On Friday morning in the PFN Black Monday Tracker, Pro Football Network Insiders Ben Allbright and Tony Pauline reported, “It is likely that the Redskins will fire Bruce Allen at the end of the 2019 season.” To Washington Redskins fans, this news comes as a late holiday miracle, as it seems more and more likely the Bruce Allen’s tenure will finally come to an end. But, how did we get to this point? Let’s take a look back at how Allen rose to power within the Redskins organization and turned it into the laughingstock of the NFL.
The Vinny Cerrato Catastrophe
From 1999-2009 (with the exception of 2001), the Redskins were run by a man named Vinny Cerrato, infamously known for dishing out huge contracts for big name free agents past their prime. Under Cerrato, the Redskins had a cumulative record of 70-79, a below .500 record which Redskins fans were not used to.
For the first decade of the 2000’s, the once proud Redskins were now a below average NFL team, consistently hovering around mediocrity. After ten years, it was time for Redskins owner Dan Snyder to move on. In 2009, it was announced that Cerrato had resigned from his position and the Redskins would be searching for someone new to run their football team.
Fans were relieved because they thought they’d be getting their once proud franchise back. For 20+ years leading up to Cerrato, the Redskins were winners. They had won three Super Bowls between the 80’s and 90’s and were one of the most respected franchises in the NFL. Fans thought that it couldn’t get worse after a decade of Cerrato. They could have never imagined the outcome that would be Bruce Allen.
The Allen Family Legacy
The Allen family name was once a proud name, especially in the District of Columbia and throughout Redskins nation. Bruce Allen’s father, George, was a former Redskins head coach who is now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In seven seasons with the Redskins, George posted a win-loss record of 67-30-1, making the playoffs five times and appearing in the Super Bowl once.
George Allen’s legacy was a driving force to hire his son Bruce as the team’s general manager in 2009 after Cerrato left the organization. It also helped that Snyder was good friends with Allen. But perhaps the one thing that may haunt Snyder the most is when he called Bruce Allen the personification of an NFL winner after hiring Allen as general manager.
#Redskins owner Daniel M. Snyder on Bruce Allen hire: "Bruce Allen is the personification of an NFL winner."
— Washington Redskins (@Redskins) December 17, 2009
Bruce Allen: Personification of an NFL Winner
Prior to being hired as the Redskins general manager, Allen had worked with the Oakland Raiders as an executive. Prior to that, he served as general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after Super Bowl winning GM Rich McKay was fired due to internal disputes with head coach Jon Gruden.
With Allen overseeing the front office, the Buccaneers were a less than optimal 38-42. With two years remaining on his contract, the Buccaneers ownership had seen enough and released him from his contract.
But despite all of his shortcomings in Tampa Bay, Snyder still saw something in Allen that led him to publicly declare him as “personification of an NFL winner.” Where he got his reasoning from, I couldn’t tell you.
With a fresh start in Washington, Allen had a chance to repay the trust Snyder had put in him. His first order of business was to fire head coach Jim Zorn and his staff after just two seasons – the sixth head coaching change in Snyder’s 11 years of owning the franchise.
With the head coach position now vacant, it opened the door for Mike Shanahan. Together, the two would run the organization, sharing roster decisions, and setting a vision for the future of the team. It was set up to discourage excuses or finger pointing. If this didn’t work out, the two were supposed to share the blame. As Redskins fans would find out just a few years later, this didn’t exactly work out the way Snyder had envisioned.
With Allen and Shanahan leading the organization, the Redskins assembled a team that they expected to lead them to success – division titles, playoff wins, and Super Bowl appearances. At least, this is how the organization sold it to the fans and media. However, few bought into those fallacies.
That’s because Allen had never done anything to warrant such trust. His tenure with the Redskins didn’t start off well as the team finished with back-to-back 10+ loss seasons in the first two years of the Allen-Shanahan experiment.
Luckily, the duo had shown an ability to draft. This was particularly true in the first round where they selected players such as Trent Williams and Ryan Kerrigan. These two players were building blocks the team could use to create a competitive football team.
Then, in their third draft together, Allen formed a powerful ally in Snyder and they took over the war room. In the days and weeks leading up to the NFL Draft, they made the decision to trade three first round picks to move up and select Robert Griffin III.
However, what fans didn’t see at the time was that Allen and Snyder had alienated Shanahan in the lead-up to and during the draft. Shanahan didn’t want Griffin. He didn’t want to draft him, and he didn’t want to coach him. This would be the first sign of Allen and his need for having complete control at all times.
The Redskins thought they found themselves a gem, a player the could carry a team to wins on his talent alone. In his first season, it had seemed like Griffin was worth mortgaging their future. For the first time in Allen’s tenure, the Redskins made the playoffs after a 10-6 season. In fact, they had won the NFC East for the first time since 1999.
Allen and Snyder thought they found vindication. Then, disaster struck. In a playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks, Griffin suffered a major knee injury. This was a turning point in his career as for the rest of his time as the Redskins quarterback, he never looked the same.
The following season, there was a major disconnect between Griffin and Shanahan. It led to a 3-13 season, and Allen decided it was time to remove Shanahan from the equation. With Shanahan out the door, it meant that in Allen’s first four seasons, he had already fired two coaches and had a 24-40 win-loss record.
Not the winner Snyder had promised.
Bruce Allen finds a new Gruden
Allen found most of his success when he was paired with Super Bowl winning head coach Jon Gruden. However instead of Jon, who was retired at this point, why not hire hot offensive mind Jay Gruden and see if lightning can strike twice?
Gruden had been credited as the main reason Andy Dalton was finding success in Cincinnati. Allen and Snyder thought that he would be the guy that could transform Griffin into a pocket passer quarterback. He was viewed as a QB whisperer, and his passer friendly offense would take Griffin to the next level.
Things wouldn’t work out that way. The 2014 season went down the drain as the Redskins stumbled their way to a 4-12 record rotating between three quarterbacks – Griffin, Kirk Cousins, and Colt McCoy.
Bruce Allen vs Scot McCloughan
After the 2014 season, it was clear the Allen was not fit to run a football team. Well… clear to everyone but Snyder. Instead of firing Allen, Snyder promoted Allen to team president, and the team hired Scot McCloughan – widely regarded as one of the top talent evaluators in the NFL to be the new general manager.
Under McCloughan the Redskins made the playoffs in his first season, and barely missed them in his second season after a week 17 loss to the New York Giants. However, for the first time in nearly 20 years the Redskins had back to back winning seasons.
After the 2016 season, there were reports of a power struggle in Washington. McCloughan had a vision for the team, while Allen had other ideas. This led to McCloughan being released and a very convenient “alcoholic” rumor being spread around as to the reason for his release.
Following the two season after McCloughan’s departure, the Redskins went 7-9 in back to back years.
2019: The Disastrous Decade Ends
In the final year of the 2010’s, the Redskins expected to fight for a playoff berth. They had hovered around .500 for the past four years, and Gruden had to prove he was right for the job. However, the team started 0-5 and as a result, Gruden was fired.
Offensive line coach Bill Callahan would take over as interim head coach in a season that was already spiraling down the drain. When Week 17 is over on Sunday, the Redskins will likely finish the season a pathetic 3-13 and the second worst team in the NFL. This is a true sign for how the decade has gone for the once proud organization.
Since being hired and proclaimed the “personification of an NFL winner,” the Bruce Allen led Redskins have made the playoffs twice, going 0-2 in those games, and suffered eight losing seasons. If you don’t count the two season where McCloughan was running the team, the Allen led Redskins are 45-83.
Many Redskins fans believed that the Cerrato era was the lowest point in the franchise. It couldn’t get worse than his 70-79 record, and when he was fired there was nowhere to go but up.
Allen almost single handily took that idea, threw it one the ground, and stomped on it. For ten years, Allen has overseen a laughing stock of an organization that has pained Redskins fans all around the world. But now, as rumors heat up of his dismissal, Redskins fans might find liberation.