Thanks For The Stability

When Scot McCloughan took over as general manager of the Washington Redskins, he was charged with changing the culture of the franchise. The culture when he arrived screamed circus. Just a year later, players being told they're not welcome back are taking to social media to say that the Redskins are a first class organization.
How did this happen? That part is easy. McCloughan brought in a number of veteran players to help establish a culture of accountability. Those veterans set the tone every day of workouts, training camp and the season to lead the Redskins to the playoffs.

So why just a year later is the need for those players gone? In fact, it's probably fair to ask if it's gone.

No player embodied this more than DaShon Goldson. He was a solid player, but an amazing leader. Skins assistant Aubrey Pleasant described Goldson's leadership style to me as "leadership by democracy." The veteran safety made sure every player felt invested in the team's success. That helped lead to accountability because everyone felt responsible for themselves and others.

Knighton was the same kind of player. His production wasn't what the Redskins were looking for, and his role diminished as the season went on. Through that time though, he was a consistent voice in the locker room who had gravitas. He'd played in a Super Bowl. He'd been on winning teams.

For so many young teams in any sport, learning how to win is a process, and it requires people who know how to teach the younger generation. Despite veterans like Jason Hatcher, Knighton and Goldson, the Redskins are a very young roster, but they have emerging talent. Bashaud Breeland proved he could become a Pro Bowler, but also showed previously unseen leadership qualities. Will Compton emerged as a solid middle linebacker, along with Mason Foster. Homegrown talents Ryan Kerrigan and Trent Williams continue to play at high levels and grow as leaders.

With all the younger leaders emerging, McCloughan and the coaching staff clearly have determined that they don't need the guidance of the older players anymore, or at least as much of it. They learned, in one short year, what it takes to win in the NFL. Combine that with the expensive price tags and underwhelming performance and the team decided to move on not only from imports like Goldson and Knighton, but in-house good guys such as Darrel Young and Alfred Morris.

Put a different, and perhaps cruel, way - these guys are getting let go because they did their jobs. The franchise is now stable. A year ago, Jay Gruden was the Vegas favorite to be the first coach fired in the '15-16 season. Robert Griffin III was the starting quarterback, but inside the organization, no one felt good about it. The locker room was fractured after a miserable season.

Bringing in players from the outside helped stabilize everything, because they weren't a part of the previous chaos. The professional sports world moves fast. It doesn't look back. So as the new players came in, they got to work. The younger players followed. Griffin was replaced with Kirk Cousins. The chaos subsided. Cousins played well. The team won. It all works in concert. The result is the franchise is in an extraordinarily different place now than a year ago.

McCloughan can afford to let these players walk because he doesn't need them to stabilize anything. Now he can move on to the next phase of the rebuild, which is finding players who can play at a value he sees fit.