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Redskins' Coach Watch: Russ Grimm Might Be Our Guy

The next Redskins head coach?
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The next Redskins head coach? Image via

In Part One, we reviewed Mike Holmgren's persona as the next Redskins' coach, which left me far from impressed. Continuing through the classified ads, the next stop is Russ Grimm, who currently holds the following titles with the Arizona Cardinals: Assistant Head Coach, Running Game Coordinator, and Offensive Line Coach. There is a lot to cover with the former Hog, so if you're at work and feel mother nature calling, print it out and take it to the can with you.

Moving on...I spoke with Charles, the Editor of the SB Nation Arizona Cardinals community, Revenge of the Birds (ROTB), regarding Russ Grimm's coaching and talent evaluation skills. After the jump, I reveal my Russ Grimm conversations with David Elfin of the Washington Times, Rich Tandler of Real Redskins, Mark Newgent of the Examiner, and Ben Folson of the Curly R, all who have a lot of knowledge from Grimm from his playing days with Washington and his coaching days in Washington during the Norv era. We had a nice debate with the outstanding concerns, and Mark adds a fantastic Grimm story from his playing days, but first, my chat with the Cardinals' media:

Hogs Haven: Russ Grimm is a fan favorite in DC being one of the original Hogs. As a coach, he has been a winner everywhere he's been (Steelers and Cards Super Bowl run last year). What stands out to you regarding his play-calling, relationship with players, motivations skills that would make him a good or bad candidate for a head coach? He seems to get overlooked as a head coach every year.

ROTB: It is fairly common knowledge that Grimm is well liked and very respected by his players, especially his offensive lineman. He has the knowledge and experience to back up everything that he's trying to teach his guys. He's never called plays (here or any stop in the past) and he's never been a true coordinator. He shares the co-coordinator title which means that he's involved in the development of a game plan throughout the week but his actual involvement during the game is somewhat of a mystery. As a head coach I would envision him as something in between a "players coach" and a "disciplinarian" and I would guess that he'd prefer somewhat of a run-first offense. Some say he's been passed over as a head coach but he's never been a true coordinator and normally the step before becoming a head coach.

Hogs Haven: Did Russ Grimm contribute at all to the draft class this year [for the Cards]? The Steelers obviously have a lot of success with their picks, although ironically not with their offensive line.

ROTB: As far as his prowess as a talent evaluator, your guess might be as good as mine. The only time I've ever heard or read of him "signing off" or "approving" of a draft pick was when they took Levi Brown in 2007. As the story goes, Grimm worked out Brown individually at Penn State's pro day and came away thinking that Brown was better than Joe Thomas. That evaluation looks awful foolish now but that was the Cardinals story after the draft so take it for what's it worth. Despite the drafting of Levi Brown the Cardinals offensive line has improved quite bit so maybe that's a testament to his ability to develop talent.

Hogs Haven: If you were Dan Snyder, would you have any hesitations making Russ Grimm your head coach?

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ROTB: That's a tough question. I honestly like Grimm and I think he could build a tough, run-based team that would turn into a winner. That being said, I wouldn't take him over Mike Shanahan, Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher or Mike Holgrem so I'd consider him a fall back option at best. Just to throw a bit of curve ball at you though, if you're interested in Cowher it might not hurt to bring Grimm in as your offensive coordinator.

I don't think it's a coincidence that Grimm is successful everywhere he goes; however, Mangini and Charlie Weis have struggled once they were given full control. No one expects Russ Grimm to be the All-in-One savior though. Mike Tomlin and Mike Singletary both never had Offensive Coordinator or Defensive Coordinator roles in their careers. Why can't Grimm be in the same position as them where the new Redskins GM (not named Cerrato) works with Grimm to pick a good fit.

I emailed the Redskins elite for their opinions:

Mark Newgent (Examiner): As far as play calling experience goes, Grimm doesn't need to be the play-caller--the Ravens brought in Cam Cameron to call plays for Jim Harbaugh.

There's another aspect where I believe Grimm would have an enormous effect: discipline. The Redskins--even under Gibbs 2.0--have played really undisciplined football: stupid penalties, to poor tackling etc... Grimm would put an end to all that.

I remember going to training camp up in Carlisle in 1992, Grimm's first year as an assistant to Gibbs. Just prior to practice players were milling around the end zone catting and joking around. Out of nowhere a huge Ford Bronco--not the little one the big curb stomping mini-monster truck-- drives up right into the middle of end zone. Players scatter and stare. Grimm steps out of the driver's seat, pulls a wad of chewing tobacco from his mouth, chucks it to the ground and says "let's hit it." The players jumped to attention and got to practicing.

That's kind of gravitas Grimm has, and is sorely needed in Ashburn.

David Elfin (WaTimes): While Russ is a legitimate head coaching candidate in the league and a link to Washington's glory days, I would be surprised to see Dan Snyder hire a second straight coach who had never even been a coordinator. The caveat would be if Snyder's millions can lure another big-name coach like Mike Shanahan, Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher to the Redskins.

Ben Folsom (The Curly R): So in all this why did Russ Grimm's phone never ring: simple. Dan Snyder knows Russ Grimm is eventually a loser for him. Russ is a sympathetic character for Redskins fans. No matter what happens, Dan will get the blame for failing and Russ will get credit for winning. Then one day when Dan has to fire Russ, then my friend Dan finds true bottom in the hearts of Redskins fans.

Russ will never coach for this team while Dan owns it, neither will any of Joe Gibbs' proteges, anyone that represents true Redskins football.

Rich Tandler (Real Redskins): While he was a player, he didn't seem to be the type who would become a coach. Primarily, that's because he enjoyed the night life. It wasn't unusual to see Grimm out until all hours around Georgetown, feeling no pain. I know, because I occasionally was in the same bars.

Even when he became a coach, he wasn't seen as a rising star. While some members of Norv's staff went on to become head coaches--Mike Martz, Cam Cameron, Mike Nolan--there never seemed to be any danger of losing Grimm to a promotion elsewhere.

When Norv was fired, there was no discussion of him becoming even the interim coach, much less the head coach. Evidently, he took much better to Cowher than he did to Norval. I have to wonder, though, why Rooney did not hire him when Cowher retired. It was a done deal and he pulled it back at the last minute. Certainly he
hit a home run with Tomlin but, still, I wonder why he didn't pull the trigger on Grimm.

Also, I wonder why Grimm isn't a full-fledged coordinator in his 18th year of coaching. He's had a better shot at it than Zorn in that he's been in the NFL the whole time while Zorn spent time at Utah State and Boise State.

So it seems the only outstanding concern is why did Russ Grimm get over-looked in Pittsburgh, and why did Cowher refer Chan Gailey over Wisenhunt and Grimm? This Steeler's blog listed some likely reasons, but with 3 qualified candidates in Grimm, Wisenhunt and Tomlin, perhaps the Rooney Rule was in full effect? Either way, I really believe Russ should be given a hard look.

Grimm's Coaching Resume:

  • Washington Redskins (1992-2000)

    Tight end coach (from 1992 through 1996, and offensive line coach from 1997 through 2000, during which he was instrumental in the development of tackles Chris Samuels and Jon Jansen)
  • Pittsburgh Steelers (2000-2006)

    Offensive line coach in September 2000. In 2004 he was promoted to Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Line.

    Under Grimm guidance in 2005, the Super Bowl champion Steelers averaged nearly 140 yards rushing per game during the regular season to rank fifth in the NFL while also grinding out 181 rushing yards in their Super Bowl XL victory over the Seattle Seahawks.

    In 2006 Steelers offensive line helped pave the way for running back Willie Parker to gain 1,494 yards and 13 touchdowns on 337 carries with 4.4 yard avg. and earn his first Pro Bowl selection. Pittsburgh offense finished the 2006 season with the 10th best rushing attack in the NFL, helping to give the Steelers the 7th ranked total offense in the league.

  • Arizona Cardinals (2007-present)

    In 2007, Grimm was hired by the Arizona Cardinals to serve as their assistant head coach/offensive line coach. In Arizona, he serves under head coach Ken Whisenhunt who Grimm worked with under Bill Cowher in Pittsburgh. In his first season in Arizona, his offensive line allowed only 24 sacks, 6th best in the NFL and the fewest given up by the Cardinals since 1978 with 22. Grimm's offensive line also paved the way for running back Edgerrin James to rush for 1,222 yards, the fifth best total in team history. The Cardinals offense finished with the 5th best passing attack in the NFL and threw for a team record 32 touchdowns.
Thanks again to David, Mark, Ben, and Rich for their input. It is much appreciated and respected.