The most overlooked factor surrounding the 2011 Washington Redskins is the fact it is a new regime's second season.
If that simple statement does not resonate, perhaps it should.
The team that head coach Mike Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen inherited in 2010 was, in the most generous terms, adrift. Twenty years of regime changes and organizational about-faces take a cumulative toll.
The Redskins brand, on and off the field, had faded from bold light to indistinct shadow. Beyond a wildly successful marketing machine, the franchise lacked competitive direction, identity, philosophy and any other team-oriented facet you might care to name.
Well, that may ... may ... be about to change. What we are going to see in 2011 is whether or not the new regime's unmistakable establishment of a clear guiding philosophy has begun to "take."
More excitingly, we are going to get an indication if that grossly undervalued team-sport commodity, synergy, translates into results on the field.
You remember synergy, right? Redskins fans should. They should remember, appreciate and yearn for its return more than any.
The most wildly successful teams this city has ever seen, those under Joe Gibbs I between 1981 and 1992, were less about talent on the field than they were about team. About the whole being more than the sum of the parts. About that unquantifiable collective spark true teams take on.
We have talked this entire offseason about the current roster. About offensive linemen, inside linebackers, and, naturally, the quarterback roulette wheel we have suffered here for a generation, to the point of exhaustion. It's time to step back and see the big picture.
Don't misunderstand--talent matters. But cohesion, teamwork, timing, spirit ... team ... matter every bit as much. Maybe more.
We don't know yet if Shanahan still has the magic. But we do know that he's had it before. The man isn't a future first-ballot Hall of Famer for nothing. If it is going to happen here, and Shanahan/Allen are on their way to turning the moribund, rudderless ship this franschise has been for so long around, we are going to see it sooner than later.
As in now. In Year Two.
It won't even necessarily be about the final record. The Redskins could go 6-10 again this year due to current transitionary talent levels, injury, bad luck, collective halitosis, meteor strikes, whatever ... and still be trending upward and miles better than they were last year.
It'll be kinda like a Mapplethorpe deal. We'll know it when see it.
So all I ask is this. As you analyze the roster down to subatomic levels over the coming weeks, breaking down Tweets, local news training camp footage and preseason "games," looking for clues as to where the Washington Redskins may be headed, don't forget the underlying context.
We are heading into Year Two of a new regime, conceived and coordinated by professionals who have succeeded at the highest levels of the game.
Ask yourself how many wins in a given season can be attributed directly to talent. Then ask yourself how many can be attributed to a team being a team.
Ask yourself which you would rather have, a bunch of individual stars who may or may not be on the same page, or a cohesive group of soldiers working toward a common goal.
Like you, I would prefer to have a combination of the two. Duh. But if I had to choose one, I would take the latter. No hesitation. Every time.
We are just a few short weeks from learning if The Shanahan Era is about to "take." In the balance is nothing less than whether the Washington Redskins continue to drift with the tide for the forseeable future, or once again become an entity worthy of the name.
Bring it on.