Time for a stroll down Washington Redskins coaching hires memory lane Walk with me, would you?
Regarding the final intellectual destination, the “ah-hah” conclusion, I am completely unsure. But, during the walk, we will observe some interesting things, and, most important, laugh together at some funny memories.
Why take the walk?
Because, for the fourth(!) time in 12 years, we are in Year Two of a coach’s tenure, where said coach was .500 or worse in their first year:
- ‘Ol’ Ball Coach: 7-9
- Gibbs 2.0: 6-10
- Zorn: 8-8 (8-8, really? ... I totally forgot until I looked it up.)
- Shanny: 6-10
Steve, King Joe, Jim, Mike … may I introduce Jay Gruden (4-12 in yr Year 1) HHHMMMM …. Spurrier = offense; Gibbs = offense; Zorn = offense; Shanny = offense; Gruden = offense
Here are some other numbers for you. 5-10-1.That's five, as in the number of Super Bowl Champs since 2000 coached by an offensive-oriented coach; 10 is the number by a defensive-oriented head coach; the "1" is John Harbaugh, whom I consider a hybrid because of his special teams coaching credentials. By the way, the five includes the other Ravens' SUper Bowl winning coach, Brian Billick. Though clearly offensive-oriented, he coached arguably the greatest defensive team of all-time.
This is no fluke. The “offensive sect” of the NFL coaching universe looks at any defense as something to dissect and, most importantly, something they CAN dissect. This mentality leads to offensive coaches feeling superior to the entire concept of defense. These feelings of superiority mean that, when they become a head coach, these types of coaches simply “farm out” the defensive architecture and strategy to a “guy that fits” (think Shanny and HAYS-lett, think Sean Payton and Rob Ryan). It’s “Hey Jim, —have you got a defensive game plan for this week? OK, good, thanks.”
Defensive-oriented coaches? Foxhole guys. Nothing is ever safe, nothing is ever guaranteed, and the world (in the form of Rule Books and refs) is out to get you. Therefore, no stone is left unturned when these guys become head coaches. Much care is put into not only how a left tackle blocks a blitzing linebacker, but also where his hands go, and where he routes him.
Robert Griffin III, Colt McCoy, Kirk Cousins — meet Patrick Ramsey, Danny Wuerffel, Rob Johnson. Oh, and, Mark Brunell, and Jason Campbell. Also, Todd Collins, and Colt Brennan. And Donovan McNabb and Rex Grossman.
WOW. I started this article as fun lark, comparing and contrasting these offseasons between Years 1 and 2 of these various coaching regimes, and not as a negative article. Further, I am one of maybe 17 people in the U.S. (including Guam and Puerto Rico) who think RGIII is a POTENTIAL top-third QB who CAN get you to the playoffs.
But — look at those names above. “interchangeable parts,”, anyone?
When you survey a team’s roster in any sport, you look for “tent-poles”, “difference-makers." These special, gifted, and hard-earned sets of talent that - pausing for emphasis - must be. accounted for. On every play.
I already stated my belief in RG3. I believe that McCoy can hold serve in Gruden’s offense. If I am wrong, then commit those other washed-out QB names to memory and simply recite them “Rain -Man”-style at BBQs and parties the next time you are discussing the Skins’ perma-doom. Oh, and don’t forget that, after Zorn’s first year, the Skins tried to add either Jay Cutler or Mark Sanchez … oh, the humanity!!!
In each of Spurrier’s, Gibbs’, and Zorn’s second offseasons, the summer was filled with talk of how the coach and struggling QB (Ramsey for Spurrier; Ramsey for Gibbs; Campbell for Zorn) were tethered to each other. Memory lane sometimes reminds us of the present.
What is funnier is that, in each of those summers, the Skins brought in a vet in order to dull the razor’s edge of risk that the coach/QB tandem were walking — Spurrier brought in Rob Johnson; Gibbs, Brunell; Zorn, Todd Collins.
Recall the offseason after Spurrier’s first year. The offensive line, already featuring Jon Jansen and Chris Samuels, added Randy Thomas and Dave Fiore. Not a bad starting unit. Then the offensive scheme revolved around sending all receivers on fly patterns, forgetting that most base defenses rush at least five, and sometimes six. Do the math.
Gibbs’ offseason was quiet. Casey Rabach was signed, to join Samuels-Jansen-Thomas (In the bigger picture, they also lost Antonio Pierce and Fred Smooooot). Zorn’s offseason saw Jansen retire, to be replaced by a Stephen Heyer/Mike Williams combo--- both of whom joined Samuels and Derrick Dockery in an intensive training regimen in the Arizona desert designed to lose weight.
All 3 three offseasons saw a similar reliance on shorter, but quicker, wide receiver corps —sound familiar? For Spurrier, Lav Coles joined the drafted Taylor Jacobs and Rod Gardner, with Coles the clear focus. Gibbs 2.0 was a “little guy” smorgasbord. Coles out, Santana Moss in. David Patten also signed on as they both joined James Thrash.
Zorn’s offseason was supposed to be the time when heralded draftees and big targets Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly bloomed. Of course, these two round two draft choices’ were utter failures on the field not only hindered the offense for that year and the subsequent 2-3 years, but also the opportunity costs of taking them where they were drafted still haunts this team.
Like the pain of watching a stock you sold go on to double, or lingering around a craps table that just chewed you up as it gets white-hot, I wince when I look back at certain Skins’ drafts and see the guys that they could have had.
So, all 3 three offseasons featured very tenuous QB situations, questionable (at best) head coaching futures, small, unproven WR corps, solid- to above-average offensive lines in name recognition, if nothing else … sound familiar?
Let’s wrap up with some data...
2003: 287 total points; 22nd rank in the NFL; -5.3 Per-Game Point-Differential; 25th rank in the NFL
2005: 359; 13th; +4.1; 11th
2009: 266; 26th; -4.4; 24th
Only Gibbs’ 2.0 2nd season saw any semblance of good, two-way play (defense ranked 9th overall that year), and, while he resembled a porcupine for the all the arrows his hide absorbed, it is clear that the veteran, safe presence of Mark Brunell was the difference.
What does all this history talk mean for the present? While I firmly believe that Griffin has more upside than any of the QBs since 2003, it must be very tempting for Gruden to read this data-set (as I am sure he will….!), and suit up a man named Colt. All we know for sure is staying the course won't work. History says so.