"Bill, let's snuggle ."
Jeff Howe, a NESN.com reporter for the New England Patriots, spent a month putting together a fantastic piece on Bill Belichick's work ethic and how the Pats' Coach consistently gets his team to play at a high-level. Belichick's practice of continually turning over the locker room is a major piece on the chess board.
There's a sincere theme from all the New England player quotes of how much they trust Belichick and how they would do anything for him. Based on recent exit interviews out of Ashburn, I hear Redskins players going in that same direction. They believe Shanahan is a guy that knows what he's doing. Like Belichick, Shanahan favors no players and does what's best to win the game, regardless of popularity. Sound familiar? I HIGHLY recommend you read the entire article, but here are some of the highlights:
Initially, most of New England's players didn't understand why Belichick traded star wide receiver Randy Moss in Week 5, less than 24 hours after a defining victory in Miami. Frankly, they were confused, at a loss for words, kind of questioning the decision-making process...Belichick expressed his most popular phrase in the team's morning meeting: The motive was to improve the football team.
I can't think (pre-Shanahan) of ANY big name player the Redskins dumped to improve the team. In fact, it was the opposite. Portis was guaranteed to play at all times despite a healthy Betts and Cartwright, who could produce. Laurence Maroney, Adalius Thomas, Shawn Springs were all popular guys in the Pats' locker room as Howe stated. That didn't matter...they were all shipped out.
When players hear the same thing over and over, it's easy to tune it out. Yet, the Patriots had seen the locker room turn over since January, and October's trade of Moss was the culminating move.
The Redskins never turned over a locker room before Shanahan got here...and he's just getting started. Here's where things are really different with the Redskins - Belichick's eye for evaluating talent from other teams:
As of Thursday, 18 players on the active roster were either drafted by the Pats or signed as rookie free agents in 2009 or 2010. For the 2010 Patriots to be successful, the young players had to grow quickly, accept coaching as gospel and align themselves in perfect harmony.
Vinny was horrible at finding practice squad and blue collars players. It was always big named players they went for. Shanahan was able to bring in some free agents and castaways that were able to produce right away. Some did not work out like Galloway and Kemoeatu, but I'm still holding judgement, and it's no doubt an improvement.
A coach that can bring in winning players out of nowhere does wonders for the locker room's faith in a Coach. Take this gem of a find, for example:
Look around the room, and there are undrafted players starting on both sides of the ball and once-unwanted free agents contributing on a regular basis. Ninkovich is a golden example. He was a long snapper with the Saints, who cut him the day before their training camp opened in 2009, and he feared his career was in major trouble. Belichick called a day later and asked Ninkovich to add depth at outside linebacker in training camp. Now, he's a starter.
Danny Woodhead (Jets castaway) is a fantastic example on the offensive side. Shanahan has proven success here as well. They moved Lorenzo to OLB, brought in Vonnie Holliday, Brandon Banks, Anthony Armstrong, Ryan Torain, Logan Paulsen. (Belichick brought in Joey Galloway for a brief stint as well).
Another similarity in coaching style is Shanahan's calm. In multiple radio interviews the weeks after losses, Cooley and Portis talked about how Shanahan wouldn't give them verbal thrashings. They all know what went wrong and time was better spent in the film room. Awarding veterans with days off is a ritual Shanahan follows as well. Then of course, there's the work ethic:
Some Patriots report to Gillette Stadium as early as 5:30 in the morning. Others will watch film at the facility until midnight or 1 a.m. Belichick, every one of them says, has been in the building at each end of that spectrum. They know there are nights when Belichick sleeps at Gillette, and some Patriots have wondered -- seriously, jokingly, whatever -- if he ever leaves.
Both Shanahan and Bruce Allen have been known to work around the clock. Dan Snyder told Ken and I how Bruce Allen slept at Redskins Park in the final days of Trent Williams contract.
This off-season I expect there to be a lot of overhaul, similar to last year, which follows Belichick's style of keeping things fresh. Year two of continuity with a smart, hard-working coach will bear some fruit. Hang tight!