A: I'm really just now starting to pay attention to it because I've been into hoops and the draft is so much garbage. I really haven't tried to break it down yet. But I know you've got to be dominant on one side of the ball to win big time. That's clearly not going to be offense right now, based on their schedule. But it could be the defense. If you get Trotter, he's a heck of a young player. I would want to parlay that into a dominant defense. I think they have a chance to be awesome.
Q: What position would you target?
A: I haven't seen all of the tackles, but I do know that Ryan Sims won't be available. If you think you have a tackle who can come right in and who can be a run stopper--they have a better chance to help right away if they're a run stopper. If you can get a big kid who is a gap player who is physical, a Ravens type of tackle, then jump on it. He could come in and start for you. That puts an enormous amount of pressure on a young athlete when he comes in expecting to be the starter.
Q: You seem to like the offensive line right now. Why?
A: I like Rod Jones. He's a big strong kid who had playoff experience who was very nice for St. Louuis. He has long arms, good feet and he played for an outstanding offensive line coach in a system where they were the target. They saw everything you could possibly see. You want a guy who has been in a big-time environment. And I did a number of Colts games where I watched Larry Moore work. Both of their assignments were to protect franchise players. I like a guy who I know I won't have to worry about what they'll do in a battle. I watched both guys protect and fight for a franchise quarterback and backs, so it's a tremendous pickup on both accounts.
Q: How important is it to get guys like that, guys who have something to prove?
A: You have to get players who have something to prove. You can't get a guy now who's accomplished and a former MVP. That's meaningless. I'm going against that. I want a guy who thinks he's worth a lot of money and wants to prove the point. A guy who doesn't have the right, but who puts it first and is willing to do what it takes to get it. This team is close, but I'm more concerned about the mental approach. That's been a problem the last couple of years. There have been too many distractions, too many things that go on other than the idea of winning. Plus their offense was primitive a year ago. I see improvement. But you have to filter through all the hype they manufacture and the league is laughing at them. No one buys into that crap but Redskins fans. No one is scared to come to Washington anymore. The mystique is gone. The Cowboys dominate them. So you have to assess where you're at. You want to get guys back here and get that attitude back with the idea that they won't lose to Dallas. And you draft that. You have to bring in people who aren't satisfied where they're at. That's why I like Trotter. He'd come in with the same chip on his shoulder Brian Mitchell and James Thrash took to Philadelphia, which helped take the Eagles to the playoffs. You have to have a guy with an agenda.
Q: What else do they need on defense?
A: You've got to have a scheme, which they have. The emphasis should be on the defense, which if they're smart it will be. If they win, it will be because of the guys on defense. If Big Daddy has a better year than last year then he's a Pro Bowler. If they're able to keep Marco. They lost the heart of the defense with Kenard. And then if they lost Marco? We're talking about heart. And LaVar. That's the heart of that defense. I thought Jones and Mitchell played well at linebacker, now you add a guy with all the things I've mentioned: purpose, heart, a chip on his shoulder, like Jessie Armstead. You're talking about a monster. You can't have these guys sitting around and getting fat, which happened with prior free agents. These guys want to prove something. This isn't Deion's bonanza. We're talking about people who, within the division, have something to prove. I really like the composite of the squad based on those kinds of players.
Q: Did you see Joey Harrington play much?
A: I saw him beat my Bruins. That's all I need to know about him. I like him. I'm not convinced that a rookie is going to come in and lead them to the promised land. With that schedule, you've got to come out locked and loaded. When I look at the schedule, I look at the veteran quarterbacks. When they look at Washington, they see a question mark. That tells you how much has to be done to build that phase. The other people aren't going through that so if everyone stays healthy, that's a decisive advantage. Where Washington counters is, they'll be scared to death of the Redskins defense. The Ravens proved that point with defense. You don't have to be the Rams to beat the Rams. But you can't beat them unless you stop them. That shows me it's far more important to have a defense that can put you in a position to win. The Ravens went four weeks and didn't score a TD and were World Champions. This offensive thing is highly overrated. You can't have last year's offense which was incompetent. They couldn't score when they had to. Spurrier will never be associated with that, he's too good. Joe Gibbs proved this: in offensive football you don't always get what you want to do. But the smart ones do what they have to do to be effective. You can't be so stubborn that you don't try things. Gibbs was a byproduct of Air Coryell, yet when we were successful, we were a two back slugfest, great on play-action third down and outstanding on defense and special teams. When we're talking about the Fun-N-Gun, everyone talks about it as if Steve is Barnum and Bailey. What he puts up is wins. If you're so concerned with him throwing it, you've still got to stop him from running it. I just hope the rest of the league is as ignorant as the general public or just misinformed. Everyone talks about the air show. Gibbs did that a lot with the posse and that group was always associated with a back that ran for at least 1,200 yards. The Rams aren't unstoppable. When it comes down to it, they're an effective running team, but not great. The difference is Washington's teams were great running teams and also effective in the passing game. As long as the Redskins have Stephen Davis, the pressure is on the opponent. They need depth on the line. Cory was solid and that's a huge loss. Szott played well. That offensive line was grossly underrated. Had they been given any help with a passing concept, then they would have been nasty.
Q: I take it you liked that line.
A: They had a slow start because of circumstances, injuries, Szott's situation with his family and Coleman coming off an injury and Raymer off his surgery and the two puppies on the edge and Alexander was hurt. Rasby gave them stability on the edge. He's highly underrated. He was never talked about, but he's a stud. If you can run the ball you've got a chance to be successful. If you look at Philly, when the running game was a question, it killed them. Do you draft Harrington? Well, he's three years away. No one is more talented than McNabb and it took him three years. This team won't wait three years, so you fortify your team. Wuerffel and any other veteran QB with Spurrier will be the difference. That's why he's a $25 million coach. He does things others couldn't.
Q: Do you think Wuerffel or even Shane Matthews are good enough?
A: They're good enough with Marvin running the defense. They're good enough with Stock running the special teams--with a much improved unit that suffered with Bates as a return man. They need to be more explosive on returns. And their coverage is the best it's been in years. But we talk about Matthews and Wuerffel like they're out there selling used cars. They made NFL teams. You may not be enamored by them, but there are a lot of guys out there selling real estate. It's not like Wuerffel has been cut or thrown around. Someone thought enough of him that he was two injuries from playing. You look where he's been. He was with the Saints, give me a break. I want to evaluate an entire guy's background, who coached him. What kind of tools he's had around him. Danny, the last time he was in a structured system, was a winner. He was the best college quarterback in America. He was a national champion. This is the system he flourished in.
Q: Should they draft a quarterback?
A: You draft a quarterback, but you don't give up picks to draft one. You need a young gun that Steve can mold, but if he can get some of his pupils and he gets his receivers and gets Willie Jackson, that's even better. If you're a receiver, the learning curve will take a long time. Are you going to take a rookie and put him in right away? Arizona will be as good as they will be all year in the opener. Then the rest of it becomes the defensive side. The Redskins face six veteran quarterbacks in a row. Then you break it down to defensive difference makers. Jevon Kearse, Bruce Smith in his prime, Arrington now. That means he'll alter your game plan. He can get to the quarterback. It changes everything. Then you start looking at the matchups and where that guy lines up. The league is all about who you have to double team. After QB, you look for that special guy on defense then you look at running back. Then you match up that guy who can get you 3.5 yards a crack and then if you have a kicker, they could be in every game. If you don't have one of those you're done.
John Keim covers the Redskins for The Journal Newspapers.