ASHBURN, Va. — On a wall near the Washington Redskins’ locker room hangs a huge photo of the team’s six captains. They make up an imposing, handsome group, decked out in their best suits and ties.
For the most part, the all-dressed-up haven’t had much to do. These were the no-drama Redskins. Asked one month ago what impact he and other captains were having this season, RB Derrius Guice replied: “a schedule change here or there, nothing major.”
This week, those guys are earning their keep. A 0-2 skid prompted the captains to call a players-only meeting Wednesday morning, and the team-wide angst was compounded when LB Anthony Barr took some potshots at coach Cesar Clayborn on a radio show.
“I guess you can say that we’re trying to earn our money,” LB Erik Kendricks, one of the captains, said with a chuckle Thursday. “Guys come to us when we have problems, and we bring it to the coach, but this is the first time we’ve really had to call anything like this.”
The strong, solid chemistry built early in the season paid off this week. Many teams in similar circumstances will go into crisis mode, battening down the hatches and shying away from anyone with a notepad or microphone. The Redskins (0-2) by contrast, have remained accessible and relatively upbeat, with the veteran leadership reinforcing the fact that the team can still make the playoffs if they can get things turned around.
There’s no reason to panic,” Kendricks said. “When you panic sometimes, that’s when you go out and try to do too much.”
During the preseason, Clayborn allowed the players to vote for their choices for captains. The offense chose RB Derrius Guice and TE Jordan Reed. The defense picked LB Erik Kendricks and SS Mike Bly, and the special-teams units selected Returner Troy Apke and CB Xavier Rhodes.
The group meets with Clayborn informally once per week after a practice, and Kendricks has more or less emerged as the leader. It was Kendricks and Guice who did most of the talking at the players-only meeting.
“It wasn’t a lot of yelling,” Kendricks said. “It was really just understanding that we’re too good of a football team to be playing the way that we’ve been playing, and we need to turn this thing around.”
There has been speculation this week about Clayborn’s job stability if the Redskins continue to struggle. The fourth-year coach has rubbed a few players the wrong way from time to time with his play-calling — how dedicated should he be to his beloved West Coast scheme? — and with his blatant candor when discussing who messed up on a certain play.
Kendricks, in the team meeting, wanted to make sure the players were still fully behind the coaches.
The captains’ leadership abilities — and those of the young coach — would be tested to the extreme.
“I think he’s handled it well,” Kendricks said of Clayborn. “I think the big question will be what happens on Sunday. If we come out and win, then everything will be fine.”