This was my first time attending the Welcome Home (from training camp) Luncheon, and I have to say it's up there on the list of ultimate fan experiences. The Redskins have been running this event for 49 years, which benefits the Redskins Charitable Foundation. A current and alumni Redskins player is guaranteed at every table (I feel sorry for the table that got James Dearth). I lucked out a bit as I got Stephon Heyer, Ken Harvey, and TE Coach Jon Embree. After a live auction and some awards for best offensive (Rabach), defensive (Fletcher), and special teams (Lorenzo Alexander) players last year, Mike Shanahan addressed the crowd. The whole speech was based on what he told the players his first time addressing the team. I picked it up about half way through...
You got to study. You got to study in the off-season, you got to study during the season. You got to know your opposition better than anyone. I told our players the same way. Now, if we're going to make a sacrifice to each other - if we're going to be the best of the best of what we do - we have to get everyone buy in. And that's my job. To try and find the top 53 guys that buy in. Every team has great athletes. Every team does. Who's got the work ethic? Who's got the preparation? And also who's got the perseverance? Tough times don't last. Tough people do. That's always been my mindset...Are you tough enough mentally? Tough enough physically? Have some ups and downs and still play through it? And that's what championship teams do.
The thing that's great about the people in this room. We have got so many alumni, Super Bowl rings, but you know what, we want to create our own identity. And we can appreciate that legacy. But what we have to do in this room is create our own legacy by doing something special by everybody in this room. Those are the little things to me that it takes to separate yourself from the rest of the pack. And I'm looking forward to it because we have some character in this room. You take a look at a team and people say you're 4-12. And I said, 'Well, I thought I was going to get a 4-12 team. There's too much character in this room.' I say, 'Hey, talk is cheap.' We got to do it one day at a time. One practice at a time. Make no promises. All you got to do is go out there and you know that the guy next to you is going to give you the best shot. And that's what we talked about, and I've been pleased. Not only with our OTAs, but our summer camp. Like I said, talk is cheap. You'll see in the play each game if we can back it up. But I can bet you with the type of players we have, we can back it up.
(He then thanks everyone at the podium table getting to Bruce Allen)
Bruce, thank you so much for doing what you've done because I can do football. I never had a chance to do that because I don't have to worry about the other side.
That last quote should put to rest any talks that Bruce Allen is a puppet. Shanahan of course was player/GM in Denver, which many people have said was to much to handle and part of the reason for Denver's down fall. Either way, there's nothing else to be said in my mind the direction this team is going.
Back at my table, I told Heyer how watching the Bills game I thought he played well. He agreed, so I then asked if OL Coach Chris Foerster has him doing any things differently fundamentally from what Bugel coached. Heyer said, “No…fundamentals are always the same…it’s just nice being in one position.” That certainly is true. Last year he was moved around in practice and games at both Tackle positions. The Ravens will be a much more difficult test, so I'll keep an eye on that.
TE Coach Jon Embree was a fantastic person to chat with. He has three kids, his two eldest boys playing college ball. Taylor Embree is entering his Junior year at UCLA as a standout WR. His other son, Conner, is a freshman QB at UNLV. I asked Jon if Cooley and Davis was the best TE-duo he's over coached. Without hesitation he mentioned Tony Gonzalez and Jason Dunn from his time in KC. "What percentages of plays will we see 2 tight end sets?" Embree couldn't really answer since schemes change week to week, but it didn't sound like it'd be a high number when I threw out 25%. With Fred's continued success from last year, I queried Jon if there's still an open competition for the #1 TE spot, and he said Cooley has it.
The Redskins have an amazing personnel and the masterminds to execute it. So, for opening night...Mike Shanahan versus Wade Phillips. This matchup of coaches reminds me of the time Mike Tyson fought Marvis Frazier (that clip is from the opening bell).