Over the holidays, I had a chance to talk to former Penn State Great LaVar Arrington, and pick his brain on all thing football, including his experience over seas in the Tostitos Connect to Home Bowl, his thoughts on the current situation of the Redskins, and of course, who's replacing Joe Pa at PSU.
A highlight on LaVar's take on the 2010 Shanahans:
"When I try and understand what he's doing, I feel the way he doing things, for me, he's creating even more confusion than there has ever been. With this team and the way things are handled, and, to me just the way it appears to the outward spectator, which is what I am at this point, it just doesn't seem as though.....I don't know. It seems as though nothing was accomplished that should have been accomplished in my opinion."
HH: I think it was great that you dedicated your time to play for our troops in the Tostitos Connect to Home Bowl. Can to tell us where the game was played?
Lavar: We played at a base in Iraq.
HH: Who's team were you on?
I was on Coach Bowden's. I was the captain of coach Bowdens team.
HH: That must have been pretty great?
Yeah, it was cool!
HH: Considering you played for one of the greatest college football coaches in Joe Paterno, what was it like playing under coach Bowden?
Awe, he's a cool guy man. I mean, he was one of my favorites of all time with coach Paterno growing up, so it was really cool being able to just get to know him and be around him. I really enjoyed just being able to sit down and talk with him, and hear how he thinks about things and all that kind of stuff. So, I really enjoyed it.
HH: Does Coach Bowden still have it? Could he still be coaching in college football?
Yeah, I'm sure he still could if he wanted to. He still has that fire. We were getting blown out in the first half. He came into the locker room, and he was upset. He was chewing guys out (laughing). He's still got fire, he still has passion, I mean it was a flag football game, but I think I speak for everybody when I say there was a true intensity, and a true competition going on in that game.
HH: That's great. So, who came out on top?
We won. We won on the last play of the game. It was like one of the Philadelphia, New York Giants games. We were getting crushed, but we ended up pulling it out.
HH: Who would you say was the best player on your team?
It hard to say (laughing). There were so many guys making plays. It was a Seargent that made the game winning catch. I mean, Kim Kelly and Antonio Freeman played some pretty good football. Our defense stepped it up. We really did. We did fairly well on defense to kind of help us get back into the game.
HH: What was it like playing along side some of these real life military heroes?
Awe, it was great. My Dad to me is a military hero. You know, it was just an awesome time to have the opportunity to really be around the people, and obviously see what they go through, and what their living with, and just give them an opportunity to escape the everyday pressures of being a military soldier or airmen. It was just, to me it was just really nice.
HH: Is there any one interaction that stood out to you with your experience with the troops overseas?
They were all great people. To me it was really exciting to have that opportunity. I can't say one moment stands out more than the other because it was just such a great time, so just the whole experience of being able to be will Hall of Fame greats and guys that are really genuinely good guys; it was just a very humbling experience. Thats the only word I can really come up with that kind of suits the occasion.
And now on to some Redskins Questions:
HH: What do you make of the Shanahan era so far in DC?
What do you make of it?
Of course, I went on a 5 min ramble, which I will not bore you with. I did say I like the youth movement that was going on, and believed Shanny was the right guy to turn this thing around.
I mean, for me, if thats what it turns out to be (a turn around), I can understand it, but I just don't understand what he's doing (laughing). And when I try and understand what he's doing, I feel the way he doing things, for me, he's creating even more confusion than there has ever been. With this team and the way things are handled, and, to me just the way it appears to the outward spectator, which is what I am at this point, it just doesn't seem as though.....I don't know. It seems as though nothing was accomplished that should have been accomplished in my opinion. Coming in from the offseason, I mean you know, you're close to it. You heard all the reports. You were part of those reports that we ran about how pumped up they were about the offseason they had, the players they brought it, the things that they made happen, I mean all of the things surrounding Donovan McNabb, and him coming here, and for it to be where it is now. I mean, people act like they have short-term memory, and then people who don't are accused of being haters. I'm always accused of hating the team, and I'm one of the biggest Redskins fans period. I love the Skins; thats my squad. I never have any bones about ever disliking this team. I love this team. I left my body on the field for that team, so when I speak about that team, I'm speaking about what I feel is right, and what I feel it is, and I'll be honest with you, to be accused of being so harsh, or being a hater of the team, is beyond me, because I just look at it from a simple standpoint. Looking at it simply without getting caught up into all these other things that go with it, simply put, it just doesn't seem like this team improved. This team has more questions surrounding it after this season, that it did last year, and I think it's based upon the way things have been handled, and like where things are, and where there at. I firmly believe that.
I don't feel like anything Mike Shanahan or Bruce Allen has done since they've been in here has made us a better team. I just don't. I really think that that would be a misconception, or basing it off of blindness, because what I see is a team that has gone through a whole lot of confusion, and a lot of people are saying, well it's not someone being called from a bingo game, to come call a game or anything like that....no, but it's a lack of respect for the coaches last year, but now it's a lack of respect from the coach to the players this year. I don't know which one is worse. I feel like I know the game very well; I feel like i'm very knowledgeable, and I don't know what one is worse. I'll say when a coaches authority is altered the way it was with Zorn, that's probably worse, but I don't know. I feel players can ultimalety overcome situations like that, but I don't know that player can overcome the situation they are in right now because it's coming directly from the coach. So, I don't know.
HH: You brought up a good point about McNabb. A lot of the NFL feels McNabb was disrespected and was not treated with the respect that a Pro Bowl quarterback should have been treated with. So, what is your take on the whole McNabb situation, in regards to how Shanahan handled it?
I mean, he(Shanahan) deserves to have time to develop and get this team right, why doesn't McNabb? Thats my take on it. I think that his resume speaks for itself. So, it's just strange to me how everyone makes it a point to talk about how bad, or poor Donovan McNabb plays the game, or where he's at, but it doesn't make sense to me. I mean, it's been done before. Everytime somebody's about to leave the Washington Redskins, it just seems as though the fan base tries to make the worst, or the media or who ever it may be, you know, they try and paint the worst picture that they can possibly paint of that player, and quite frankly, Donovan McNabb will be a Hall of Fame quarterback, so for that to be how he's treated here, and how people talk about him, man, it just doesn't add up. And I don't care if you thought he had a great year, or you though he had a horrible year, he still deserves a level of respect based off of the things he was able to accomplish, while he was doing what he was doing, and I don't think thats the case here at all.
The reason why I lead the type of scrutiny or directed comments towards Mike Shanahan is because those are thing to me that could have been avoided, if he handled things in a different manner. And just where he handles things in a way where he lets other people have time to develop, it should have been done for him (McNabb) as well.
HH: How much of the McNabb situation do you believe was Mike's fault and how much was Kyle's fault?
I don't know where to place the blame directly, I just know that you got a new team, you got a new coach, you got a new system, it takes time. For them to pull the rip cord on him the way they did, and for it to be handled the way that they did, just take the names out of it. Just take the accomplishments, you know, take the names out of it. Don't call it Donovan McNabb; call it John Doe. It doesn't matter who it is. That individual is still going to need time. Some individuals need more time than others. But, if you make that descision to make him your franchise quarterback, then thats what you should have rode with.
I just don't like the way things were handled this year, even with the Haynesworth thing; be decisive. You knew that this dude was going to be a problem the whole way. Be decisive in what your going to do. Don't wait till as long as you did to deactivate him. Deactivate him. Move forward. You said you were making a point; make the point. To me, I just feel like the way things are handled, that it's not going to change. I had to play my career out, and my best years based off of indecisive decisions, tampering, all kinds of different things, and if that doesn't change, no matter who the coach is, I think we all know that by now, no matter who the coach is, and who the players are, it's just not going to be a winning environment.
HH: So what do you think about ownership? Do you think any of the blame here should be put on Daniel Snyder? Many people have said he's taken a step back, and passed the reigns over to Shannahan and Allen, and now he can finally sit back and watch his guys do what they do best.
It would appear that is what's going on. And it's unfortunate because he's been a part of so much that has gone wrong, that even in the moments where it's not him, he's still going to catch the blame for it. It's kind of, he can't win for losing right now. Whether or not he's fully to blame or not, the bottom line is he's been a part of enough blamable situations that he's not going to get the benefit of the doubt.
HH: On HH, we discuss the draft a lot. Since our seasons been over, we focus a lot of attention on who to draft and who would fit best on the Redskins? What are you thoughts on the top priority going into the offseason?
Man, if you know football, you know every position on this team is a top priority right now.
HH: (Laughing) Come on man, you gotta help me out on this one.
Wherever you pick, you pick the best avaliable. I mean, you have your board, and you have it set up wherever your picking, and whatever it is you want, you know, if their there, have em ranked one through whatever, and you just take that guy. You know, but they have so many issues with this team, that, you have to take the best available.
If I'm going to give you an educated answer on that, I would have to really be in it. Just at a glance, to me, as long as it's progressive; as long as it's more beneficial to the Skins than it is to the other teams that their doing whatever deals that they do, than do what you need to do. But if thats not the case, stop mortgaging your draft picks, stop thinking that you've found the next biggest thing by spending a ton of money, or you know, making a trade, you know, whatever it may be. You find it. You find that diamond-in-the-rough.
HH: Thats been our fustration over the last 10 years. We bring in these Free Agents, we pay them all this money, and they almost seem to get fat and lazy. Then we realize we don't have the player we once thought we had, and in some cases, we're minus two of three draft picks down the road. I think thats the fustration of the fan base right now. Were looking at it again. We gave away our second last year, and our third and fourth this year as part of the McNabb/Brown deals. These would have been extra picks we could have used to improve our team, and we don't have them now.
Well, there you go. I think everybody's on the same page at this point. We just need to execute it. Thats the key, execution man. We can keep talking about it, like you said, its been ten years now. There just needs to be a point where execution takes place. I haven't seen it yet, but I'm not saying that it can't happen.
HH: OK, one final question. I wouldn't be having any fun if I didn't ask you this one.
What you got? (laughing)
HH: What do you see hapening to Paterno in 2011?
Awe, he'll be here. He's going to coach at least one more year. He's like Jesus Christ man, you don't know when he's coming back (both laughing). You don't know when it's going to happen; it's just going to happen. So the fact that everybody thinks they know when it's going to happen just doesn't know.
HH: Who do you think would be a good candidate to coach Penn State when he does decide to retire?
Bill Cowher..........Bill Cowher. (laughing)
HH: I love it!
If the Skins don't get him first..........Bill Cowher. (laughing)
HH: Thanks for your time today. We as fans, appreciate everything you did in college football, and what you did, and still do for the NFL. We really appreciate it.
Man, I appreciate it man. I really do. You know anytime you need me to do anything or what ever, I'd love to. I just hate man i'm so alienated from the Redskins and things like that, but you know, it's not because of me. I'd love to be on the sidelines, I'd love to be around the team. I'd love to be part of the whole rebuilding process, but you know, it is what it is. But just know, it's not cause of me. I love to be around here. It's why I do radio for five hours a day. It's why I do the blog; it's why i'm here. I want the team to be better; you know what I mean. I want this team to be better. I could have went back to Pittsburgh. You know, I want to be here. Just keep that in mind. So, I'm always avaliable. I don't know what you may have heard, of what anybody else that covers the team, that's connected to the team may think, or may have heard, but I think that everybody that was close to the situation when I was here, knows exactly what happened. Whether they want to admit it or not, whatever it may be they know what happened.
I don't carry that though.
HH: I've always known you to be a stand up guy, even from back at Penn State. I always viewed you that way from the time you came into the NFL. If there is one thing I can tell you about LaVar Arrington, it's that you left everything on the field everytime you stepped on it.
Thats true. I appreciate it man.
Hope you all enjoyed this, and hopefully it helps to shed some new light on a situation that has been under some scruitany since Lavar Left the Redskins.
Let me know if you have any specific questions that you would like me to ask LaVar, and I will try to set up some more time to pass them on to him.
Here is a link from the Connect to Home Bowl, sponsored by Tostitos. (special thanks to Bryan Krisch for providing the information on the game)