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Why the Redskins don't need a G.M. - Essay


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I don't have a problem with the Skins strategy of signing FAs and using draft picks to acquire experienced players. I like it even better with Joe making the decisions: he would never have tolerated Deion Sanders, Jeff George, or Bruce Smith. I think the strategy is ideal for a coach like Joe who is reluctant to play rookies anyway.

My issue is specific to the draft: here's a weakness on the team, and you guys seem to want to ignore it because we have strengths in other areas. It's a bit like arguing, "Well, our offense blows, but we've got a strong defense!" Joe went out an aggressively fixed the offense instead of tolerating it. Why wouldn't you want to aggressively fix the Skins problems in the draft?

Because you are limited on your draft picks due to the aformentioned FA's and "using draft picks to acquire experienced players"
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This kind of bothers me. I see this a lot on ES: "Joe Gibbs says it's working... Joe Gibbs says we don't need another kicker... Joe Gibbs says Patrick is his QB..." Can you cite one example of Gibbs publicly bad-mouthing a player or colleague -- even if he's just about to give that person the boot? I can't.

Joe Gibbs follows an old Army maxim: praise in public, criticize in private. So I don't think Joe Gibbs would ever, ever say, "I think Vinny is doing a lousy job." So we don't really know -- and likely never will -- what Gibbs thinks of Cerrato. I think (just my opinion) that he knows Vinny is Danny's favorite, so he tolerates him, safe in the knowledge that Joe has all the power and Vinny has been emasculated in the new regime.

I just think that the organization as a whole, and Joe in particular, would benefit from a strong independent GM. I don't think Joe would much like it though, so it's simply not going to happen.

i understand your point, but at the same time, astute fans can read between the lines of the coaches, players, and staff memebers' quotes and actions to see what is really happening. do you think williams would stick around here as the DC and shun potential HC suitors just to remain in a broken front office situation? especially when everything points to him being the HC of the redskins when gibbs decides to leave? also, you don't hear even the beginning of rumblings that anyone is unhappy, which you would in today's age of 24 hour news and "the scoop." hell, the washington post isn't even making up any articles about this. :)

i don't think a strong GM would be a bad thing, and i agree that gibbs may not like or want that situation. but strong GM's that have experience and an eye for evaluating talent don't grow on trees. which GM do you want running this place?

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Great analysis - the only thing I would point out is that Pittsburgh and New England's skill players benefited from strong offensive line play. I'm not positive, but I believe that most of the starters up front for those two teams were acquired in the draft and are "home-grown" in each respective system.

If players like Dockery, Molinaro and Lefotu (mid- to late-round picks) develop into solid contributors, I think we'll find that not only have the Redskins mastered the current free agency system, but they are also adept at getting value in a vital aspect of the game deep into the draft.

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I'm curious, MADD. At what point does the fact the what the Redskins are doing is clearly working enter into the equation? The "we can do better than Vinny" line of thinking was a whole lot easier to understand and support 3 or 4 years ago (hell, I made it too back then). Today though, the team is coming off a successful playoff season and by almost any reasoning is entering THIS season as a legititmate contender.

Where's the fire?

The Skins are clearly on the right track. In any case, Joe Gibbs could take average players and take them to the playoffs -- hell, he took scabs and beat the Cowboys starters -- so there's no "fire."

But there is a weakness in this organization. While the team, overall, is "working", the draft is clearly not working. You don't just let weaknesses fester, and you don't make excuses for them just because you've got strengths in other areas. You fix them.

Imagine if you had all the same free agents -- but you also had just one or two starters from those 18 wasted picks? Wouldn't the squd be better? Imagine this team with just one more reliable backup guard, or just one more DB, or just one more LB.

You say you recognized that "we can do better than Vinny" back when the Skins were doormats. Don't you realize that nothing has changed? The Skins are in an enviable position: they can fix this problem now, while there's no fire. You fix the roof when the sun is shining, my friend. That's why it's important to do it now.

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i don't think a strong GM would be a bad thing, and i agree that gibbs may not like or want that situation. but strong GM's that have experience and an eye for evaluating talent don't grow on trees. which GM do you want running this place?

Now that's a whole different issue! I have no idea who the Skins could bring it who would be well-respected enough to be a peer to Joe Gibbs. Most of them would default to a groveling, Vinny-like position. The man is a Hall of Famer!

In any case, no point in starting the search for a GM. Joe doesn't want one, and I'd venture to guess that Gregg Williams is savvy enough to realize that the situation -- where the front office is clearly subordinate to the coaching staff -- would be nice for him too.

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My issue is specific to the draft: here's a weakness on the team, and you guys seem to want to ignore it because we have strengths in other areas. It's a bit like arguing, "Well, our offense blows, but we've got a strong defense!" Joe went out an aggressively fixed the offense instead of tolerating it. Why wouldn't you want to aggressively fix the Skins problems in the draft?

I think this analogy is slightly off. The draft and free agency aren't like offense and defense, they're more like passing and rushing. If your team can run the ball down the field consistently, then you'll have less passing attempts and less impressive passing stats.

The bottom line isn't whether or not you run more or pass more, its if you end up in the endzone or not.

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That's an interesting comment. I can, however, evaluate his draft prowess without considering free agents, right? And, based on the evidence, he's been mediocre in the draft. So what you're saying is that given Gibbs' preference for veterans and Snyder's willingness to spend for FAs, we should just punt the draft altogether?

I disagree with you. If you're going to draft -- and the Skins have drafted 31 players in Vinny's five drafts, not counting this year -- why not do it well?

I think you've misunderstood my point. My statements were not to suggest that the draft should be ignored altogether, or that the Skins do not need to be successfull in the draft. My main point of emphasis was that Vinny's performance as vice president of football operations cannot be judged by the results of the draft alone seeing as his duties extend far beyond the draft.

You're more than entitled to proclaim that he is inept when it comes to making draft selections (and most wouldn't disagree), however I feel his track record for free agent signings speaks for itself.

You're saying it's ok that we're lousy at drafting because we're good at buying free agents.
So what you're saying is that given Gibbs' preference for veterans and Snyder's willingness to spend for FAs, we should just punt the draft altogether?

I've said no such things. I believe the draft is an excellent means in which to inject youthful talent into a team, but more importantly to acquire depth and improve special teams. I tend to agree with you that the Skins' selections prior to Gibbs' return have left A LOT to be desired. I also agree with you in that the Skins should maximize their ROI when it comes to the draft.

As I've previously mentioned, any team that doesn't expend every resource available in order to improve their football team is in essence cheating the fans. That includes the draft. However, I do not have a problem with trading draft picks for experienced players so long as they meet certain criteria. We have the resources (money) to do it and it minimizes the risk.

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Look guys, Cerrato is VP of football operations and nothing more. Joe Gibbs is the GM of the team and has the final say-so over personnel decisions and the like. Don Warren is one of the scouts for the team now and that was Gibbs choice. I seriously do not think this staff does anything that it does not approve or disapprove. The draft picks have been fine for what we needed at the time since Gibbs has been back. They also have agreed that FA works to fill needs rather then signing unproven players big bucks from the draft. Cerrato would not be here if he wasn't fulfilling the needs for the coaching staff period! Some of you think you're smarter then the coaches for christ sake and the cold, hard truth is you're not! My suggestion is listen and learn or else pick a new team.

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Funny... how in the world did you conclude that it was Joe Gibbs that found those guys? Didn't he have a GM at the time? Got any evidence to support this assertion?

How can you conclude that Joe didn't find those guys? Do you have any evidence to suggest that Beathard found them alone? Don't you find it hard to believe that someone so detailed oriented as Joe Gibbs would simply defer ALL player personnel issues to someone else, GM or no GM.

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The Skins are clearly on the right track. In any case, Joe Gibbs could take average players and take them to the playoffs -- hell, he took scabs and beat the Cowboys starters -- so there's no "fire."

But there is a weakness in this organization. While the team, overall, is "working", the draft is clearly not working. You don't just let weaknesses fester, and you don't make excuses for them just because you've got strengths in other areas. You fix them.

Imagine if you had all the same free agents -- but you also had just one or two starters from those 18 wasted picks? Wouldn't the squd be better? Imagine this team with just one more reliable backup guard, or just one more DB, or just one more LB.

You say you recognized that "we can do better than Vinny" back when the Skins were doormats. Don't you realize that nothing has changed? The Skins are in an enviable position: they can fix this problem now, while there's no fire. You fix the roof when the sun is shining, my friend. That's why it's important to do it now.

Hmm. As a wise man once said ... if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

In the Snyder/Cerrato years pre-Gibbs, this team was thrashing about looking for an identity, with a patchwork of players suited for and brought in under wildly differing regimes, subject to wildly different philosophies. I'm not convinced ANY GM could fare very well under those circumstances. Today, that's not the case. The Redskins today are drafting (setting aside picks used in FA) specific kinds of players with specific kinds of skill sets to fill specific, well-defined roles. Many of them on special teams and for depth. That's not a luxury they had during the revolving door years.

You flatly assert that "the draft is clearly not working" ... I counter with, 1) it's far to soon to judge the Gibbs drafts anyway, and far more importantly, 2) if you're going to assess them anyway, it's wrong to consider them in a vacuum given their key role in the successes in FA, plus the fact that the overall formula is clearly working.

Could it be we're simply having the half full/half empty debate here? :)

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Hmm. As a wise man once said ... if it ain't broke, don't fix it.

You just said you'd concluded during the ugly years that it was broken. Gibbs comes along and succeeds despite the FO, not because of it, and all of a sudden it's not broken anymore?

You're not really defending the way this team has drafted, however. You know all signs point back to ol' Vinny.

But Vinny's not going anywhere. And Joe wants a weak guy in the FO -- that just guarantees that he's got all the control.

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I understand what Madd is saying here. By and large our drafts have not yielded anyone special compared to teams that do draft well.

However, this can be attributed to many factors, not just Cerrato.

One factor is the fact that our coaching has been in disarray since Gibbs left in 1992. It's the organizations responsibility (coaching staff)to train each and every new player on Redskins football and what we expect of them. Changing that year in and year out is not a productive way to build a champion. It's arguable that the Arrington situation would have turned out differently if our current staff had drafted or traded for him. Continuity is very important.

Also, we really haven't had a "system" here in many years. Gibbs return has brought the foundation and winning attitude we've been missing, but the years preceding that we drafted and signed based on college performance and NFL notoriety. Basically we ended up with a melting pot of different players with no real direction and no real system to fit them in to.

Another area of blame is clearly Snyder. I promise you he'll be the first to admit it, too. He came into this fray a marketing genius and a football nobody. Since then he has burned money on Deion, Jeff George, Trotter, etc, etc. Once again goes back to finding players to work in a succesful system which we did not have.

One thing I will say, inmate, is that I think what the Skins are currently doing is showing the world that you don't have to build through the draft to have a winner. Draft picks can be leveraged on trades for younger players who did not fit their respective teams, and also for draft day trades to take guys that fit what we want to do. If and when we win a Super Bowl you'll see many teams doing things this way. Until then we'll just be the over spenders who draft poorly and sign big names in free agency. Reputations can change, you know....

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As usual, I agree with MRMADD. Cerrato's drafting record speaks for itself. There have been more "huh?" picks than I can remember. And I won't criticize a pick like the Jacobs pick, which was universally considered a great value pick, but in hindsight looks questionable. I probably would have made the same pick, as would most draft experts and fans alike. But picks like Cliff Russell, Mookie Moore, Quincy Sanders, Manuel Wright, Lloyd Harrison, and then Reed Doughty in this most recent draft are extraordinarily bad picks. And players like Betts were true reaches, although he has panned out pretty well, all in all.

I think recently we've been extremely good at signing established free agent talents. Perhaps better than any other team over the last 3 seasons. But our drafting is consistently poor in rounds 3-7 (Cooley was a 2nd rounder in reality). This needs to change if we want to continue the progress we've made under Gibbs into the post-Gibbs era. He has righted the ship, but in order to keep it sailing in the right direction we need a front office that can evaluate drafted talent better than it has, historically. :2cents:

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You just said you'd concluded during the ugly years that it was broken. Gibbs comes along and succeeds despite the FO, not because of it, and all of a sudden it's not broken anymore?

You're proceeding from a false assumption, my friend. There is no evidence to support your contention that Gibbs is succeeding "despite the FO." The Redskins are succeeding because they've found a formula that works, and Cerrato's a part of it. Teams succeed when the entire organization gets in sync, from the owner on down to the ball boy. Is Gibbs the straw stirring the drink? Yes. But the parts ALL have to work for the drink to taste good.

The best martini in the world is still be nasty if the olive is rotten. :)

You're not really defending the way this team has drafted, however. You know all signs point back to ol' Vinny.

I disagree. Which is why I posted the transcript above from the Vinny chat we did, which does as good a job of describing his actual role as anything we've seen. There have been any number of other chats/articles/discussions that do so as well. To me, "all signs" point to a personnel system that is working beautifully, and Joe Gibbs is more than happy with Vinny Cerrato's work in the capacity he's been given. And whether or not it's working is not at issue any more.

But Vinny's not going anywhere. And Joe wants a weak guy in the FO -- that just guarantees that he's got all the control.

That's just argumentative. Got any evidence?

I do---the contrary: Al Saunders. :)

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As usual, I agree with MRMADD. Cerrato's drafting record speaks for itself. There have been more "huh?" picks than I can remember. And I won't criticize a pick like the Jacobs pick, which was universally considered a great value pick, but in hindsight looks questionable. I probably would have made the same pick, as would most draft experts and fans alike. But picks like Cliff Russell, Mookie Moore, Quincy Sanders, Manuel Wright, Lloyd Harrison, and then Reed Doughty in this most recent draft are extraordinarily bad picks. And players like Betts were true reaches, although he has panned out pretty well, all in all.

The jury is most certainly still out on Wright, and are you basing the fact that because Doughty played I-AA ball that he was a terrible pick? Charles Haley played I-AA and he turned out to be pretty decent. To suggest a pick is extraordinarily bad without ever seeing the particular individual play a single down is ludicrous.

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Cerrato would not be here if he wasn't fulfilling the needs for the coaching staff period! Some of you think you're smarter then the coaches for christ sake and the cold, hard truth is you're not! My suggestion is listen and learn or else pick a new team.

This observation/rant isn't helping anyone. It adds nothing to the discussion but a demeaning insult. We aren't questioning the coaching staff at all, anyways. But we would have every right to do so as a fan.

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There's a different point of view between a coach's view of a prospect and a scouts view. The problem with coaches is a lot of the time they'll look a kid's raw talent and they'll get the notion "I can mold him into something great." It's that ego that can get them in trouble. For years the Bengals scouting department was the smallest in the league (maybe 2 guys). They used mainly their coaching staff as scouts and they were the worst franchise in sports for over a decade until Marvin came in and got the owner to put some money into their scouting department. The scouts see these kids playing back in the fall when the coaches are busy with their season. I've read where Ozzie Newsome said the Ravens grade prospects mainly on what they saw in the fall, more so then late season bowl games and pro-day workouts. So it's nice that Byner and Blache say they think a guy fits, but the scouts should be the over riding voice in Gibbs head because they pick these kids down to the bone. So if the Skins continue to get little to nothing out of the 2nd day of the draft it's either because Cerrato's staff isn't very good or Gibbs is listening to his coaches too much.

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"I'm curious, MADD. At what point does the fact the what the Redskins are doing is clearly working enter into the equation? The "we can do better than Vinny" line of thinking was a whole lot easier to understand and support 3 or 4 years ago (hell, I made it too back then). Today though, the team is coming off a successful playoff season and by almost any reasoning is entering THIS season as a legititmate contender.

Where's the fire?"

brother OM...you are stretching things somewhat......the Skins had to mount a no-holes barred push at the end of the season in order to connect the dots (i.e., they had to make up for a pretty mediocre stretch in the second third of the season). improvement? yes. a smoothly functioning team that dominated the competition? emphatically no. new season this time around. we'll see if our improvements outweigh those of the competition - that's half the fun!

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Funny... how in the world did you conclude that it was Joe Gibbs that found those guys? Didn't he have a GM at the time? Got any evidence to support this assertion?

Actually in Joe Gibbs 1st go around he had 2 different guys with the title of GM. - Bethard and Casserely both essentially had the same purpose as Vinny does now, except Vinny carries a different title.

The whole reason Bethard wanted out of here was because Gibbs decisions would always win out, so he wasn't a true GM in the sense that he was THE man in charge. - San Diego was willing to give him that role (because of his hand in our success). He had a nice, short run of success in San Diego by bringing the University of Maryland's coaching staff (Bobby Ross, Ralph Freidgen, etc) and some old Redskins (Humphries) along with him. - Bethard then proceeded to piss off Ross, so Ross quit. Then Bethard proceeded to make bad move after bad move. Because? .....he didn't have a strong coach to partner with.

In Vinny's time here working with Spurrier, you can certainly point to the lack of success in drafting hindsight, but the point is he did his job in scouting the players that fit the description of who the coaches were asking for. - In 2002 Marvin Lewis had a hand in Rashad Bauman (who now plays for Lewis in Cincy) and Andre Lott, not to mention bringing in Darryl Gardner. - Our offensive aquisitions in Spurriers years mostly sucked, because it seems to me Spurrier's criteria for wide receivers, TE's and QB's was not very detailed, therefore the players Spurrier chose weren't scrutinized very much.

The point is, a good personnel guy, whether he be called a GM or VP or whatever, is only as going to be successful with a good coach. - Do you think Scott Piole would be successful if Norv Turner or Dave Campo was his coach? Ron Wolf with Rick Kotite?

At the same time a good coach needs strong personnel men as well. - The Coach and the personnel guy is a team in itself, just like you need a good receiver to catch a pass from your franchise QB.

Bethards greatest success came working with Gibbs.

Casserley's greatest success came working with Gibbs. (He had good drafts with Gibbs and how many 1st round busts with Norv?)

Cerrato is having more success in his job working with Gibbs.

Joe Gibbs is a loyal man, but he is also not too proud or stubborn to know if someone isn't doing their job. - If Vinny wasn't producing the way he wanted him to or was inadeqaute in his job enough that it hurt the Redskins, I trust that Joe would replace him.

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Bethards greatest success came working with Gibbs.

Casserley's greatest success came working with Gibbs.

Cerrato is having more success in his job working with Gibbs.

I suspect a monkey would look pretty good working alongside Gibbs. I just wish -- and I know this is pure fantasy -- that Joe had someone as good as him doing the scouting and evaluation for him while Joe focuses on coaching.

I think it's a mistake to assume Cerrato is having more success with Gibbs -- it could just be, after all, that Gibbs is doing his job for him. Maybe Vinny is the same ol' Vinny, but Joe just makes him look good.

Also, I don't know that you can declare the drafts since Joe got back an unqualified success, either. Still some headscratchers in there. Reed Doughty is one that really could provide the proof: he's the one guy that we know the coaches didn't meet with before the draft. Had to be Vinny's pick, right?

So there's our answer: I don't really expect Doughty to make the squad, despite having no competition at backup safety. If he can actually play despite every independent scouting service panning him, then Vinny must have done something right, didn't he? I know it's unfair and kinda silly to pin it all on one player, but this is the least ambiguous situation we've got. Any Vinny-lovers care to place a little bet? Are you willing to back your faith in Vinny with a little friendly wager? I'm game.

I'll bet that Reed Doughty doesn't make the active roster. Anyone care to bet that he does? This is a good bet for you -- the Skins have no depth in the defensive backfield -- they need him to step up. He's got every chance in the world. And the bet? Loser changes his handle to Mrs. Cerrato for a month. Who's in? Everybody's welcome!

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cannot agree more.....When we drafted Brian Mitchell, did anyone know who he was? Then there's Raleigh Mackenzie, Monte Coleman, Mark Murphy...the list goes on and on. Joe Gibbs knows talent...everyone does. The difference is that Joe, most times, sees what others don't.

Funny... how in the world did you conclude that it was Joe Gibbs that found those guys? Didn't he have a GM at the time? Got any evidence to support this assertion?

I am sure that back in the day, Joe had the final decision on personel...Beathard and Casserly found the talent-Joe found the heart and the desire.

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Actually in Joe Gibbs 1st go around he had 2 different guys with the title of GM. - Bethard and Casserely both essentially had the same purpose as Vinny does now, except Vinny carries a different title.

The whole reason Bethard wanted out of here was because Gibbs decisions would always win out, so he wasn't a true GM in the sense that he was THE man in charge. - San Diego was willing to give him that role (because of his hand in our success). He had a nice, short run of success in San Diego by bringing the University of Maryland's coaching staff (Bobby Ross, Ralph Freidgen, etc) and some old Redskins (Humphries) along with him. - Bethard then proceeded to piss off Ross, so Ross quit. Then Bethard proceeded to make bad move after bad move. Because? .....he didn't have a strong coach to partner with.

In Vinny's time here working with Spurrier, you can certainly point to the lack of success in drafting hindsight, but the point is he did his job in scouting the players that fit the description of who the coaches were asking for. - In 2002 Marvin Lewis had a hand in Rashad Bauman (who now plays for Lewis in Cincy) and Andre Lott, not to mention bringing in Darryl Gardner. - Our offensive aquisitions in Spurriers years mostly sucked, because it seems to me Spurrier's criteria for wide receivers, TE's and QB's was not very detailed, therefore the players Spurrier chose weren't scrutinized very much.

The point is, a good personnel guy, whether he be called a GM or VP or whatever, is only as going to be successful with a good coach. - Do you think Scott Piole would be successful if Norv Turner or Dave Campo was his coach? Ron Wolf with Rick Kotite?

At the same time a good coach needs strong personnel men as well. - The Coach and the personnel guy is a team in itself, just like you need a good receiver to catch a pass from your franchise QB.

Bethards greatest success came working with Gibbs.

Casserley's greatest success came working with Gibbs. (He had good drafts with Gibbs and how many 1st round busts with Norv?)

Cerrato is having more success in his job working with Gibbs.

Joe Gibbs is a loyal man, but he is also not too proud or stubborn to know if someone isn't doing their job. - If Vinny wasn't producing the way he wanted him to or was inadeqaute in his job enough that it hurt the Redskins, I trust that Joe would replace him.

I thought the Skins drafting went downhill after Bethard. Yeah, the Skins won another SB with the talent Gibbs and Bethard brought in, but once those guys got old and Gibbs retired the Skins went downhill because those drafts without Bethard didn't produce.

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"I'm curious, MADD. At what point does the fact the what the Redskins are doing is clearly working enter into the equation? The "we can do better than Vinny" line of thinking was a whole lot easier to understand and support 3 or 4 years ago (hell, I made it too back then). Today though, the team is coming off a successful playoff season and by almost any reasoning is entering THIS season as a legititmate contender.

Where's the fire?"

brother OM...you are stretching things somewhat......the Skins had to mount a no-holes barred push at the end of the season in order to connect the dots (i.e., they had to make up for a pretty mediocre stretch in the second third of the season). improvement? yes. a smoothly functioning team that dominated the competition? emphatically no. new season this time around. we'll see if our improvements outweigh those of the competition - that's half the fun!

Not sure I know what you're saying here. That somehow coming up big in December when good teams hit their stride, storming through their divional foes (that had owned them for several years), into the playoffs and within a whisker of the conference championship game is somehow diminished by some struggles midseason? During a time, I believe, when the defense was depleted without Griffin and a couple others?

You're big on empirical evidence, brother Al. It's pretty hard to look at the way the last two seasons have gone, culminating in how LAST season ended, and conclude anything other than this is a team headed very much in the right direction. Which goes, ultimately, to the point I'm trying to make in context of Cerrato bashing. He's PART of that success. Regardless of what's come before, what he's contributing now, clearly, is helping. Do we really still doubt that Gibbs would push for change if he truly thought otherwise?

And have we really lost sight of just how far we've come in two seasons?

As to the "fun" part, you're spot on. It's going to be fun indeed. :)

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