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Coach Terry

this guy’s good

I believe in Terry McLaurin.

I don’t know what Terry’s goals are for life beyond football, but whatever they are — broadcasting, coaching, Ambassador to the United Nations, King of the World — I have total confidence that Terry McLaurin can achieve it.

As I do every week, I watched this week’s press conferences with Washington’s offensive & defensive coordinators and some key players. As usual, I found Terry McLaurin’s interview to be the most compelling.

One thing jumped out at me that I’ve noticed as an increasing trend in Terry’s media sessions; the journalists are asking Terry about his teammates, and Terry is providing meaningful answers. Trust me, this is unusual. A large portion of players who get behind the microphone provide one-sentence responses to every question, and a press conference might last just four or five minutes. A lot of answers from most players are along the lines of ‘next man up’ or ‘we just focus on one game at a time’. Wednesday’s session with receiver Cam Sims, which appears after the head coach & QB interviews in the YouTube video, is a good example. The young receiver, who is enthusiastic and likeable, disposes of 10 questions in 2 12 minutes.

Terry is an entirely different matter. He often spends 2 12 minutes answering just a single question. His Thursday press conference this week lasted nearly 20 minutes, and if no one had stopped them, the reporters would have kept on asking Terry questions. He’s a gold mine of information, and his answers are jam-packed with football truth and knowledge.

I mentioned earlier that Terry is actually willing to comment on his teammates’ performance, even when it might be a question about the other guy’s problems on the field. Terry’s first question this week was about Antonio Gibson’s ongoing issues with ball security. Look at Terry’s answer:

Obviously, he first understands the importance of carrying the ball. I think Coach Jordan emphasizes that with the individual drills and things like that. I think the defense does a good job of trying to attack the ball; I think in this day and age of football everybody’s punching at the ball, so you’ve got to be cognizant of that, but, at the end of the day, I think that Antonio is just learning to move onto the next play and not compound bad things with another bad thing.

It’s hard when you’re a guy and you’re young and you care because every play matters. Those mistakes happen. You don’t want them to happen, but we just try to encourage him because he’s our every-down back for the most part, so he’s gonna touch the ball, and he’s gonna touch it a lot, so we need him to be successful when he’s running the ball because it helps the rest of our offense. So, I think we have a lot of confidence in him to continue to carry the ball, and I know he’s working on trying to protect it, and I just think he needs to continue to stay confident because you don’t want to get to a point where you’re so worried about the ball getting punched or losing the ball that now you’re running timid.

New Orleans Saints v Washington Football Team Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

I think, this year, he’s done a really good job of seeing the hole and hitting it, and bouncing off and breaking tackles. I think he’s doing a really good job; it’s just finishing those runs with the ball in our possession.

I think he’s gonna continue to improve on that, and he’s gonna continue to touch the ball because we need him to.

Terry McLaurin is 26 years old and in his third season as an NFL player, yet he’s able to analyze and discuss a football-related issue that a teammate is having, and express total confidence in that player — in this case, RB Antonio Gibson — who is just three years his junior, and who has just one season less tenure in the league.

But Terry is also extremely self-aware and able to talk extensively about his own game. Asked on Thursday about his performance in contested catches, which has been very good, he gave an extended analysis.

I think it’s my confidence, really, over the course of my career in contested catch situations because, in college, that was probably one of my biggest weaknesses. Being in those situations where I could create the separation — that wasn’t really my issue — when you get in those situations where a guy’s in your hip or that ball’s there, attacking the ball. And there’s been some situations in this season where I wish I’d done a better job of attacking the ball with my hands in those contested situations...because these DBs are really good...they don’t quit.

They’re gonna play through the catch; when you catch the ball they’re gonna play through your hands. So, when I locate the ball, usually, in those situations, my mindset is to attack it the best way I can and hold it through the catch.

Washington Football Team v Buffalo Bills
Terry McLaurin #17 of the Washington Football Team makes a catch against Micah Hyde #23 of the Buffalo Bills in the first quarter of the game at Highmark Stadium on September 26, 2021 in Orchard Park, New York.
Photo by Joshua Bessex/Getty Images

To see something that I emphasized in the off-season come up in the season and be a strength of mine — I’m proud of that. I think it’s something I can continue improving on because it’s something [where] you can lose it so quickly. You could get two or three situations this weekend where you don’t high-point the ball or you don’t come down with it and you’re feeling like, “Ah! Do I need to do something different?”

So, it’s something that is always at the forefront of my mind because those are the types of plays that extend drives. Especially when we get in the red zone, those are important. When you come down with those types of balls, it gives everybody confidence.

I’ll tell you what; when I fast-forward a decade or two in my mind, I see Terry McLaurin, if he doesn’t decide to become King of the World or a TV analyst, as potentially one of the great coaches in the NFL.

He’s a hard worker; he’s smart; he’s analytical, self-aware, and he can talk to others and about others in a way that is both instructive and uplifting.

A guy that he reminds me of when I see him behind the microphone is Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin.

Tomlin grew up in the same area I did in Southeastern Virginia, and played his college football at William & Mary, just a short drive from my childhood home, where he was a wide receiver.

Tomlin never played in the NFL; he began coaching immediately, starting out as a wide receivers coach at VMI in 1995. He jumped quickly to the other side of the ball, working as the DB coach at four different college programs in five years. Tomlin’s first NFL coaching job came six years later, as a defensive backs coach in Tampa Bay, where he coached under Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden. He spent one year as defensive coordinator of the Vikings in 2006, and was hired to be head coach of the Steelers in 2007 at just 34 years of age. Interestingly, the Steelers have a history of hiring young head coaches; Tomlin was the 10th guy hired to be the head coach of the Steelers at age 38 or younger.

Tomlin has never had a losing season as Pittsburgh’s head coach. In his 14 full seasons, the Steelers have won the division 7 times, been to the playoffs 9 times, and they brought home the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the 2008 season.

FBN-SUPERBOWL Photo by Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

I have the strong suspicion that, if he were to enter the coaching profession, Terry McLaurin would be similar to Tomlin. Tomlin is passionate, disciplined, successful and respected. When he speaks, he commands attention, and he has a history of being able to manage a diverse group of players (think Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, Le’veon Bell, JuJu Smith-Schuster).

I think Terry McLaurin’s detailed approach to both preparation and execution would make him a great position coach and an even better head coach. I suspect that, in this way, he’s also a lot like former Redskins position coach and current Rams head coach, Sean McVay, who is also noted for both his passion and attention to detail.

Washington Redskinstraining camp Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post via Getty Images

I’m probably too old to live long enough to see Terry McLaurin become a head coach in the NFL (or King of the World... whichever he decides to do), but watching him on the field and behind the microphone for the past two and a half seasons has convinced me that he’ll be great at whatever he decides to do.

Washington Redskins v Miami Dolphins Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images