Jun 12, 2015, 5:25 AM EDT
Here is what you need to know on this Friday, June 12, 4 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.
Question of the day
A few days a week I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.
I’ll also take your Need to Know questions via email. Hit me up firstname.lastname@example.org with “NTK” in the subject line. Just keep them relatively brief, please.
Today’s question is from Twitter:
There has been plenty of talk about a culture change around Redskins Park. That’s not uncommon for a team that has finished in last place six of the last seven years.
We’ve heard talk of culture change and similar concepts before at Redskins Park but by December that has all gone the way of the more aggressive “unleashed” defenses we have been promised over the years. Sweet sounding talk in the spring and summer tends to become vaporware when the games start counting.
The Redskins may or may not develop a winning culture. But if they don’t it won’t be because Chris “Swaggy” Baker would get a kick out of a moment on HBO’s Hard Knocks. A winning culture can incorporate characters. The Patriots can win despite Gronk’s self-promotion and other antics. In Joe Gibbs’ first era they had John Riggins and the Hogs not quite fitting the standard mold. Gibbs II made the playoffs twice and had characters like Fred Smoot and Clinton Portis.
The Redskins won’t win or lose because Baker hopes that the HBO cameras capture his dance. But they will win or lose based on whether or not Baker does things like this again:
This picture is from the second quarter of the Redskins’ game against the Rams last December. Ryan Kerrigan sacked quarterback Shaun Hill, forcing a fumble. Baker celebrated the sack while paying no attention to the ball that had squirted past him and was loose on the ground behind him (the ball is just to the left of the goal post on the edge of the hash mark).
While concentration during preparation is important, finishing plays is vital. Baker can have all of the dance-offs he wants to during the week as long as he plays through the whistle and doesn’t celebrate prematurely and fail to make an important play.
The question that Jay Gruden and Scot McCloughan have to ponder is whether or not a player like Baker, who likes to have fun, can be the kind of player who has laser focus on game days. Not every fun-loving player can take things seriously enough on the field. I have heard some veteran players wonder out loud of Baker goofs off too much. Players like Riggins and Gronk are few and far between.
A winning culture is not built overnight. It isn’t built during one set of OTA’s or one training camp. It takes some time. If Baker (or any of a number of other players who committed bonehead sins of commission and omission last year) gets through 2015 without prematurely celebrating a play then that’s fine. The test will be when a player does show a lack of focus or a lack of preparation. Are there consequences? Is the player back in 2016?
So, let’s check back in a year or so on this. If we get through 12 months and the Redskins have players who can have fun off the field while being deadly serious between the white lines on Sundays we might have a culture change starting to brew. If we see a lack of focus on the field tolerated or even rewarded with increased playing time or a new contract, things are back to square one.
—It’s been 166 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be 93 days until they play the Dolphins at FedEx Field.
—Days until: Redskins minicamp starts 4; Redskins training camp starts 48; Preseason opener @ Browns 62
If you have any questions about what’s going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I’m always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.
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