NFC East: Doug Williams

The job requires discipline and a desire to work long hours and watch endless amounts of tape. And then keep pushing to the next day. When the Redskins replace Morocco Brown as the director of pro personnel, they’ll need to find someone willing to handle such a role.

Brown has agreed to become Cleveland’s vice president of player personnel, making him the No. 2 person behind general manager Ray Farmer. In Washington, he was third in command.

Redskins general manager Bruce Allen told the Washington Post at the one-day owners meetings in Atlanta that they have known this was a possibility and would start interviewing candidates next week. While Doug Williams is a personnel executive and A.J. Smith is a senior executive with Washington, it’s uncertain if either would even want the job because of the heavy demands. Smith was more focused on the draft than on pro scouting this past offseason. Alex Santos, who has been a pro scout the past six years for Washington, could be on the list.

But what, exactly, will they do? During the 2012 season, I spoke with Brown about his job for my email newsletter for the Washington Examiner. I’ll lay it out the same way it was for the newsletter, giving you a sense of their week -- and why it’s important to have someone willing to grind.

Busiest day: “Is Monday. You have the game, guys get MRIs, you find out who’s injured so you want to get in and figure that out and once you figure the positional needs, you get your list which we've watched all players who are on the street as well as watching guys on other teams. You have to have your list ready. Bruce [Allen] will let me know what’s on the injury front and I’ll come up with the list, call their agents, get the flights set up. Those details take time and eat your day up. There’s a sense of urgency when someone gets hurt. Then I’ll bring them in and set up a workout. Then you've got to watch the game. It takes a while to study it. On top of that I have to have the [advance book for the next opponent] turned in by today. I give a book to all the coaches and meet with them. It’s hectic.”

The advance book: “You start watching the team we’re going to play two weeks before we play them. Then you write up every player on the team, you’ll give an overview like the defensive and offensive strengths and weaknesses and what the philosophy is scheme-wise. Just to prep the coaches because they haven’t studied the team yet. They have to have a game plan by Tuesday. You present them with the book, the injuries, what happened at the game. You want to know who was injured, what were the big plays, the momentum-changers. No one will know that unless you’re at the game. You put it in the book, put your spin on it. You start that two weeks ahead of time.”

More advance: “Doing the advance takes the life out of you. Because it’s so much work and you have to know that team. We have to sit and meet with the coaches. You go off the top of your head saying what the team does and what we need to do to win. On Monday you pass the book out. Tuesday you meet with the coaches in the morning. Wednesday we’ll meet with some of the players and talk to them. You’re spent.”

Watching tape: “I’m constantly watching tape. I’m watching tape of the upcoming free agents this year, watching tape in the beginning of the year on everyone on every practice squad. There are thousands of street free agents. We catalog them, however far back you want to go based on you. I draw the line at two years. You always need to be cognizant of who’s out there. You’re always grinding on tape. We don’t draw names out of a hat. You have to show tape. The guy has to be a player on tape.”

Inquiries: “You do background research, call around and find out about the guy. You call the league and get something from them, did he get in trouble? What’s the deal with this guy? Sometimes they will be in trouble and you bring them in anyway to talk to them, see how they are in their mind.”

His help: “I have three assistants and they’re doing their teams. I do all the teams in our division. You build a library and a catalog of the players. Like Dez Bryant. I know who he is, but you have to be on top of it and make sure you put the right grade on him. That’s the biggest thing. I’ll assign them teams and they write up their teams throughout the course of the year. They follow their teams closely. We’ll put in our system the injuries, if someone gets in trouble. We’re tracking all that stuff. By the end of the year we won’t be finished, but you want to have written up each team in the league.”

Planning ahead: “Now’s the time of year it will start coming sooner rather than later. I want to get way ahead. Coach is inquisitive about everything. He might ask something now and you have to know. I start getting here earlier or leave later to get ahead of the curve. Something always comes up. Then we have to call the CFL, see who the top guy is, get the film sent in, watch those four or five guys and see if they can help us. It consumes a ton of time. You don’t want to miss Cameron Wake coming out of the CFL. Agents call a lot, sometimes players do. You have a guy who looks through all that stuff.”
Morocco Brown got a promotion -- just not from the Redskins. A source confirmed Tuesday that Brown will become the next vice president of player personnel for the Cleveland Browns.

The possibility of his likely hiring was first reported by Cleveland.com's Mary Kay Cabot, but the position was unclear. The source confirmed that it was for the VP job.

Thus creates a big opening that Redskins general manager Bruce Allen now must fill. They could always promote Doug Williams, hired earlier this offseason as a personnel executive. Williams was a personnel executive for five seasons in Tampa Bay under Allen and then spent two years as the coordinator of pro scouting. They also have former San Diego general manager A.J. Smith on staff, though he's not full-time at Redskins Park and his focus this past offseason was on the draft.

Brown had been in charge of advance scouting of opponents and scouting potential free-agent and trade prospects. He joined Washington in 2008 from Chicago.

Brown interviewed for general manager positions in Arizona and Tampa Bay since the end of the 2012 season. He has a good reputation as hard-working and knowledgeable.

Brown will be reunited with Cleveland offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and receivers coach Mike McDaniel.

Jay Gruden a good fit with RG III

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
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Robert Griffin IIIPatrick Smith/Getty ImagesQuarterback Robert Griffin III is smiling again under new Washington coach Jay Gruden.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- They notice a difference. Robert Griffin III is happier, something just about everyone who has seen him at Redskins Park has picked up on. It could be because he’s not spending his time in Florida rehabbing his knee, as he was doing a year ago. Or that he knows the knee brace likely is a thing of the past.

Or it’s the fresh start that he -- and everyone else, for that matter -- is getting. When the Redskins changed coaches, they also changed the outlook for Griffin. Regardless of who was to blame for the failed relationship between him and former coach Mike Shanahan, the bottom line is it didn’t work. Enter Jay Gruden. Enter an excited young quarterback.

One Redskins employee described Griffin as “18 times happier.” Others echo that sentiment. Whether a happy Griffin translates into a productive one will be answered in about six months. But there is little doubt the offseason has unfolded in a positive way for Griffin.

“Jay sees football through the eyes of the quarterback,” Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said of his former offensive coordinator. “It gives him the opportunity for the quarterback to grow through him. That’s really helpful. The offense and everything has to be quarterback-friendly, and that’s important.”

It’s not just Gruden’s arrival. It’s Sean McVay being elevated to offensive coordinator. Like Gruden, McVay offers a more measured demeanor. It’s also the hiring of Doug Williams as a personnel executive. Williams will not coach Griffin, but will act as a sounding board, as someone who played the position at a high level in the NFL and understands scrutiny. The two already have spoken.

“This kid came in here as a rookie and single-handedly raised the play of everybody on that football team,” Williams said recently on SiriusXM NFL Radio. “At the end of the day, you can’t put it all on his shoulders. You’ve got to have some people around him. And I think that’s the course we’re in now. This guy, man, he comes to the office, always smiling, always upbeat, and you can tell his leadership character and the things that he’s got going for him that are gonna take him a long way.”

[+] EnlargeJay Gruden
AP Photo/Joe RobbinsJay Gruden on developing the offense around Robert Griffin III: "I think it's gotta be a two-way street. It's gotta be something we're both interactive with."
Even Gruden sees how eager Griffin is to get going. But it’s about more than just having a new coach; Griffin also wants to make up for a subpar season and to regain his rookie mojo. But Gruden wants to make sure Griffin, who is often at Redskins Park (though they can’t yet discuss football together), doesn’t burn out.

“He just needs to relax right now. Enjoy the offseason,” Gruden said. “When it’s time, it’s time. We’ll get plenty of time with him to work with his fundamentals, and just don’t stress out over it right now. He’s so anxious and wants to do so well all the time. He’s such a perfectionist that he needs to settle down right now, enjoy the offseason, enjoy the players he’s working out with right now, and have some fun.”

Griffin had to mature; it’s also important to note that he’s still only 24. And, yes, maybe he needs to be treated differently than, say, backup Kirk Cousins. Is that right or wrong? Well, coaching is about knowing how to reach every player, especially one who plays the most important position and who can define the franchise for the next decade.

Shanahan had his way of doing things, and it earned him two Super Bowl titles. As a rookie, Griffin flourished under him: 20 touchdowns, 5 interceptions, 815 yards rushing and 3,200 yards throwing. But, fair or not, Griffin never trusted him, never fully bought what he was being sold. Doesn’t matter who’s at fault, but the reality is that it makes it tougher to grow, both as a player and as a team.

Gruden has never quite relinquished a quarterback’s mindset. Heck, he says he’s still bitter about never getting a shot in the NFL. But maintaining that mindset helps him relate well to those who play the position. In Cincinnati, Gruden and Andy Dalton shared a strong bond. If that develops here, perhaps he’ll coax even more out of Griffin.

“There’s the physical tools to the game and then there’s the mental aspects, where you have to have confidence in everything you do,” Gruden said. “The quarterback needs to know that the coach has the quarterback’s best interests [at] heart. He has to understand that I want nothing more than for him to succeed. Obviously, he’s got my future in his hands. And it kind of works both ways. It would be foolish for me to think I have all the power: ‘You do exactly what I want. I don’t care if you like it or not.’ I think it’s gotta be a two-way street. It’s gotta be something we’re both interactive with.”

If there’s a disagreement, Gruden stressed that he has the final call. It’s hard to imagine anyone thinking otherwise. Gruden must be in control, and that concept must be accepted by Griffin. But if they develop a strong relationship, they can weather any storms. Last season, a storm turned into a tornado.

Griffin, now working out with teammates in Arizona, must smile at Gruden's words. It’s a new day for him: a full offseason and a coach known for building strong ties. All that’s left is to produce next season. If that happens, Griffin will give the entire organization reason to smile. Again.

Would the Redskins draft Sam?

February, 10, 2014
Feb 10
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Michael Sam is a potential 3-4 outside linebacker who happens to be gay, and potentially the first openly gay player in the NFL.

But come draft time the Redskins need to ask themselves one question: Can he help them?

He’s a potential 3-4 outside linebacker who would need time to develop based on the descriptions of his play. Sam posted big numbers at Missouri this past season as a defensive end: 11.5 sacks; SEC Defensive Player of the Year; first-team All-American. Clearly he has talent.

What the Redskins need are good, young pass rushers. Do they have enough? He would be a project, like any player who must make the transition from college left end to 3-4 outside linebacker. That means being able to play in space and drop into coverage. He’s listed at 6-foot-2 and 260 pounds. By comparison, Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo, the Redskins’ starting outside linebackers both are 6-foot-4 (as is top reserve Rob Jackson) and weigh around 260 pounds as well.

Sam most likely is a mid-round draft choice at best, based on scouting reviews before his recent news.

Sam’s play at the Senior Bowl received mixed reviews. But Falcons linebackers coach Bryan Cox said to reporters during the week about Sam that he had “Good athleticism. You know what he was in college in terms of big plays that he made for Missouri. And you look at the [Cotton] bowl game when he had the big strip at the end of the game to win it for the team. So you know that he has some pass-rush ability

“You're looking for his versatility; kind of showcase his ability to play linebacker as well as playing the defensive front. He's just trying to showcase who he is. He's a very talented guy."

Would the organization want to draft an openly gay player? Consider the history: A former Redskin, Dave Kopay, was the first ex-NFL player to reveal his sexual orientation.

General manager Bruce Allen’s father, George, coached former Redskin Jerry Smith. George Allen later sent a letter to Smith after he learned he had contracted AIDS.

In A Football Life: Jerry Smith, Bruce Allen read parts of the letter, “You not only were the very best tight end the Redskins ever had, you also were the toughest. Like we always said, no matter how many setbacks you have had keep fighting. I want you ready for my next team. That one will be called the Over the Hill Gang.”

And the Redskins alumni invited Smith’s sister and her son to a recent homecoming game.

Allen also said on the show, “He’s in our ring of honor and has been there for a number of years. His contributions to the Washington Redskins on the field and off the field will never be forgotten.”

Not that this has anything to do with the team now.

Doug Williams was just hired Monday as a Redskins personnel executive. So it’s not as if he speaks for the entire organization. But I’d be surprised if others differed with what he said.

“We have to take our hats off to the young guy,” Williams said. “He did something that takes a lot of courage. I’m sure he thinks it could hurt his draft status. It could help. But the locker room is what it is. For five years this guy has been in a locker room and [his teammates] put their arms around him and had a heck of a season, which means it wasn’t a big deal to them. At the NFL level the bottom line is where does he rate as a player. Russell Wilson won the Super Bowl and nobody talked about him being black. Eventually we have to get to that point when we talk about people’s sexuality.

“We all understand there will be some knuckleheads out there. That won’t ever change. But you have to understand society has changed enough over the last 10 to 15 years and you have to accept people for what they are.”
  • Orakpo
    The three Redskins in Hawaii won’t be split up for Sunday’s Pro Bowl game. Running back Alfred Morris, left tackle Trent Williams, and linebacker Brian Orakpo all were drafted by Team Prime, coached by Deion Sanders. Can’t say I’m a big fan of this format; what would happen if Orakpo had a chance to level Morris? Would he really do that to a teammate? It might have been fun to watch Williams and Orakpo go one-on-one; it’s the matchup we get to see daily in training camp. But this game hasn’t been fun to watch in a while.
  • It makes sense if former Redskins quarterback Doug Williams joins Washington’s front office. This was actually first mentioned a few years ago when general manager Bruce Allen joined the organization. Several months later Williams was out of a job and said he had talked to the Redskins, but that the timing was off. It’s no longer off. He soon became the general manager of the Virginia Destroyers in the United Football League.
  • Keep in mind that Williams worked in Tampa Bay with both Allen and new head coach Jay Gruden as a personnel executive. After both were fired by the Bucs, Williams became the coordinator of pro scouting for two years.
  • I would expect a decision on who will coach the running backs Thursday or Friday, based on a conversation I had with a team source early in the week. Yes, Earnest Byner remains in the running, but last week two team sources said they had planned to interview more candidates.
  • For those who missed it, Sean McVay said he will coach the quarterbacks.
  • Hall
    Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett spoke with reporters at the Senior Bowl and had a couple of interesting comments. He called re-signing linebackers Orakpo and Perry Riley priorities, and also mentioned lineman Chris Baker and corner DeAngelo Hall as players they would like back.
  • Haslett also told reporters about Jay Gruden: "He’s going to spend his time with the offense, and I think he’ll trust the guys we have on defense to do what we have to do. Obviously, we’ll play as a team, from defense to special teams. I think we’ve got to get back to playing. I think we’re closer to the 10-win season than the three-win season that we had. We’re much closer to the 10-win season as a football team than the three-win season."
  • That word trust will be said a lot. Obviously, Mike Shanahan was involved quite a bit in the defense. One player said having another strong voice involved in the defense sometimes led to confusion in assignments and over who was really calling the shots. How much did it hurt? Tough to say. But it couldn't have helped.
  • Haslett also said, "We played much better, I thought, that last 13 games. We played extremely well from the standpoint that we didn’t give up a ton of points, we didn’t give up a ton of yards. We played Peyton Manning about as good as you can get. And, I think that’s something to build off of. We played good after those first four games. Can we get better? Yeah. We were middle of the pack. But we were fourth in the league on third-down efficiency. So, all that stuff is something you can build on."
  • According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Redskins ranked ninth in total yards from weeks 4-17, allowing 323.2 yards per game; they were last in the NFL for the first three games, allowing 488.0 total yards per game. They allowed 32.7 points per game in the first three weeks (31st in the NFL) and 29.2 thereafter (29th).
  • The Redskins ranked 18th in the NFL by allowing 88 points off turnovers. Considering how many they had (34), that’s not a bad number. The league average was 82 points allowed. There were eight teams that had at least 30 turnovers; the Redskins, with 34, were tied for second most. But they were second best in the points allowed per turnover.
  • So let’s say the Redskins had repeated 2012 when they were fourth in this area at 51 points allowed. And let’s say they only allowed three returns for a touchdown (on special teams and offense) instead of seven. That would deduct 65 points from their total, leaving them with 413 allowed for the season. And that would have left them 24th in the NFL at 25.81 points per game allowed.
  • Only two teams in the bottom 15 of points allowed finished with a winning record. One happened to be Denver (24.9 ppg); Green Bay (26.8) was the other. So the Redskins' performance in this area was unacceptable, and I don't think Haslett would disagree. But his overall point was finding positives upon which to build.
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Our countdown of the top 20 NFL coaches of all time reaches No. 9 today, and that's where we find Washington Redskins coaching legend Joe Gibbs, winner of three Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks. One of those quarterbacks was Doug Williams, who told Ashley Fox the story of how Gibbs was going to trade him to the Raiders prior to the 1987 season but told him he'd changed his mind:
I said, "Coach, you can't change your mind." That's the first time I'd ever seen Joe get mad. He told me, "I don't work for the Raiders. I work for the Washington Redskins. I can change my mind." And then he calmed down a little bit, and he looked at me and said, "I've got a gut feeling somewhere during the season you're going to come in here, and we're going to win this thing."

Joe Gibbs told me that before the season. In the last game of the regular season, I wasn't the starting quarterback. After the last game of the season, Joe Gibbs makes the decision, "I'm going to start Doug Williams." That's a heck of a decision. If there had been a vote in the locker room, I would've won the election from the start.

As a coach, you have to know the heartbeat of your football team, and he felt that was what everybody else was thinking. If you watch the highlight film after the Super Bowl, at the end of the film, Joe and I hug. And he tells me in my ear, "I told you so." Well, you know, all along I felt pretty good before he told me that, because of what we'd done. But for him to tell me that, it just resonated what kind of coach he was, what kind of man he was and the spiritual belief he had. For him to tell me that before the season in 1987 and then it happened, in a way it's scary, but at the same time I think it had a lot to do with his coaching ability.

The whole win-Super-Bowls-with-three-different-quarterbacks thing looks even more impressive from our present-day vantage point, with the franchise quarterback established as the essential ingredient without which championships can't be won. But it's still something no one has ever done, and it bolsters Gibbs' credentials as the type of coach who could have been great in any era -- one who clearly understood that great coaching means figuring out how to get the very best out of the people you have, not assembling a team out of the kinds of guys you want. He's an all-time Redskins legend, one of the most beloved figures in franchise history and certainly a worthy member of any list of the top 10 coaches in NFL history.
On Super Bowl Sunday, one of the features to air on ESPN's "NFL Countdown" show will be a look back at the Super Bowl victory by Doug Williams and the Washington Redskins 25 years ago. Our Greg Garber covered that game and recently wrote this story in which Williams recalls the victory and the fuss that was made over his being the first black quarterback to start a Super Bowl. But the seven-minute feature that will run Sunday morning is narrated not by Garber but by current Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III:
“Originally, we thought it would be cool to get a voice like Denzel Washington, Sam Jackson or James Earl Jones, but we eventually realized that RG III was the perfect guy,” Garber said.

You can read more about the production of the feature and see a clip of it here. And of course the full feature will run on ESPN on Sunday. We've talked a lot here about Griffin's awareness of his place in history and society and the respect he has for those who came before him, and the fact that they were able to get him to narrate this story shows how seriously he takes it. Griffin was not yet born when Williams won that Super Bowl with the Redskins, but he has a great deal of respect for what happened that day and the way it helped change some perceptions about the quarterback position.

Best Redskins Team Ever: 1991

June, 22, 2010
6/22/10
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Notable players: QB Mark Rypien, RB Earnest Byner, WR Gary Clark, G Mark Schlereth, DE Charles Mann, CB Darrell Green, K Chip Lohmiller

[+] EnlargeMark Rypien
US PresswireMark Rypien threw for 3,564 yards and 28 touchdowns during the 1991 season.
Analysis: Maybe I should've leaned toward the Riggo-Theismann teams, but in my mind, the ’91 team was too stacked to ignore. Clark was such an unbelievable competitor and he still drops by practice from time to time and inspires the current players. Green was the primary reason opposing teams only managed 6 yards per passing attempt that season. His battles with Michael Irvin were priceless.

The ’91 offensive line was dominant to a ridiculous degree. Redskins quarterbacks were only sacked nine times that season, which is a decent half for the current unit. Rypien had 14 touchdown passes of 25 yards or more to lead the league. Washington could beat you with the pass or run and then its defense knew how to protect leads.

Most impressive win: The Redskins breezed through the regular season with a 14-2 record and then pounded the Lions and Falcons in playoff games. But the 37-24 Super Bowl win over the Bills stands out to me. The Bills were in the middle of a remarkable run and they had an immensely talented offense. The Redskins didn’t care about any of that. We remember the Cowboys being the dominant team of the '90s, but the Redskins set the table in ’91 with a memorable season.

Best player: Green was brilliant at cornerback, but Rypien was the MVP of the league. For that one season, he put up numbers (3,564 yards passing, 28 TDs) that would make any quarterback envious. And the man threw an excellent deep ball.

Honorable mention

1987: I’ll never forget Doug Williams’ performance in the Super Bowl. He was shaky early in that game, but after the Skins fell behind the Broncos by 10, Williams settled down and started shredding the defense.

1983: I know the ’82 team won a Super Bowl, but that was in a strike-shortened season. Give me the ’83 team even though it was pummeled by the Raiders in the Super Bowl.

1972: The Skins ran into the perfect Dolphins in the Super Bowl, but Billy Kilmer and the gang had a tremendous season. Larry Brown was a monster and the great George Allen had the Cowboys in full paranoid mode. It was a classic time in the rivalry because the Cowboys also had become an elite team.

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