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Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs' Washington Redskins.
For most of last week, the silence was deafening among those in the DC and national sports media willing to defend the Redskins' decisions to trade Laveranues Coles (thus eating the subsequent net $6 million cap hit) and to not up their offers to Antonio Pierce and Fred Smoot. The critics, on the other hand, were out in droves, with Wilbon saying that Gibbs and company were cooking "a meal that's unpalatable", a reference to Bill Parcells' comment about needing to shop for the groceries if he has to cook the dinner. Wilbon's Post collegue Mike Wise talking about "utter upheaval over one of the worst offseasons in recent franchise history", Dan Daly saying that "the loss of Pierce, Smoot and Coles were power punches directly to Gibbs' midsection", and so on. The national press followed the template established, that the Redskins "organization" or lack thereof really blew it here.
After that died down, the wise voice of one George Solomon, who has been on the staff of Post's sports department forever, came through in his column on Sunday:
The Washington Redskins losing cornerback Fred Smoot to the Minnesota Vikings last week, on the heels of taking a salary cap whack as a result of the Laveranues Coles-for-Santana Moss trade and the recent loss of up-and-coming linebacker Antonio Pierce to the New York Giants, has many fans asking, "Who's in charge of this team?"Solomon continued:
And the answer would be Joe Gibbs.
To those who question whether he can succeed at managing a franchise when his previous role here was mostly coaching, Gibbs must want to ask, 'Do you think running a NASCAR operation the last decade was simply about replacing spark plugs and buying team jackets?'That, of course, is the key question--is Gibbs the right guy? Time will tell, but Solomon leaves with one thought:
Gibbs, 64, signed a five-year contract last year at more than $5 million a season to be team president and coach. While his 6-10 team was a major disappointment to him and the fans, one can assume he has learned enough about his players, coaching staff, his boss, the salary cap and front-office personnel to be the right person running the operation.
Choose a side on this Gibbs stuff, if you must, knowing once the race begins you can't cross the track.Special Signing
The Redskins signed former Buffalo safety Pierson Prioleau to a contract. He'll provide depth at the position behind Sean Taylor and Matt Bowen, but that won't be his primary role. It's no secret that Prioleau (just when I no longer have to write about "Laveranues" along comes another impossible to spell name) was brought on to upgrade Washington's special teams. From the Washington Times:
Prioleau, 27, led the Buffalo Bills in special-teams tackles (30) last season and has experience with three former Bills assistants now on the Redskins' staff: assistant head coach for defense Gregg Williams, safeties coach Steve Jackson and special teams coach Danny Smith.The result was inconsistent play on the kicking units including numerous fouls that could only be characterized as "dumb". Gibbs said that Prioleau was just the first of "three to five" veteran types who would be brought on to bolster the special teams.
Although the coverage units on special teams don't gather many headlines, coach Joe Gibbs made it a priority to upgrade that area. Last year Smith was forced to piece together units with inexperienced players.
This has to make some of the team's returning players, those who don't start but also are liabilites on special teams, a bit nervious. Note to Andre Lott, Rock Cartwright, and Darnerien McCants: Don't go singing any long-term leases around DC; go month to month through August if you can.
Back in 2000, the Cleveland Browns had the top pick in the draft and were focused on two Penn State players to choose. One was linebacker Lavar Arrington, the other was defensive end Courtney Brown. The Redskins wanted no part of Brown, clearly preferring Arrington. Playing the draft game to its fullest, Cleveland tried to bait the Redskins into trading up into the number one slot to ensure that they would be able to snare the stud linebacker. The Skins didn't blink, Cleveland took Brown first and Washington got its man.
While Arrington has yet to develop into a consistent monster performer, it's clear that he's been better than his old Nittany Lion teammate through his career. Brown has been bothered by injury and inconsistency to the point where Cleveland released him last week. The Skins brought him in for a visit and a physical on Thursday. While they're was talk that the team wanted to get his signature on a contract before he left town, Brown departed still a free agent.
Said Gibbs, quoted in the Post:
The best way for me to say it is we just had a good visit and [he] took a physical, and kind of went through a process there. We'll just work through the rest of it. I don't think there's anything imminent.This means that Brown came in hoping to get one of those offers the Redskins have made in the past few years, the ones where they bid against themselves and drive the price up so high that he couldn't even think of leaving without signing. Apparently, that didn't happen. Gibbs is not going to break the bank on a player who will be in a regular rotation at defenisve end at best. And if Brown won't come on at his price, well, it will just leave a few more dollars to spend on those special-teams guys.