London Fletcher, the inside linebacker of the Washington Redskins has been invaluable to the success of the Redskins’ defense for nearly six seasons going on seven so far, but father time has finally caught up to him. It’s hard to come to this conclusion with one of the Redskins’ most consistent linebackers coming into 2013, but the tape doesn’t lie. Playing in the NFL at 38 years old is a daunting challenge, especially at the linebacker position. And Fletcher no longer has the quickness necessary to play the position at a high level anymore. Despite that Fletcher is one of the most instinctive linebackers on the roster.
His experience doesn’t mean anything when you physically can’t make the play anymore. After watching Fletcher play over the last three games, he does everything the right way. He’s sheds blocks, positions himself in zone or man coverage to make a play any NFL player should make, but he doesn’t make it. Lots of his stats are inflated by giving him gang tackles or assist tackles where he doesn’t really do much of anything. He merely taps the wide receiver or running back on the back after his teammate makes the play.
There are countless plays he’s not making, because he’s not quick enough to make an impact. And while making the occasional sack on a stunt seems nice, it isn’t the norm for what Fletcher is hyped up to be. Veteran leadership is a must in every locker room, but at what point does that leadership not outweigh the limitations on the football field. And yes, Fletcher plays like he could be another assistant coach in the NFL, but like every assistant coach, they don’t play on Sundays. Fletcher does, and this has to change for the Redskins to improve in the future.
Because you are taking game reps away from players who are more important for your future. I was always skeptical of keeping Fletcher on the Redskins this long, and I continue to be a skeptic if you think he’s worth re-signing after this season. Age has caught up to his game to the point where no amount of recognition skills can make up for that. He’s essentially an average spot starter in terms of his impact on the defense now. And change must come in the 2014 free agency cycle, or the 2014 NFL draft if the Redskins want to make any head way on their defense.
But remember, this message only comes out of love for the Washington Redskins and London Fletcher. He’s been one of the best Redskins on defense for half a decade, but that time has passed. It’s finally time to end a very unlikely and remarkable career the right way. To finally allow new careers to take root. In other words, the London Fletcher era is over.
James Cobern is a Division Leader and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on twitter @Jmcobern1