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The 5 O’Clock Club: Are we clear?

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

Washington Redskins v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club is published several times per week during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

The Browns, quickly

Fans in Cleveland are getting increasingly puzzled and frustrated by Freddie Kitchens’ in-game decisions and his ability to clearly communicate his thoughts about those decisions after the game:

The Redskins

Fortunately, while Bruce Allen still utters his “winning off the field” and “the culture is damned good” pearls of wisdom, the Redskins coaching staff has not descended to the kind of mind-numbing answers that Cleveland fans seem to be forced to deal with from Freddie.

That’s a good thing.

It does not, however, mean that the coaching staff is delivering crystal clear messaging.

One of the keys to organizational excellence is to deliver consistently clear messages about mission and about how to do the job — messages that don’t change.

Bill Callahan

I have only been watching Bill Callahan in press conferences since he was appointed to the interim head coaching position; prior to that, I don’t recall ever having seen or heard him speak.

From that not-so-long-ago beginning, I’ve had the feeling that Callahan doesn’t listen carefully to reporters’ questions. At times, his responses have struck me as being off topic or rambling. I don’t mean that he answered in a way that seemed specifically designed to frustrate reporters because it amused ol’ Bill, but in a way that indicated that Bill wasn’t always aware of what he was saying.

I mentioned it once before on this website, but I have mostly just kept my thoughts on the matter to myself since then because it wasn’t a matter of Callahan spouting egregiously erroneous statements — it was more a discomfort in my mind as I listened to him... a feeling that he was just a little off kilter. He got plenty of attention when he talked about how he had learned from Rex Ryan that yards per carry didn’t matter; that the number of running attempts and completions were what was important. When you include that word, “completions”, his position may have been defensible, but I still walked away from that press conference with a bad feeling about Callahan’s ability to communicate a message clearly. Whether he was right or wrong, he sounded like a guy who was out of touch with the realities of today’s game and the basics of analytics — not the thing I’m looking for in a head coach. Certainly, everyone from fans to TV broadcast announcers have come away with the impression that Bill Callahan wants to have a team that plays “old school” football and which runs the rock while eschewing the forward pass. Again, true or not, his words left that impression.

My discomfort with ol’ Bill has continued over the few weeks that he has been in charge. Then, yesterday, I was watching his press conference, and I heard him actually give diametrically opposed messages, the first time introducing his message with, “Like I told the players”, and the second time with, “like I keep saying”.

These two phrases tell me that Bill Callahan is letting us in on a bit of his core philosophy — a message that is important to him, and one that he repeats often (“like I keep saying”). The fact that the interim head coach tried to share the idea with the press in answer to two questions that came a couple of minutes apart reinforces to me that it’s a message he believes in and wants to share.

So, what’s the message?

Damned if I know. Bill Callahan himself doesn’t seem to know what he wants to say:

On if he believes there is an ideal time to start Haskins:

“I would never speculate or try to create anything hypothetically as to the situation at quarterback. [QB] Case [Keenum] is our quarterback and that’s where we’re rolling right now. Like I told the players, I said, ‘Everyday you come in the National Football League, you earn your right to be here. It’s not a privilege.’ No matter what position you’re at, you’ve gotta put the work in, you gotta put the effort in. it’s a day-to-day business. Let’s face it. The only thing we can focus on right now and control is our improvement.

On the expectations for Haskins when he starts:

“For any player who starts and for any player who is on the roster for that matter, when you’re called on, you have to step in and step up and do your job. It’s really that simple. There’s not a lot of spots. It’s a special room to be in, and like I keep saying, it’s a privilege. It’s not a right. Our players are of the understanding that when their moment is called, they’ve gotta deliver and it’s a production business for me, for anybody. We all have to take that accountability seriously and produce when the time is called.”

In one version, playing in the NFL is a right to be earned, not a privilege. In the other version, it’s a privilege, not a right.

I get the point — in both versions, Bill is trying to talk about hard work, production and accountability, but if I were playing for him and had to listen to this kind of confused messaging daily, I think I’d be in a bit of a quandary. Coach Callahan has taken a simple message and made it confusing as hell; it makes me wonder how clear he can possibly be when he’s trying to explain complex ideas.

I begin to understand, now, why the offensive line is unsure of snap counts and slide protections. It starts to make sense why Dwayne Haskins seems confused about where his tight end is lined up. If the guy in charge of coaching the players can’t communicate one of his core philosophies consistently, how can anyone expect the players to be clear about formations, blocking schemes or route concepts?

And let’s be clear here; this wasn’t an emotional coach, drained and tired, speaking moments after a tough loss. Bill’s team had done their losing on Thursday night. This press conference took place on Tuesday, after five days of rest. Bill Callahan should have been clear-headed and sure of what he wanted to say.

There was a report recently that Bill Callahan and Kevin O’Connell would each get consideration (that is, an interview) for the vacant head coaching position at the end of the season. In all honesty, the Redskins could hardly say anything else, so I don’t believe Bill is or will be the leading candidate, but I think that leaving him in charge of the team beyond this season’s Week 17 finale would represent another organizational blunder.

It’s not yet time to move on from Bill Callahan’s tenure as the top dog on the coaching staff, but it will be in 64 more days. That seems crystal clear to me.


Which version is correct?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    Players earn their right to play in the NFL; it’s not a privilege.
    (46 votes)
  • 25%
    Playing in the NFL is a privilege, not a right.
    (54 votes)
  • 53%
    (114 votes)
214 votes total Vote Now