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Need to Know: Redskins culture change will take time

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 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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In case you missed it

  1. abanig - Jun 12, 2015 at 6:27 AM

    Wasn’t Shanahan going to change the culture too?

    I like the talk, but I’ll believe it when I see it.

    I like the guys McCloughan has brought in, but his drafts and free agent classes must pan out for 3 or 4 years to totally change the culture.

    • bob - Jun 12, 2015 at 4:17 PM

      So true. NFL. network has show about dynasty teams.Steelers in 70s, niners, skins, giants in 80s, cowboys in 90s, patriots in 2000s. All of them had good drafts 2 or 3 years in row. Some were great. None of our draft picks need be great. Just contribute.

    • Jason H. - Jun 12, 2015 at 6:55 PM

      Indeed, every person that comes in here says they’re going to change the culture.

  2. colorofmyskinz - Jun 12, 2015 at 7:26 AM

    This is precisely why I was calling for an entire defense front line change all last year. Baker and this bonehead manuaver exemplify the identy of our front 4 Dline last year.

    Thank God for Scot M. We have a real chance to change the culture with him on board.

    Strength and conditioning coach has made a difference as well as far as many players report.

    We have a chance as long as SNYDER continues to stay out of it.

  3. skinsgame - Jun 12, 2015 at 7:39 AM

    Every time Baker opens his mouth, I like him less than I did before. He went from a mid season add on, hard working, long shot to an arrogant, loud mouthed distraction. Scoreboard, Chris.

  4. hk2000 - Jun 12, 2015 at 8:21 AM

    Very good article Rich, thanks.

  5. troylok - Jun 12, 2015 at 8:47 AM

    I think it’s okay to enjoy the moment, but I think you have to earn that right. If the Redskins were dominating everyone would just laugh off Baker’s goof, but because they are a defense that has not been very good, they should keep it down until the wins start coming. Baker is a solid player. He can move guys on the line and is pretty quick on his feet for a big man. I don’t hate on him for one bone headed play, but I don’t think he should be celebrating unless his team checks it off in the win column and Baker himself has double digit sacks.

  6. berniebernard666 - Jun 12, 2015 at 8:49 AM

    Big changes already have occurred with the Redskins. THAT is the first thing some of you must realize. Articles like this dig up old wounds and cause a lot of bad emotions and hate to be stirred up AGAIN. I see several of you who would prefer to get rid of Baker as a result of that dancing over the fumble incident, and I can’t blame you.

    However…..with that said…I remember when Leon Lett made a big mistake in Dallas that cost them a game by touching a punt that was rolling on the ground. Jimmy Johnson stood by him because it was just a MISTAKE. Lett learned from that mistake and ended up being a great player on their SB teams. Hopefully Baker will take things more seriously…..and if not…..he won’t be here next season. That much we know from the way Scott M operates.

    • sidepull - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:25 AM

      Agreed. Yesterday was an article on changing the identity, today the culture, tomorrow, the name, the coach, and the list goes on. Winning will fix everything. They do that then everything else, including Baker not finishing the paly before dancing, doesn’t look so bad. Nothing looks good when you spend years in a basement.

      And even tho JJ stuck up for Lett that has to be one of the all time most memorable fups of all time. I know Lett was a really good player yet I cannot vividly recall any of his great plays. I never will forget that one bad play he made.

    • skinsgame - Jun 13, 2015 at 1:54 PM

      I don’t think anyone is calling for Bakers job just yet but this is hardly an “old wound”. That game was just last December.

      • abanig - Jun 13, 2015 at 2:13 PM

        The thing is the Skins were hoping that Baker would take the next step and prove worthy of being a starter last year, Baker didn’t live up to expectations.

        So, that’s why the Skins signed 3 new free agent DL because they only see Baker as a back up.

        Baker will make the team but, he went from being in position to win a starting job in a competition with Jarvis Jenkins last year to being the 5th defensive lineman on the depth chart in that matter of one season.

  7. cowboyhater - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:16 AM

    This is what has embarrassed so many skins fans over the years. It’s funny how the fans over the years seemed to care more about the lack of focus, and attention with this team then the front office!! The culture change has always been with the fans….now it’s time for the skins organization to be disciplined to have that same focus.

  8. gonavybeatarmy - Jun 12, 2015 at 9:30 AM

    Culture, character and consistent and unwavering message are central to the long-term success of any organization. It’s very early but McCloughan has the gravitas and track record to change the culture of this poorly run organization as long as ownership doesn’t undermine him.

    It’s very early but telling, in my opinion, that there’s been a palpable elimination of self-serving leaks, a staple of this poorly run organization. I have to wonder if that’s a function of McCloughan’s leadership, Hazlett’s exit or both. Regardless, the trend with this organization is that the leaks generally start when things go badly. This will be something to watch if the team is 2-6 at the break.

    As for Baker, he’s just a guy and hardly worth coddling. But he has become a marketing gimmick for the team. Team employee Larry Michael promotes him constantly as do the 4-7 pm show on the radio station owned by the team owner. Belichik would have cut or benched his a$$ even if it was a playoff game. Look at how he dealt with Butler for being late, the player who won him a Super Bowl.

    Hopeful because of McCloughan; skeptical because of the owner.

  9. bangkokben - Jun 12, 2015 at 10:25 AM

    Chalk me up as one who doesn’t give a flip about the culture. Sure, I want the team to care whether they win or lose and compete as if their lives depend on it but by and large we have had a team that gives effort. What we haven’t had is a team that wins consistently and maybe there is a loser mentality but there are so few holdovers from previous regimes due to system and change that it takes time. Shanahan had his shot at changing the culture and he did. Gibbs always said, “we’re all in this together.” In other words, win or lose it’s the whole team. Shanahan always had a scapegoat for why the team didn’t win. It was the kicker not getting height on his kicks allowing them to get blocked, it was the special teams woes, it was the defense not getting turnovers, it was Haynesworth ‘looking me in the eye’ and taking the money, it was the salary cap penalty, it was the diva quarterback, it was the interference of the owner. The list goes on and on. Shanahan wanted people to be accountable but subversively got his message out through press conferences or Adam Schefter therefore pitting those in the organization against each other. Shanahan gone. GM hired. Culture changed. Now it’s a matter of time.

  10. mr.moneylover - Jun 12, 2015 at 10:39 AM

    Redskins been holding dead weight on they team for years like keeping josh wilson,josh morgan,and EJ biggers over talented college players….this year if they plan on changing the culture they must find and keep college players thats talented not get rid of them all because you have a vet thats taking up a spot already…it was non sense that they cut rashad ross last year after he had a very strong pre-season and I said these coaches dont know talent players even if they see them with glasses on and lucky they was able to get him back off of Chicago practice squad….redskins have got to stop letting talent players walk out the door sometimes its worth cutting a vet player even if the team salary cap might take a hit because if you found a college player who can do the vet job better then why not its a win win situation…keeping washed up vets not worth having back to back losing season…college players hungary to show what they can do and they wanna prove they can play in the NFL level…some vets get they money and get lazy

    • mr.moneylover - Jun 12, 2015 at 10:49 AM

      Player development will play a huge role in the culture change…if the players not getting the coaches message then scot m. will go get his coach…these are not his players except the ones he drafted this year but also this is not his coaching staff he put together also…this team gotta improve if jay gruden want to keep his head coach job…never understand why jay gruden covering wide receivers in practice when the DBs need that kinda work unless its a rule I dont know about

      • Adam - Jun 16, 2015 at 11:12 PM

        Maybe because he wanted to show how it supposed to be done

        • abanig - Jun 17, 2015 at 5:52 AM

          Nah, more like the Gruden family disease of impatience with a developing young QB. Gruden’s don’t like developing young qbs, they like playing with developed qbs. Chris Simms was moved in and out as a starter a decade ago because John Gruden didn’t have patience with him. Now Jay Gruden is doing the same thing with Kirk Cousins first – benching him when IMO he should have waited till after the game at the least and with Griffin.

          Inserting Colt McCoy to play vs the Rams and get crushed by their front 7 and watch the Redskins have their worst offensive output of the season did nothing to help develop Griffin.

    • abanig - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:30 AM

      Guys like Rashard Ross were not going to make a difference. The Redskins generally keep all their draft picks, at worst their late round draft picks are kept on the practice squad.

      The important thing is players like Breeland and Grant made the team and showed a lot of potential to be good players for us for years to come.

      I hate Biggers, but there wasn’t anyone better unfortunately. When Hall & Portee got hurt it really hurt our secondary more than most fans realize.

      Don’t even bring up that Minifield should have played instead because I’m tired of hearing his name, he’s like Colt Brennan everyone thinks he’s great but the guy never did a damn thing.

      • ET - Jun 12, 2015 at 12:35 PM

        Mr. Moneylover has a good point. In previous years, the Skins held on to sad-sacks like Biggers for much too long. The question shouldn’t be: Who else could fill in with Hall and Porter down? It should be: Why was the team in a position where a marginal player like Biggers is the best available option?

        Granted, every weak position can’t be overhauled at once, but this was a known issue for more than one season. The Porter signing compounded the problem. Hazlett in particular seemed to stick with a known player for too long.

        • abanig - Jun 12, 2015 at 1:27 PM

          You’re missing my point, before the injuries to Hall & Porter, Biggers was the 5th corner.

          Biggers as a 5th corner and your 4th safety off the bench is fine and that’s what he was going into the season.

          Injuries happened and he had to be the nickel corner, this was not by design. This was very unfortunate.

          I’m also curious why he loves Rashard Ross. Rashard Ross was the Marko Mitchell of the 2014 preseason. He feasted on Dbs who had no hopes of making an nfl roster.

          That doesn’t mean he was better than Roberts, Moss or Grant.

          Is also say we did keep Ross. We signed him to the practice squad initially, but the Bears eventually gave him a better offer and he left.

          If Ross has all this promise, why did the Bears not keep him this offseason? Why were the redskins able to re-sign him?

          The truth is Rashard Ross is camp fodder. He isn’t going to make the team over Crowder, Grant or Spencer.

        • bangkokben - Jun 12, 2015 at 2:44 PM

          Your damned if you do damned if you don’t. Haslet had Bacarri Rambo and Phillip Thomas slated as starting safeties in 2013. Thomas got injured and Rambo loved to tell the media how he became burnt toast after games. Those guys were not known players. Rambo made Madieu Williams look like Sean Taylor – okay that is hyperbole but you get my point. Sometimes a known Ryan Clark is better than an ‘unknown’ Thomas. (Unknown to us but not to those on the inside of the building.) Here is where every fan thinks so-and-so is gamer and just needs a chance. Boo-hoo. If you’re a professional show up at practice and show up in pre-season.

        • ET - Jun 13, 2015 at 8:53 AM

          Hah, I wasn’t defending the Rashad Ross portion of the comment :)

  11. Redskins_USA's Team - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:44 AM

    I put zero stock in the “culture change” talk. We’ve heard it way too many times before.

    That being said, things appear to be moving in the right direction. One year or more ago, had the announcement of Mathis being released been made, we would have thrown a huge contract at him. Not gonna happen under Scoty–at least not a ridiculous contract. If Mathis was willing to take a pay cut, hey come holla at us! :)

    The biggest change that had to happen was how we were doing business as an organization–so it had to happen at the management + level. That singlehandedly was the biggest change that had to happen. The partnership between HC and GM seems strong–I bet there are/were some differences in opinion, but we’re hearing and seeing positive things, which tells me they are working extremely well together and are obviously setting legitimate attainable goals besides “let’s not suck” and acting rash.

  12. mr.moneylover - Jun 12, 2015 at 2:16 PM

    The year before they cut WR chip kelly for a vet that stop playing in the NFL a year after…I think his name was WR greg gregory….but my point is cutting talent players for washed up vets is not the way to build a great team…theres no way deangleo hall should’ve only been the #1 CB as many years as he been they finally got 3 #1 CB along with tevin Mitchell…reporters have to read in between the lines when it came to David amerson…what I took from what he said was hes a pro like the rest who tryna get better jay gruden didnt say david amerson has majority improve and that he should have a big year he actually brought up the guys in front of him witch is deangleo hall , breeland and chris culliver david amerson gotta battle this summer for a backup job…it cant be nomore dead weight on this team nomore…scot m. Sent a message when he cut tracy porter and Chris chester….you not my guys and if you not doing your job at a high level you are gone

    • abanig - Jun 12, 2015 at 2:23 PM

      Never heard of that WR. Since he went to the Eagles, what did he do during the season?

      • mr.moneylover - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:15 PM

        He came in around the same time hanesworth came to the team…but he was average wide receiver at best…let me give another example…mike shanahan drafted WR devin thomas instead of developing him they cut him and let him go to the giants were he had more success then what he did when he was with the redskins ….if these coaches cant develope these rookies then this team will fail…like martell spaights and preston smith got alot of upside if they cant atleast play at a high level or make progress in they game by the middle or the end of season then coaches not doing they job

        • abanig - Jun 13, 2015 at 12:13 AM

          Get your facts straight. Devin Thomas, Fred Davis & Malcolm Kelly were drafted in 08 by Vinny Cerrato. That’d be two years before Shanahan signed with the Redskins

  13. mr.moneylover - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:18 PM

    Im just crossing my fingers that perry Riley dont be a starter week 1 hes on the dead weight list I would rather see will compton or somebody else play next to keenan Robinson

    • mr.moneylover - Jun 12, 2015 at 11:28 PM

      When he was a free agent perry Riley was rank was a C- by former scouts and GMs they said hes not that good hes a average LB but he know the defense playbook and it’s important for the redskins to pick him up since London fletcher retired…redskins sign Perry riley last year only because london fletcher retired and he was use to jim hasslet defense…this is the stupid mindset redskins had for years…and the Arizona cardinals aint put andre roberts at third wide receiver postion for nothing it was because a rookie wide receiver came in and did his job better then him and he was getting mad cause he wasnt getting the ball that much

  14. kenlinkins - Jun 13, 2015 at 5:25 PM

    Do not confuse Culture with Leadership. All leaders start with themselves, you do not have to be a Boss or in charge of anything to become a leader. The sad truth is that the Redskins have to many followers of poor leadership. Be it a coaching staff that leaks to media, a GM/ President who doesn’t know talent, to a owner who thinks money can buy Super Bowls or players more concerned with getting to the bar for Happy Hour. Culture is a out growth of leadership. Until the Redskins have true leadership again the Culture will be all over the place as some will try and market themselves for their own betterment. (i.e. see Bakers dance and wanting Hard Knocks to get it on tape for TV). My hope is that the new GM has started the process and the players with leadership take over the locker room and stamp out self promoting and short cut taking. And until I read that the players parking lot is full at 8PM and hear players complain that they can not get a tape unit to study will I believe that anything is changed! If I was a player today I would want to be signed by the Redskins because a little bit of talent and hard work would shot me to a starting position. The only Culture I have seen from this team for the past 10 years is LAZY! (i.e. The Eagles of times gone by)! (1967 to 1977).

    • kenlinkins - Jun 13, 2015 at 5:35 PM

      IMO great cultures: “Play like a Champ today” “We are SC” “Fear the Turtle” or “Just Win Baby” and being able to back it up more times than not!

    • abanig - Jun 13, 2015 at 7:51 PM

      Parking lot will never be full at 8 pm as long as me-jax is on their roster. Archives

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