I have enjoyed these last 3 or 4 seasons of a relatively drama-free locker room. It has been refreshing. My entire adult life the Redskins have always had some sort of nagging issue with a player, coach, or front office official being in some sort of petty feud, being disgruntled, or otherwise.
Recently it appeared the team has been on a path that largely avoids such malcontent from making its way onto the field or even getting very far in the locker room. The team is starting to see the emergence of a new leader in Jonathan Allen who will chew into a teammate before he let’s them off the hook for playing poorly. The team actually is trying to adhere to a ‘code of conduct’ if you will. Generally it is the veterans that set this standard for the younger players to follow. That’s is why I find this latest PFT report disturbing.
I work in an environment where myself and my colleagues constantly wear headphones. Music, Youtube, podcasts help get us through the day as be build things on our computers. If our Senior comes into our space and demands our attention to address us the headphones come out without question. I can’t see any reason why Josh Norman, a 7-year veteran, would not pay attention to what the Head Coach has to say during halftime unless he simply didn’t care. We all have our opinions about Jay Gruden but I don’t think any of us would condone a player being so cavalier and disrespectful toward him during a game.
This behavior is apparently what got Norman benched during the Saints game according to PFT. The word comes from Kevin Sheehan whose source says that Jay asked Josh to take out his headphones and when he didn’t, he came up to him and removed them himself.
Let’s have an exercise in optimism for one moment. We have all spaced out before and not heard something that was said to us, much less if he had something obstructing our hearing. Maybe Norman was just that into his tunes at half time? The problem I see with that is Norman is not a rookie. Norman has been in many a halftime locker room. All of which feature some sort of address from the Head Coach, assistant coaches, or teammates. Furthermore he has been with the Redskins for 3 seasons now so it is not like he doesn’t have a sense of the environment during this moment in a game.
There is no sense beating around the bush. Norman was signed to a big contract after having a career year in Carolina. The signing was completely fine with me then and I have no hindsight quarrel with it. Norman played very well his first season with the Redskins. He played all 16 games in 2016 and registered 3 picks, 19 passes defended, and 2 FFs to highlight some of his stats. Since 2016 his play has fallen off a cliff. He was injured in 2017 and didn’t come close to the numbers he posted before in coverage and takeaways. This year he looks even worse. He has lost his edge, he is playing softer, and he is not nearly as effective in reading a QB or sticking with a WR. We saw this in the preseason. We see it now.
This does not mean that Norman ought to pack his bags and get out of the NFL. It simply means he is not a shutdown coverage corner like he used to be. I don’t know how many of you listen to Cris Carter, Shannon Sharpe, or any other former pro football player of choice on talk shows and podcasts but it is well known according to those guys that once a player realizes he is in decline it can have a profound impact on him.
I don’t doubt if Josh Norman has lost confidence these past couple of seasons it is manifesting itself on the field. I don’t know if he watches the game broadcast as well but when a broadcaster says you are no long a number 1 corner and that your colleague - a converted WR - is the best cornerback on the team that must make you feel a certain type of way. It would sting if I were in his shoes.
This brings us back to the issue at hand. If the above is in the realm of possibility and is leaning towards reality does that mean Josh is starting to checkout from his Head Coach, his coaches, and his teammates? I think he may be. The report also hints that Norman may be starting to rub his coaches the wrong way and that their may be animosity building. This is not good. This is how we get to the problems we saw so publicly in the early 2010’s. Some may be of the opinion that if all of this bad blood is brewing there is still a chance that it can be rectified by Norman, Jay Gruden, and whoever else is involved. Maybe.
I have worked professionally in my field for 6 whole years now (almost 7!) and what has become obvious to me is that when a boss has a problem with an employee or vice versa one of them is going to leave and its only a matter of time and a question of who.
If this thing is not going to workout I believe Norman and Jay already know that. If you know that start making plans for the benefit of the team. Propose a trade, make an exit plan for next year, etc. This team has been on the precipice for so long and a positive influence like Jon Allen can easily be dwarfed by negative energy between player and coach that can spread to the locker room. We have enough case studies in the NFL to see how that can derail a team. If that is the case and if I had any power I would not be willing to risk the locker room.
If you think the relationship stands a chance work though I suppose but is the effort worth it? Also think about who you would rather be here beyond the season Jay Gruden or Josh Norman? This may surprise some but if I were choosing I’d choose Gruden. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. If this issue is what Sheehan says it is the team needs to do something about it quickly.