RICHMOND, Va. -- The players arrived with new contracts, big reputations and a habit of winning. That last trait was part of their draw.
The question is, can that quality rub off on the Washington Redskins -- and if so, how long will it take? The Redskins hoped Ryan Clark's background would help in this regard, too. The problem is, one player can’t change a culture or develop a group's mindset.
But this offseason, the Redskins signed several defensive players who have played in championship games: corner Chris Culliver, safety Dashon Goldson and nose tackle Terrance Knighton. End Stephen Paea hasn't been in a championship game, but he plays with a mindset that mirrors those who have: smart, disciplined.
It matters, but how much? It’s a question Culliver answered Sunday -- and I liked what he said. “You can’t just bring it in,” Culliver said. “It’s a repetition thing. You have to be out there every day. You have to be out there. It’s not just you wake up out the bed and just get to hop out and everything’s perfect.”
Do not assume a winning mindset will rub off; it needs to develop naturally. It needs to develop by paying attention to those who won. Otherwise, all you’ve done is add several players who will ultimately get frustrated by what’s not happening. Players who have won know you don’t do so just by showing up with a ring and a reputation.
In 2000, when the Redskins signed big-name free agents who had also won (Bruce Smith, Deion Sanders, etc.), they hoped they were bringing in the final pieces. At 6-2, they looked great -- only to finish 8-8 that season. Afterward, fullback Larry Centers was asked about how the chemistry had really seemed to be there. Chemistry is part of winning, so it mattered. His response: You don’t know what sort of chemistry you have until you get punched in the mouth. The Redskins got punched and didn’t respond.
“You’re going to have some busted coverages,” Culliver said. “You’re going to have some people being upset about this or upset about that. So you just have to come together, communicate, and just work on it together. That’s how you start becoming good and start to get better, once the communication and everything is good across the board, sometimes it’s kind of hard to beat.”
That said, it’s always good to add players who have won. What the Redskins need to do is develop a core of players who have won in Washington, not elsewhere. Can they do so?
“It’s hard to win, it’s hard to win in this business,” Culliver said. “It’s kind of like a saying Coach [Jim] Harbaugh used to say, ‘Everything pretty much has to go perfect for us to win the game.’ And if it do, it do. You know, if it’s a tight game about two points, three games, and if it goes in our favor, then it does.”
This is the value of adding these players. They have the wisdom of knowing what it takes to win games.
“Being a vet and winning and things like that, you definitely have experience,” Culliver said. “Just giving the guys the outlooks and just the breaking down -- I can go on and on. You’re doing good early in the first quarter or something like that, but you know, just because you did good early in the first quarter, the game’s not over. You have got to keep competing, keep being patient, keep obviously focused and using your technique and things like that. Just keep working, you know?”
It’s good advice. It’s what the Redskins need to hear. The toughest part for them will be what comes next: the actual winning.