The Saints did it. A franchise that rose from the depths of embarrassment, from faces hidden in the shadow of paper bags, reached the pinnacle in a few short years.
So why can't the Redskins, a team that has known glorious success, do the same?
|Dan Snyder (left) now tries to get it right with Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen. (Getty Images)|
The track might stretch longer than Washington fans would wish.
When the odds were released in Las Vegas for the 2011 Super Bowl, the Redskins came in at 50-1. The Colts were 13-2, Chargers 8-1, while both the Saints and Patriots were tagged at 10-1. It could be worse. The Lions, Raiders, Buccaneers and the Rams were all listed at 100-1.
"Washington has a structure now," said former Redskins general manager and current CBS guru Charley Casserly. "There's a plan -- with [new general manager] Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan, hopefully Dan Snyder will show patience and let the team develop."
It wasn't a particularly memorable decade for the Redskins. There were ill-advised draft picks, busted free-agent signings and grumpy ticket holders. Fans and management are tired of being middle of the pack or worse -- the Redskins just finished back-to-back seasons at the bottom of the NFC East.
Owner Dan Snyder, whose teams have gone 80-93 in his 11 years, hired a respected general manager in Allen (the son of a Redskin legend) and snagged a top-tier coach. Allen should do well dealing with the energetic Snyder, who, say what you want, isn't cheap or blasé about the game.
In eight years with the Oakland Raiders, Allen dealt with Al Davis and still organized a team that went to the Super Bowl. He and Shanahan will make a formidable team.
Their first two priorities will be quarterback and offensive line. In five years, Jason Campbell has shown that he has skills, but Shanahan must hope that Campbell's best football is ahead of him.
"I need to see more of him," said Shanahan. "I'm looking forward to it."
Shanahan explained what he wants in a quarterback, and Campbell would do well to listen up.
"I need a quarterback, No. 1, to be accurate, and No. 2, to be passionate about the game, about the preparation, the study and the execution," said Shanahan. "I've been around a lot of leaders and they do it different ways -- Joe Montana, Steve Young and John Elway. But they all had a deep desire to be the best."
Shanahan likes his quarterbacks both aggressive and fearless. And he doesn't just draft one to have one. He waits.
So what will Redskins do? Draft a quarterback in the first round and offensive linemen with the next two picks? The Redskins have the fourth pick overall, but it's highly unlikely Jimmy Clausen or Sam Bradford will last that long. So is free agency the way to go?
There is much to consider. The NFL owners and the NFL Players Association will have many meetings and anguished quotes in the next couple of weeks. The deadline for a new collective bargaining agreement is March 5.
Failing an agreement, next season will become an uncapped year, meaning there will be no limit on player salaries. Maybe the Redskins would wait.
What's out there? Campbell, a restricted free agent, had his best year statistically, but in the event that he doesn't win Shanahan's complete approval, would the 28-year-old take a one-year deal? There is Kyle Orton, Denver's restricted free agent who performed well, if not spectacularly. Matt Moore in Carolina played better than Jake Delhomme, beating the Giants, Saints and Vikings at the end of the season. It seems likely, though, that the Panthers will keep him tied up.
Then are various and nefarious free-agent quarterbacks -- David Carr, Chris Redman, Tarvaris Jackson (restricted, and waiting again on Brett Favre).
Chad Pennington might be interesting. The respected leader is coming off his second shoulder surgery and would like to start but seems destined to be a backup.
One Redskin can't wait to get started with Shanahan.
"I wish I had the playbook now," said tight-end/H-back Chris Cooley. Cooley said he'd even like it if Shanahan played two tight ends, with Fred Davis on the other side.
And then there is the defense. Shanahan said the year away from football "let me watch everything everybody's doing, on both sides of the ball."
After using the 4-3 in Denver, there is speculation Shanahan might try a 3-4. A first in Redskins history? Shanahan knows Brian Orakpo has flexibility and London Fletcher is reliable wherever he plays. Albert Haynesworth is terrifying on the line and Jeremy Jarmon has developed quickly.
"Maybe they'll use a 4-3 and a 3-4," said Theismann, smiling. "The Saints did. But whatever happens, there is finally reason for optimism if you're a Redskins fan."