Ten Yard Fight: Enjoy That New Coach Smell

Patrick McDermott

Perhaps we should temper our celebrations for a new coach this time around? Just a teeny bit?

1. I just can't bring myself to get head-over-heels excited about hiring a new coach. I want to be there...reliving that euphoric sense of newness we have all experienced so many times before. I watched the press conference, and I watched all the coverage of the hiring and still I was not doing back flips. Maybe I was upset because I had all my hopes pinned on a real made-for-TV coaching search that would dominate D.C. headlines until mid-February. As much as I know that moving on from Mike Shanahan is the healthy thing to do, I just maybe wasn't ready to move on so fast. The thing about hiring and firing so many coaches in this town is that I never know if I am in a rebound relationship or not. Jim Zorn was a questionable rebound decision from Joe Gibbs, and as such, it ended disastrously. Mike Shanahan was the kind of relationship where you think, "This could be the one, except that if one of us is NEVER going to be wrong, it is going to be me." Part of the problem is that the Redskins are already peddling this "fresh start" nonsense. We are beyond fresh starts. I have that "not-so-fresh" feeling about this team, and I want my new coach to be right there with me, dealing with it.

2. As you know, I was adamant about really only one thing in this search: I wanted an NFL coordinator, and not a college head coach promoted to the major leagues for a shot at proving himself to be a genius. This part of the hire has me feeling very happy. Say what you will about the Cincinnati Bengals, but I hold Marvin Lewis in the highest esteem. The fact he was made to play second fiddle to Steve Spurrier in this town still boils my blood, but he runs a hell of a program in Cincy. (Say what you will about Bengals management, but they have stuck by their coach and it appears to be paying off at least in regular season consistency...baby steps for the Bengals!) Our organization needs professionals that understand the pro game and can manage things...professionally. Crazy, I know. In my opinion, we were not going to be able to handle an offseason of questions surrounding whether or not a college system was going to work and how a college coach was going to assimilate. Jay Gruden allows us to dodge those bullets.

3. If you believe that Robert Griffin III had any influence on this decision--and I DO--than you also believe that he gave his sign-off on this hiring, which I am given to understand he did. Did Bruce Allen ask for his permission to hire Jay Gruden? Of course not. But I do believe that Gruden was pre-qualified by Griffin (along with a few other candidates). I am buying this as a good thing for us. I want the quarterback we intend to roll with to have a positive working relationship with the head coach, and I think it matters if we know how each of them feels on the way in. You know Jay Gruden was asked his thoughts on working with Griffin. Why wouldn't you ask the same kinds of questions to the man who will likely be spending countless hours with the coach for years to come? I know this issue gets wrapped up in the Snyder-level issues we have with this team sometimes, but I feel secure in the knowledge that at least on Day One, we have a quarterback and coach that have both endorsed each other and are eager to work together.

4. A lot can still change of course, but signs point to the retention of Jim Haslett. I know what you're thinking: "Wait...did Vinny leave all of his naked Dan Snyder pictures in Jim Haslett's desk?" I think what this kind of move means (or will mean) is that Bruce Allen is prioritizing the ability for the new staff to work together above just about everything else. It would seem that Allen would rather have coaches in place that he knows can coexist in a positive fashion, despite previously woeful performances. You can read that as Bruce very obviously laying a sea of blame at Mike Shanahan's feet when it comes to work environment. The team wants to continue emphasizing the 3-4, and Haslett knows it well. On one hand, giving Haslett a chance to work in this "new" regime could give him the freedom to spread his wings in a way that perhaps was not possible under Mike Shanahan (pure speculation). On the other hand, even a blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while, and giving Haslett an infinite amount of chances is likely to result in him having a great season...eventually. Not sure I can be more hopeful than that on this one.

5. I really did like what Jay Gruden said on the way in. One thing that stood out to me was when he said that he was going to expect Griffin "to take the blame on some throws." What a smart thing to work in during his first days on the job. Accountability may not be the problem we made it out to be earlier this season when Griffin seemed to be spreading some blame around, but I especially enjoyed hearing the new head coach address the topic immediately. I realize that accountability is not something you should have to welcome to town, but if you listened to some of the stuff that Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan said as that whole drama ended, you might be interested in a fresh sense of what accountability needs to be in order for winning to take place.

6. Gruden also expressed his commitment to calling plays he knows that Griffin is comfortable running. I am not even going to act like I know all that went into the relationship between Kyle Shanahan, RG3 and Mike Shanahan. Suffice to say that I don't anticipate them exchanging Christmas cards this year. For better or worse, it seemed there was a disconnect between what the Shanahans wanted to do at times, and what Griffin felt comfortable doing on the field. You don't need a 75-inch television to have seen that. It might technically be catering, but it just makes sense that the new head coach would cater at least somewhat to the desires of the guy he is counting on to help him keep his job.

7. I think all of us would have been perfectly happy to welcome a highly regarded defensive coach to town as the new head man in D.C. If the hire had been Mike Zimmer, I would have been ecstatic. In today's NFL though, it seems that an offensive-minded head coach is on everyone's wish list. Teams want innovation, creativity and scoring. You bring in a guy like Jay Gruden to spend an unhealthy amount of time in a room with Griffin, poring over game film and performance analysis. We hope we can get our defense right, and we even hope that we win a game or two thanks to great defensive performances, but outscoring your opponent seems to go farther in this era than stopping your opponent from scoring. Feel free to argue the opposite--there is more than one way to skin that cat. I guess I come down on the side of favoring the kind of move we made. We simply have to be more consistent on offense, and we need to invest in the future of Griffin now with a guy like Gruden who can spend the next two or three years helping him learn how to make a career as an NFL quarterback. What do I mean? Put simply, a guy who succeeds in making a career for himself as an NFL quarterback knows and embraces the single most important truth stated recently by Steve Young: "The job of the quarterback is to deliver the ball from the pocket."

8. Part of my faith in Jay Gruden stems from some of our terrible experiences with new coaches in the past. I don't believe he will fall prey to the same fate as, say, Steve Spurrier, because Jay Gruden knows the value of leaving more than two guys in pass protection. His offense is likely to outperform the one Marty Schottenheimer favored, because we will likely get more than 20 plays in per game (hopefully). Gruden should enjoy a much higher ceiling than Zorn based almost entirely on the quarterback Gruden is inheriting. I guess what I am saying is that I think it is fair and reasonable to suggest that Jay Gruden can enjoy a lot of success as the head coach here.

9. I just can't get all hysterical about yet another "fresh start." I feel like the Redskins' success should be pronounced in the same fashion as recessions are pronounced by economists: in arrears...after the fact. Even when you know the economy is struggling, they don't declare it official until after all the data has been collected, adjusted and studied. Maybe we don't need to go this far, but we should probably take this opportunity to wait on declaring ourselves successful until after we do something that warrants such a declaration. That would be a fresh start of sorts, right? Put simply: This isn't a successful head coaching search/hiring until such time as the head coach has done something successful...like win.

10. It is VERY difficult for me to slow-play my excitement. You know how I like to be out in front of every possible ray of sunshine this team is capable of producing. How else do you explain my incessant Stephon Heyer-hyping? I think this move has all the makings of a smart and well-reasoned decision. Jay Gruden can be very successful here. Bruce Allen is well into the process of building a staff of folks that he knows will play nice with each other in this sandbox. The only thing keeping me from jumping into the deep end of this pool is...the last 15 years.

As my boy Chris Wallace said, "Show me, homey."

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