clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

If you have to apologize beforehand, you're probably in error

Read at your own risk Erik Wemple's article at the Washington City Paper, Sorry, but I Applaud Dan Snyder. I don't ok, yes I do fault his central premise -- which we'll get into momentarily -- but rather the thrust and lacking purpose of the article. The short response is that there isn't anything deplorable about interviewing a wide range of individuals for a job as important as head coach. What many fans have criticized is the end result -- either the guy we wanted didn't get the job or the guy we didn't want got the job -- and, additionally, there were some procedural errors made by the team's ownership. And we're off:

I have trouble finding any columnist, any fan, who'll stand up and defend the owner for doing what he's doing.

And that's a damn thorough job of interviewing candidates for an important position. For weeks, several promising head coach candidates have been rotating in and out of Redskins Park. I guess former defensive guru Gregg Williams had four interviews, former Giants head coach Jim Fassel has had several, Ron Meeks is at a similar frequency, and there are others too.

Legitimate questions can be raised about whether Jim Fassel is a promising head coach candidate. He hasn't been a head coach in many moons despite a clear desire to do so. He was fired from his last position despite a friendship with his boss.

Ron Meeks may be at a similar frequency, but perhaps he shouldn't be. He has no head coaching experience. His defenses in Indy, per Football Outsiders, have ranked since 2002: 23rd, 15th, 19th, 8th, 27th, and 3rd. Although he's shown a marked improvement this year, the averages over his full body of work is damn near 16th, or the definition of average. To his credit, he inherited a very bad defense and made it, at various times, still bad, respectable, and very good. That's an improvement, though hardly one strong enough to necessarily justify a head coaching position. If you simply don't trust FO's numbers, here are the traditional metrics...

Scoring D since 2002: 7th, 20th, 19th, 2nd, 23rd, 1st
Total D since 2002: 8th, 11th, 29th, 11th, 21st, 2nd
Translation: Good, average, bad, good, bad, very good

There's a larger issue here relating to the interview process with Gregg Williams. Before we get into that, a very strong case could be made that perhaps Gregg Williams, by resume alone, wasn't the best head coaching candidate available. I speak only for myself, but I found Curly R's argument against him very compelling, though ultimately would side with Gregg in spite of questions surrounding his record in favor of continuity, which Dan Snyder espoused disingenuously:

"I don't think things have changed in what I'm looking for. Continuity, absolutely, is very important," Snyder said. "I like where we are. I'm very, very pleased with the players and coaching staff. We're in good shape."
Or maybe he and I just have a fundamentally different understanding of what continuity is supposed to mean.

Returning to the larger issue, though, is whether four interviews is the precise amount needed for an owner to decide that this or that particular candidate is right or wrong for the job. Certainly he could have held more or less. Gregg Williams could have had one interview, for instance. Or 20. But that the owner of your team (who should be outsourcing this work, anyways, to people who aren't Vinny Cerrato) needs four interviews to determine decisively that his defensive coordinator for the past four years isn't good enough to coach the team keep around at all? Taking that point to its logical conclusion, didn't Dan Snyder err in letting Gregg Williams run the defense for that long? Four interviews? Why not one?

Can someone please tell me what's wrong with working your ass off in the interview process, hashing it out with every decent candidate possible? According to the Washington Post, the `Skins appear interested in extending the search beyond the Feb. 3 Super Bowl. There are probably plenty of assholes out there who have a problem with that. Oh, they're not going to be ready for the draft, or somesuch.
I'm one of those assholes, though for different reasons. I don't mind anyone pursuing the best coaching candidate over time (but within reasonable limits, which isn't an apparent issue for Wemple -- what, coaches should be, like, prepared for the draft? That's just crazy) so long as they don't do so by firing the best coaching candidate, my opinion obviously, readily available. Was Dan Snyder really as thorough as suggested, even? When did Al Saunders get his chance to interview?

None of which excuses the manner in which he's gone about the process, which has been suspect and embarrassing from the first. Suspect: Demonizing Gregg Williams, but more importantly failing to talk to him for 10 days. Even if he wasn't going to be the Head Coach, he was still the defensive coordinator. That the owner of the franchise can't be fucked to communicate with his defensive coordinator but once every two weeks -- even ignoring that exceptional circumstances should have increased communication between the two, if anything -- speaks of an insular team hierarchy that has been all too familiar in the Snyder era. Embarrassing sentiment is best left to Bram Weinstein who informs:

I spent the weekend in New York, a trip planned weeks ago assuming that once the Redskins used an Angel to soar into the playoffs, all was well in Ashburn. Yet yesterday, I spent the afternoon trolling around midtown fielding calls from around the country all asking the same question, "What the ---- are they doing?"

There are two appropriate answers: complete silence or psychopathic rant.

I don't have audio where I'm at but reader(s) are encouraged to tell me what Rich Eisen had to say about all this.

Wemple anticipates my next point:

There are probably some nincompoops, too, who feel that the Skins' recent moves to lock up a D coordinator and and O coordinator were stupid moves, considering that, hey, they haven't even hired a head coach yet. Well, here's a preemptive strike against any such moron: Snyder knows that head coaches are cronyists: They'll hire who they know, no matter how good or bad they are. Coaches just want their buddies sitting alongside them in the film room as they all chew tobacco.
Besides being a nincompoop and a moron, I also disagree strongly with the premise that coaches are merely cronyists. Joe Gibbs, for instance, left play calling duties largely to Gregg Williams and Al Saunders, neither of them Gibbs "cronies" from yesteryear. More importantly, if Dan Snyder wanted to limit the amount of head coaching candidates to merely those people who would accept a job without having veto decisions on coordinating positions (to thus stem the alleged cronyism), he could have done so beforehand. Instead he hires the offensive coordinators so as to even limit input from competent head coaches about who their staff should be made of. (And when I say their staff, I really mean their entire staff.) Snyder can wield total control over coordinator hires over any coach he hires as easily as he can interview and select for those jobs prior to the head coach's arrival. He's the owner, after all.

Therein lies another major criticism to Wemple's article. Dan Snyder is the owner of a football team. He didn't play college football because he dropped out. His prowess was in marketing and business, and few doubt he's plenty capable at both. His experience with football was exclusively as a fan up until that moment he purchased the team in 1999, and little that has happened since attributable directly to him tells us that he's developed into a keen football mind. His decisions have been overwhelmingly disappointing. So, even knowing that Dan Snyder understands some fundamental point about cronyism among NFL staffs that the rest of us, besides Erik Wemple of course, can't figure out, why on earth does this thus qualify him to hire coordinators of football offenses and defenses? In virtue of what, exactly, is he then the guy to turn to?

I love the way the punditry says Williams got sandbagged, mistreated, etc., etc. Wise finds it outrageous that no one from the Redskins called Williams for more than a week after his last interview. Jeez, what a white-collar felony! Wake up-the guy got four bites at the apple. Don't you think there's a chance he said some stupid stuff in those sessions?
To his last question I'd respond: I am sure Gregg Williams said some "stuff" that made him a very unattractive coaching candidate for Daniel Snyder's football team. For instance, I think he might have said something like "If I accept this job, I want control over personnel decisions at least comparable to what Joe Gibbs had." Or he said "If I accept this job, I would like an opportunity to assist in the hiring of my assistant coaches." Or perhaps he said "Dan Snyder, I plan on winning games" to which Dan's head fucking exploded.

For all that bla bla bla, what Erik Wemple really missed was that Head Coaching searches aren't merely about being thorough, they're also about being right. Redskins fans have lost faith that Dan Snyder is capable of being right very often, and many have already decided that he's erred in this process. Had he interviewed 100 people 100 times and ultimately settled on Faye Abbott (who is dead by the way), he'd still be wrong.