ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins have a number of issues, which is why they’re 3-6 and need a miracle finish for a second straight season to reach the playoffs. Their defense has struggled. The offense has been inconsistent. And the special teams? How much space do I have? Not enough, probably.
The area I wouldn’t say needs repair? Leadership. Which is why it was surprising to hear what Redskins Hall of Famer Darrell Green said the other day, questioning not only Robert Griffin III, but London Fletcher as well.
“I don’t know if they have a leader,” Green said on Showtime’s Inside the NFL this week.
I covered Green, respected him and his career, got along with him and still enjoy seeing him and catching up. I’ve been around Redskins teams that lacked leaders; this isn’t one of them. One player, talking privately, called those remarks, “B.S.” But he didn’t use initials. Of course, no team wants to admit they lack leaders. But until Green’s comments this wasn’t even a topic because it’s not something that was viewed in a negative light.
Now, Green has a terrific perspective as a Hall of Famer and someone who played a long time and played the right way. He led as much by example, how he took care of his body and withstood numerous changes to the staff and the game to survive as long as he did. Green still occasionally talks to players, but he's not in the building or around the team that much. That in and of itself doesn't make his comments wrong. And I certainly can see why some outside the organization can view things differently. Griffin made some P.R. missteps in the offseason and the summer with comments that could, if reading between the lines, be damaging.
But when you talk to players, they don’t question his leadership. Just the opposite. They’ll point to how he prepares and how he plays and how he’s willing to say things to the group. He doesn’t duck from the responsibilities of his position or standing on the team. There are times he won’t speak on controversial topics, though that doesn't necessarily make you a leader, and other times he might not want to admit a failing or a play he did wrong. I think he'll always need to be careful balancing the attention he receives without coming across a certain way in the locker room. But even after an offseason of attention and much focus on him, players who don't hang around him still view him as a leader.
He’s not an in-your-face guy who is going to threaten someone if they don’t play better. It’s not his style. If that’s what someone wants, they have the wrong guy.
But the players he’s with view him as a leader. They want to follow him because they also know he lives what he says about work, and that he’ll do what it takes to win. Hence the dives in traffic each of the past two games. He can improve as a leader, but he is a leader and it does not seem unnatural for him at all.
Green also said Fletcher’s age prevents him from being the sort of leader the Redskins need. Green played a long time, so he has a unique perspective and felt he was not the same leader when he was older. But again, I disagree that it means Fletcher isn’t as well. Fletcher’s play hasn’t been the same this season; I’m not breaking news with that comment. However, Green was not the same sort of leader that Fletcher has been throughout his career. Green was highly respected, no doubt. But it’s tough for corners to be true leaders. Green was never considered a coach on the field. Like Fletcher.
No player is thought of the same way by everyone in the locker room. There will be some who dislike a guy or think he’s just out for himself. It’s true of many players I’ve covered. But Fletcher remains a voice players listen to. In the end, leadership also is about making plays, and if you say that’s where Fletcher hasn’t led this season, that’s fine. But I haven’t seen or sensed a big drop-off in this area in the locker room since last season.
The Redskins do miss former special teams captain Lorenzo Alexander. But it's his play as much as anything that they miss most. Despite being 3-6, the Redskins haven’t changed their approach. What they need are more playmakers who can change their record.