet. “I don’t think he’ll ever come on a scouting mission,” Allen said, “and he never did go on a scouting mission. He went with his family to a college game, but I don’t know if that’s a scouting mission. He didn’t go to the Senior Bowl this year. He will go to the Combine, along with 25 owners, because there’s a league meeting at the Combine.”
Steve Czaban, ever the skeptic, wanted to be perfectly clear: “So,” Czaban asked, ” he’s really not part of the scouting entourage?”
“No, but if I pick a bad player, I might blame him,” Allen said, laughing. “I’ll be looking to pass the buck somehow.”
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