Coaching trees abound in the NFL. Three current NFL Head Coaches trace their Football pedigree to Bill Parcells. Division rival HC Tom Coughlin was an assistant to Parcells with the Giants in 1990 when they won Superbowl XXV. Romeo Crennel, current HC for the Browns, followed Parcells from Texas Tech (75-77) to the New York Giants, and was on the coaching staff of both Parcells' Superbowl winning New York Giants teams. And, most famously, Bill Belichick who would go on to spawn his own coaching tree that includes head coaches Nick Saban, Eric Mangini, and Charlie Weiss of Notre Dame.
With this in mind lets turn our attention to the current Washington Redskins coaching staff, where the Head Coach and Offensive Coordinator can both trace their coaching pedigree to one of the greatest offensive minds in the history of the game: Don Coryell.
College Football Hall of Famer Don Coryell made a name for himself coaching the San Diego State Aztecs to an incredible 104-19-2 record from 1961 to 1972 and is the only coach to ever win 100 games at both the Collegiate and Professional level.
"Air" Coryell began his NFL career coaching the St. Louis (later Arizona) Cardinals between 1973-1977 but is better known for his time coaching Dan Fouts and the San Diego Chargers from 1978-1986. For four consecutive seasons Dan Fouts, under the Air Coryell offense, lead the league in passing from 1979-1982. Coryell had the number one ranked passing offense in the NFL for 7 of his 13 years as head coach -- an amazing feat.
The Air Coryell offense employed at San Diego in the late 70s and early 80s is correctly recognized as one of the most prolific offensive units in league history. Canton benificiaries of Coryell's genius include WR Charlie Joiner and TE Kellen Winslow (the best TE of his time), not to mention Dan Fouts.
Al Saunders joined the San Diego coaching staff in 1983 and received 3 years of immeasurable coaching tutelage from the genius of Coryell. By all indications he took comprehensive notes -- Saunders would later join the coaching staff of the 1999 Superbowl winning St. Louis Rams, an offense colloquially referred to as the Greatest Show On Turf. Interestingly enough, across the field from Saunders in SuperBowl XXXVIII was defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, who would lead the Titans defense the following year to the third best scoring defense since the introduction of the 16 game schedule. The incredible 191 points allowed by the 2000 Tennesee Titans has not been matched since (the Baltimore Ravens allowed fewer points that year but more yards). But I digress.
Saunders would later join the Kansas City Chiefs as Dick Vermeil's Offensive Coordinator from 2001-2005. Since 2001 the Chiefs have ranked #1 over all other franchises in total touchdowns, total rushing touchdowns, yards per attempt, yards per completion, and total offensive yards among other things. The 2004 and 2005 Kansas City Chiefs were both the number 1 ranked offenses in the league. Saunders had an off year in 2003, and only mustered 370 yards a game throughout the season which, pathetically, was only good for 2nd best in the league.
Anyways, the point is that Al Saunders studied under one of the greatest offensive minds in NFL history and clearly learned something.
But it was during his time as head coach of the Aztecs that Coryell would be introduced to a versatile Linebacker/Tight End/Guard for the SDSU Aztecs. Guy by the name of Joe Gibbs. From there the relationship flourished and Gibbs would coach running backs for Coryell in Arizona (73-77) and later became his offensive coordinator at San Diego (79-80) before becoming the head coach of the Washington Redskins in 1981. And the rest is history, written in stone on a bust in Canton, Ohio.
Other benificiaries of the Coryell coaching tree include Hall of Famer John Madden as well as offensive guru in his own right Ernie Zampese, who would later help Dallas secure their last Superbowl victory in 1995 as the team's Offensive Coordinator.
Really good coaches are distinguished by their success on the field. Legendary coaches are distinguished by the decade spanning coaching trees they propagate. It is not some cosmic coincedence that people around Coryell would go on to have their own successful coaching careers. Coryell instituted an offensive system that has survived and evolved for three decades with great success.
Al Saunders 2001-2005 offensive accomplishments are in many ways as amazing as Coryell's success in San Diego. Remember too that Saunders did without Dan Fouts. No affront to Trent Green intended.
But even more evident of the systemic success of the Coryell system is what Coach Gibbs accomplished. Remember that Shanahan never won a SB without Terrell Davis or John Elway, that Belichick never head coached a Superbowl win without Tom Brady (or, incidentally, that Parcells never won a Superbowl without Belichick). But Joe Gibbs won three Superbowls with three different quarterbacks. The continuity the team enjoyed in success cannot be pigeonholed to the outstanding individual preformance of a few NFL players. Coach Gibbs won the big game with an evolving roster spanning from 1981 to 1992. And any talk of the game having passed Gibbs by were dispelled last year when he turned a 5-6 football unit on its way to mediocrity into a 10 win team that had a W in the postseason.
For all his follies and foibles, Dan Snyder seems to finally have understood the value of good coaching (ignore the Spurrier experiment). While critics will say that he overpaid Saunders and Williams, their future success or failure will ultimately determine how meritorious that financial decision was.
One of the biggest problems facing this football team is how to utilize so many brilliant Football minds. Our Secondary coach is a former defensive coordinator, our offensive line coach is a former head coach, as are both our offensive and defensive coordinator. The head coach is a hall of famer. Half the staff hails from the Coryell coaching tree which counts itself as one of the most prestigious and successful football pedigrees in league history.
Too many cooks in the kitchen? That's the kind of "problem" that this Redskins fan likes having.