NFL Nation: Joe Gibbs

What the Redskins' O must produce

June, 30, 2014
Jun 30
1:30
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This was going to be an answer in the mailbag section. Then it started getting too long. So, now, it’s a separate item.

Here’s a little backdrop: One of my twitter followers, @mcredskins, asked me last week about Joe Gibbs’ offense and how many points he wanted to average, if the Redskins were to be a playoff team. It wasn’t a high number (21) and he wanted to know if the NFL had changed that much or if defenses were that bad. So I did some research. Then came more research after @mcredskins asked about this for the mailbag, wondering what the Redskins under Jay Gruden needed to average to make the postseason.

[+] EnlargeJay Gruden
AP Photo/Nick WassWhat do Jay Gruden and the Redskins' offense need to accomplish to get to the postseason? A look at recent playoff teams could provide the answer.
First, the Gibbs era. During Gibbs 1.0, the Redskins averaged at least 21 points per game every season except 1985, when they averaged 18.6 and missed the postseason. Under Gibbs 1.0, the Redskins reached the playoffs in six of the eight years they finished in the top 10 offensively. Overall, since 1981, the Redskins have made the postseason eight of 12 times in which they finished among the top 10 in scoring.

The Redskins averaged at least 25 points per game four times under Gibbs; they reached the Super Bowl each season. They averaged between 21.1 and 24.1 seven times and reached the postseason twice. (The Redskins once averaged 24.1 points en route to 10 wins and failed to make the postseason. Another time they averaged 18.6, won 10 and missed the cut.)

Now for Gruden and the current group. A lot of this, of course, is dependent on the defense. A bad one, as you’ve seen, means they’ll obviously have to score more (the Redskins have finished 21st or worse in points allowed per game defensively each of the past four years and 30th last season). This is just a guideline of what playoff teams in the past three years have done.

So here goes:

  • It’s clear that you must be in or near the top 10 in points scored per game. Last season, for example, of the top 12 teams in offensive points per game, 10 made the postseason. The only two playoff teams that weren’t? Kansas City (15th) and Carolina (19th).
  • Last year’s playoff participants averaged 25.1 points per game offensively during the regular season. But eight of those teams averaged between 21.1 and 24.4 points.
  • In 2012, 10 of the top 12 teams in offensive points per game made the postseason. The only two not in that group were Minnesota (16th) and Indianapolis (19th).
  • Seven playoff teams in 2012 averaged 23.7 points per game or less, while the average for the playoff teams was 24.1.
  • In 2011, eight of the top 12 in offensive points per game made the postseason. Eight of the 12 averaged between 17.1 and 23.9 points per game.
  • In the past three seasons, a combined 28 of the 36 teams that made the postseason finished in the top 12 in offensive points per game. In the last three years, the No. 12 team has averaged 22.3, 22.7 and 23.1 points per game, respectively. There’s your target.
  • Of the last four Super Bowl winners, all have averaged at least 24.2 points per game or more. The Redskins, of course, have some work to do before they dare dream about being in this category.
SPARTA, Ky. -- In the eyes of many, Joe Gibbs was long the face of the Washington Redskins. He coached the team twice, for a total of 16 seasons, leading them to three Super Bowl wins in four appearances.

While many would like to see the team’s name changed, Gibbs isn’t among them. To him, the name is not used in a racially insensitive way.

“I hope not,” he said Saturday at the Kentucky Speedway when asked if he thought the name would be changed. “We’ll see (what happens).”

Gibbs, now the owner of a NASCAR organization that fields Sprint Cup Series cars for drivers Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin, followed the team as a child, so the name was a part of his life long before he ever worked for the team.

“I grew up in the hills of North Carolina, and my uncle had the first TV set in our whole little area and about a 110-foot antenna,” Gibbs said. “The only pro football team we could get was the Redskins with Charlie “Choo Choo” Justice and all of them. We used to sit on the bank outside of his home and he’d turn the TV around and we’d watch the game.

“I always loved the Redskins and never thought I’d have the chance to coach them. In the (16) years I coached them ... we never heard anybody say anything negative about the Redskins’ name; it was always prideful, courageous. We have a song; we sing, ‘Hail to the Redskins.’"
Jason Hatcher didn’t provide details; he didn’t want to come across as ripping his former team. But in going from Dallas to Washington, Hatcher went from a coach who had one way of running things to a coach who has a different style.

Hatcher played eight seasons in Dallas (Jason Garrett was his head coach for three-and-a-half seasons) and has only been around Jay Gruden for a couple of weeks -- and on the field with him for only three days during a minicamp that ended Thursday.

Hatcher
Hatcher
But that was enough time for him to formulate an initial opinion on the differences between the coaches and teams during an interview with 105.3 The Fan in Dallas.

“They really take care of the veteran guys,” said the Redskins defensive end. “They give us more say-so over the team. This is our team. The head coach don’t want to be policing the team. This is our team, so when we set the foundation for this football team, the way it’s supposed to go, that’s the way it’s supposed to go, through the players and not the coaches. It’s a players’ team, so whatever we say goes, pretty much, if it’s going in the right direction.”

What this means exactly, I’m not sure. Could be more about the players taking responsibility for what goes on, both in the locker room and on the field. If that’s the case, that’s a good thing especially if you have the right leaders.

Gruden does not come across as someone who wants to control all aspects of the team, which is why, for example, he’s giving defensive coordinator Jim Haslett more freedom than his predecessor did. Which way works better? We’ll find out this fall and over the next few seasons. But every coach needs to let it be known they’re in charge, otherwise the ship will go astray at some point. Gruden knows this well, I'm sure. But when Hue Jackson took over for Gruden in Cincinnati, he vowed to be more of the disciplinarian he felt the team needed -- and to coach certain players harder on offense than they'd been coached in the past. And no coach can take a completely hands-off approach. You need to trust the players, you need to give them freedom but you also need to be in charge. Joe Gibbs did not hover over his players, but, especially during his first tenure, they were afraid of what might happen if they did not produce.

Still, it’ll be something to ask about when we finally get a chance to be around the players during workouts later this month. Mike Shanahan had a reputation for taking care of his players, too, mostly through how they practiced and the time off they received. And, this spring, the Redskins already had one week off (after starting workouts two weeks earlier than all but six other teams because they have a first-year coach).

Ultimately it will be the players who decide fates around here. Too often in the past, they haven’t gotten it done.

Ten thoughts (plus 2) on Jay Gruden

March, 27, 2014
Mar 27
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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Some leftover impressions after Jay Gruden's breakfast meeting with the press Wednesday:

1. I've said a few times that he's a breath of fresh air. Here's why: You don't get the feeling he's putting himself above anyone, even though his position puts him at quite a high level. He's personable, he's respectful. Shortly after he was hired, I spoke with him on the phone for a few minutes. After I was done asking him questions, he actually asked one of me. What does that mean? Probably not a whole lot, but I was not used to it. This only suggests that Gruden will be good to deal with from a professional standpoint. That doesn't mean he'll get a free pass.

[+] EnlargeJay Gruden
Rob Foldy/USA TODAY SportsCoach Jay Gruden has set himself apart in interviews from his predecessors in Washington.
2. Jim Zorn was personable as well. But from the minute he took over, you knew he was in over his head. He also was a bit goofy with his stories and that did not play well with players and coaches who often wondered where the heck his tales were going.

3. There's zero of that with Gruden. He's at least been an offensive coordinator so being elevated to this job was no surprise, whether people think he should have been or not. Nobody outside of the Redskins felt Zorn should have been a head coach. Some thought Gruden should be one, others did not.

4. One reason Gruden did not want to come to the NFL long ago was because he wanted to enjoy his family, coaching their youth sports and just being a dad. I completely can relate to that sentiment. But I also think it makes him less likely to believe he's smarter than everyone else. Some coaches from the past did not share that outlook.

5. Gruden spoke for an hour at Wednesday's breakfast and said quite a bit that provided insight. Former coach Mike Shanahan often spoke that long, but usually said little -- for obvious reasons, of course.

6. Gruden has a sense of humor. The topic was Robert Griffin III's running and taking too many hits. Gruden, too, hurt his knee when he played quarterback. It was not from running, however. “I hurt my knee because the right tackle missed a block,” he said. You know, that may have sounded funnier when he was talking. Now I wonder if he's not still annoyed. Whatever. It was funny at breakfast.

7. It was very different to see other teams' coaches garner much more attention than the guy leading the Redskins. Chip Kelly, for example, had reporters sitting at the table and then another ring standing behind them, with cameras all around. Gruden had a couple of national guys stop by, ask about Griffin and then leave.

8. Look at the coaches hired by the Redskins under Dan Snyder (outside of Zorn): Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier, Joe Gibbs and Mike Shanahan. All brought a certain level of attention. Gruden's last name does, but despite him being a good quote there will be less attention. Unless they win: Hey, another Gruden who wins! Or unless things go south in a hurry: Hey, another Redskins coach in trouble! Griffin's presence will always bring a high level of attention, however.

9. One question that was asked often during the coaching search about any candidate: Can Gruden command the room? Can he sell his vision and plan? That was typically tops on the list of importance when I'd talk to various NFL people about coaching candidates. Don't know if Gruden can do that or not yet in Washington because he hasn't had the chance. But I'll be curious to hear how that goes. It's a key.

10. So, too, is Griffin's improvement and a defense that must -- must -- show some teeth for a change. They still need a safety. (Yes, Ryan Clark remains in the mix.) They need to prove that the talk in March will result in a better pass rush in September. And they need to cut down on big plays allowed. Do that and Gruden's task is much easier. Otherwise, all the personable traits won't matter a bit.

11. I also wonder how he'll handle the bigger media market and how dysfunctional things can get with this organization. There's no way to know until it happens, of course. But coming from being a coordinator in small-market Cincinnati to being in charge in Washington represents quite a leap.

12. What does all this means for wins and losses? Well, that depends on other factors -- do you believe Bruce Allen can build a winner is one of the big questions, of course. The organization has failed to produce a consistent winner and until it does, there will be massive questions about that ability.
Jay GrudenAP Photo/Manuel Balce CenetaNew head coach Jay Gruden comes to the Redskins with something to prove.
ASHBURN, Va. -- At some point during Jay Gruden's introductory news conference, it became clear: Gruden was, for lack of a better phrase, a breath of fresh air.

That doesn't mean he'll work out as the Washington Redskins' head coach. No coach has proved he can win in Washington under owner Dan Snyder. The owner isn't always the reason, but it is his organization and facts are facts: No coach that he's hired has left here with a winning record.

And he's hired some of the all-time winningest coaches: Marty Schottenheimer (career winning percentage: .606), Joe Gibbs (.665) and Mike Shanahan (.552). He hired the college hot shot, Steve Spurrier (.730). Yet that group posted a combined winning percentage of .420 as Redskins coaches with eight losing seasons out of 11. The three longtime NFL coaches combined for seven losing seasons in their other combined 48 NFL seasons.

Again, it's not all on Snyder. But the organization can't hide from its past and this is what they've done here.

Yes, Jim Zorn was not Snyder's typical hire, though that resulted as much from lack of preparation as anything. They were caught off-guard by Gibbs' retirement and had no real plan. Zorn, a nice personable guy, could not command a room and did not have the respect of his players. Even coaches would wonder about some of the bizarre tales he would tell the team, wondering how it related to his ultimate message. After Zorn's first news conference, I remember thinking: I'll like this guy, but it will not go well.

Gruden also is atypical, though in a different way than Zorn. He, too, comes across as personable. He does not come here with the résumé of the other non-Zorn hires. You can point to reasons why he'll be good and equally point to reasons why he won't be. A case can be made either way.

But it's good that Gruden arrives without the sizzle of the others. Gibbs did not arrive with any in 1981 either. Nor did Schottenheimer when he took over in Cleveland. Shanahan was a hot-shot coordinator but failed first-time head coach when he got the Denver job. They all won.

There's a different sort of energy that comes with a guy trying to reach a certain place rather than trying to maintain it. When you've had success, perhaps you start to get too confident in what you can do -- and with whom. You can overestimate your abilities as a coach because of your track record. Gruden, it seems, understands he'll need help -- from coaches, but mostly from players.

The past brings instant credibility, but it clearly hasn't guaranteed anything here. It's not like other teams wouldn't have hired any of these previously successful coaches. During their first news conferences you could see, and feel, why they'd won in the past. But duplicating past success is difficult, especially when you work for an organization with a weak foundation. Is it more firm now? Will there really be a better way of making decisions? I say: Prove it. We've heard this talk before about Redskins Way and Redskins Grades. Why is this time different?

But this is why hiring someone such as Gruden is intriguing. He needs to work hard to prove himself to his players rather than pointing to his résumé. It's not that the others weren't respected; they were. And I'm not even blaming them solely for their losing records here; good organizations win. The Redskins have not. Schottenheimer probably would have won had he stayed longer, but taking all control from Snyder was a bad move, one he felt he could do because of, well, his track record of success.

Of course, the track records buy respect with the owner and can keep him less involved.

But with Gruden, the newness brings something new, something fresh. His personality could be good for quarterback Robert Griffin III, a more personable coach with an even-keeled demeanor. I also can't imagine a former quarterback isn't hard on his own quarterbacks. And it's not as if Shanahan was out of control; Griffin deserves his share of the blame in this breakup. However, Gruden might just be a better fit for him.

Every coach needs authority, but not every coach needs power. Too often here there's a power struggle. Spurrier had none, but he was ill-equipped for the NFL. Zorn had none, but was blinded by an 8-2 start into thinking he was a coach he really wasn't. Only Gibbs knew how best to use that power under Snyder.

Gruden doesn't arrive here as a polished guy, nor as someone who will wow anyone with his charisma when he walks into a room. Maybe that's good because, for a change, it's not all about the coach here. The coach must be in charge; he must be the authority. But he doesn't have to be the star.

A lot has to go right for Gruden to work, just as would be the case anywhere (though Griffin could make his life easier by returning to his old self). The Redskins have never proved all will go right for more than a season at a time. So this is far from just up to him. That can't be emphasized enough. The front office must provide the players and also the support. The owner can't undermine his coach -- whether it's real or perceived -- by his conduct, whether in recommending certain moves or getting too tight with players.

The coach has to do his part too. That's where Gruden's newness can help. Yes, he has a famous last name. But he still needs to make his name.

Snyder's history of coaching hires

December, 31, 2013
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Before the Washington Redskins' head coaching search gets fully underway -- though, in reality, it began a couple weeks ago -- let's take a look back at the coaching hirings owner Dan Snyder has made. This will be his sixth hire since buying the team in 1999. That leads to constant changing of schemes, which means a constant changing of talent to fit those schemes. And constant losing. Will this time be any different?

Here's a look at his past coaches, all but one of whom was considered a big-name hire:

Marty Schottenheimer

Why he was hired: Predecessor Norv Turner was viewed as too soft when it came to discipline. Snyder went for a strong-willed, no-nonsense coach.

Why it failed: Schottenheimer had too much power for Snyder’s liking. When Schottenheimer fired Vinny Cerrato shortly after taking over, it started the beginning of the end for him. Partners in Snyder’s group did not like Schottenheimer and, by Week 3 of his first season, rumors of his demise already had begun.

Record: 8-8 in one season.

[+] EnlargeDan Snyder
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsDan Snyder will be making another coaching hire this offseason.
The ending: Schottenheimer had to wait nearly a week after the season ended to have his fate decided. And every day a media horde would follow him from the facility to his car awaiting an update. It was bizarre. The day Steve Spurrier resigned from Florida, colleague Liz Clarke of the Washington Post and I were in the press room. I remember her immediately saying, “Snyder’s going to hire him.” It was a gut feeling based on knowing how the then relatively new owner operated. I hedged, saying how people close to him said he’d never: A) Leave Florida and B) Coach in a colder climate. A week later I vowed never to assume anything. And I'll still say this: Had Schottenheimer remained in control, the Redskins would have had more success. He went .500 with Tony Banks and Kent Graham at quarterback and a roster devoid of serious talent. You did not hear excuses when he was done.

Steve Spurrier

Why he was hired: After watching Martyball for a season, the Redskins opted for the supposedly innovative Spurrier, whose offenses at Florida were fantastic. He also was hired because he did not want power. That was evident from the get-go and most especially during the draft when Spurrier had little involvement.

Why it failed: Turns out personnel matters more than scheme. Who knew? Spurrier thought he could win with former Florida quarterbacks Danny Wuerffel and Shane Matthews. Nope. Spurrier did not keep typical NFL coaching hours. He was ill-prepared for the NFL and he did not have a front office that could bail him out. He was a good guy and entertaining. But I remember his first press conference when he could not name but one Redskins player. It became clear: He was unprepared for the job.

Record: 12-20 in two seasons.

The ending: Spurrier wasn’t fired, but rather resigned. When the news broke he was on a golf course. I happened to be on the phone with one of his former assistants, who said he had earlier told his wife that after being on his staff he could not figure out how the guy even won in college.

Joe Gibbs

Why he was hired: Because he’s Joe Gibbs. Snyder was like every other Redskins fan, a Gibbs worshiper because of the Redskins’ success under him in the 1980s and early ‘90s. Three Super Bowl wins tend to make you a legend.

Why it failed: It didn’t fail as much as it didn’t succeed in grand fashion. The Redskins did make the playoffs twice in four years under Gibbs. But the coach who oversaw dominant offenses throughout the 1980s with nine finishing in the top 10 in total yards had a mediocre attack in Washington. Their top ranking in total yards per game was 13th and in points was 11th.

Record: 30-34 in four seasons.

The ending: Before the 2007 season, Gibbs, myself and another reporter chatted casually outside their weight room. He talked about golfing and other leisure activities and seemed like a man wanting an easier lifestyle. Adding to that desire: His grandson had leukemia, which he often talked about. Then came the 2007 season and Sean Taylor’s death. By the end Gibbs was drained. Only Redskins management was caught completely off-guard by his retirement.

Jim Zorn

Why he was hired: Because others turned them down, notably, and lastly, Steve Spagnuolo, who did not like that the staff already had been hired. A month-long search led them back to Zorn, hired as an offensive coordinator. The Redskins also touted him as Gibbs-like in terms of his personal side.

Why it failed: Because he should never have been hired as a head coach. The Redskins started strong under him, winning six of their first eight games and there was a thought that perhaps the quirky Zorn could indeed make it work (players and coaches would say they often had no idea where he was going with his messages once he started talking). He could not. Injuries hurt down the stretch, but the Redskins went 2-6 and then 4-12 the next year. Zorn had no power in the organization and several players could bypass him and go right to the owner. But Zorn was overmatched.

Record: 12-20 in two seasons.

The ending: Came fast. Zorn was fired after the Redskins returned from a season-ending loss at San Diego.

Mike Shanahan

Why he was hired: He was the biggest name available and Snyder had been talking to him for a while. There was even chatter that had the Redskins indeed landed quarterback Jay Cutler, their next move would have been to fire Zorn and hire Shanahan. His two Super Bowl rings and résumé suggested it would at least be a solid hire.

Why it failed: All sorts of reasons, from the salary-cap situation to Robert Griffin III’s knee injury. But to just blame those would be incorrect. There were bad personnel decisions, not enough depth produced through the draft and a head coach who perhaps trusted his instincts too much. They had little margin for error so when anything went wrong, games (and seasons) unraveled.

Record: 24-40 in four seasons.

The ending: As you know, it occurred Monday morning.

Redskins' past turnarounds unpredictable

November, 12, 2013
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ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins have gone on four excellent runs to turn their season around and close with a flourish since 2001. Will they make it a fifth? Based on their recent play it's tough to predict such a run. But history also shows that these runs aren't always predictable.

Here are the four seasons in which Washington has finished on a hot stretch, taking a season from bad to excellent:

2001

How they started: The Redskins lost their first five games under coach Marty Schottenheimer -- and looked terrible in doing so. It also happened to follow a horrible preseason. The Redskins were outscored 143-33 in those games.

[+] EnlargeDan Snyder & Marty Schottenheimer
Chris Knight/AP PhotoThe 2001 season was a roller coaster of wins, losses and emotions for Redskins owner Daniel Snyder and coach Marty Schottenheimer.
Low point: Players were unhappy with Schottenheimer and his methods early in the season, with several voicing their complaints (even mild-mannered second-year offensive tackle Chris Samuels was displeased). But the two who were most upset? Corner Darrell Green and Bruce Smith.

Thoughts of a turnaround: None. The Redskins had played poorly since the preseason and they had cast-off Tony Banks at quarterback and no legitimate playmakers on offense. But what did start to change was the impression of Schottenheimer. Players started to respect his methods. They started to become a tough, physical team. A LaVar Arrington interception versus Carolina in a 17-14 win turned it around.

How it ended: The Redskins won five straight to reach .500 en route to an 8-8 record. Schottenheimer was well-liked by most players in the locker room, though Smith and Green, by most accounts, did not buy in. Owner Dan Snyder did not buy in, a fact that upset numerous players, as he fired Schottenheimer. It was a mistake.

2005

How they started: The Redskins actually played well at the start of the season, winning their first three games and they were 4-2 after six games. But they lost four of their next five to sit 5-6 after 11 games.

Low point: The Redskins lost three straight games, including the last two at home. One of those was as bad as the Minnesota game last week as they lost 16-13 to a three-win Oakland team that lost every game the rest of the season. They followed that with an overtime loss at home to San Diego.

Thoughts of a turnaround: Solid, despite the skid. Players were genuinely confused about what had happened. They knew Gibbs’ first year would be a struggle, but I remember talking to players, tackle Jon Jansen in particular, about what was happening. Their belief was that they were at least a nine-win team, that they had worked too hard and believed too much in what they were doing. I didn’t think they would win every game the rest of the season, but a strong finish? Doable.

How it ended: The Redskins won their last five regular season games to finish 10-6 and reach the playoffs. No opponent scored more than 20 points and the Redskins topped 30 in each of the last three games.

2007

How they started: The Redskins won five of their first eight games coming off a 6-10 season. Things looked good.

Low point: Sean Taylor’s death. The Redskins then lost a crushing game to Buffalo, 17-16, and flew to Miami for his funeral. It was their fourth straight defeat as they fell to 5-7.

Thoughts of a turnaround: None. It was asking too much for them to turn it around given the circumstances. They were a drained team. But, as in 2005, there were a lot of true professionals that provided reason to believe they could win again.

How it ended: Todd Collins entered and played well at quarterback for an injured Jason Campbell and the offense started to click. The team overall played inspired football and the Redskins won four in a row to reach the playoffs. They lost in the first round and Joe Gibbs retired.

2012

How they started: Washington lost three straight, including at home to Carolina, 21-13, to fall to 3-6.

Low point: Losing at home to previously one-win Carolina after two straight defeats to the New York Giants and Pittsburgh. Against the Giants, the Redskins played a solid game and lost on a last-minute touchdown pass. But Robert Griffin III's heroics provided hope that they were never out of a game. They lost at Pittsburgh in part because of nearly a dozen dropped passes and the Steelers’ defense had been dominating all year. Neither were terrible losses. But at home to the Panthers? That was bad.

Thoughts of a turnaround: After the bye week, the players returned refreshed and energized and expressed a belief that they could play better and finish strong, with fullback Darrel Young saying they would do “something special.” Too many players believed in what they were doing to write them off; it was similar to the 2005 feeling I had. So I anticipated improved play? But a seven-game streak? No way.

How it ended: With seven straight wins and a home playoff loss to Seattle, and the injury to Griffin. But with a belief that they had turned a corner.
video
Bill Walsh checks in at No. 2 on ESPN's list of Greatest Coaches in NFL History, leaving the as-yet-unnamed Vince Lombardi as the obvious No. 1.

Walsh, of course, led the San Francisco 49ers to three of their five Super Bowl victories. He revived the franchise with a blueprint that became standard operating procedure across the league. He blazed trails in minority hiring and produced a coaching tree with branches still growing in the game today.

I highly recommend checking out Seth Wickersham's piece on Walsh from January. Wickersham focused on the coaching guide Walsh wrote.

"[Bill] Belichick once referred to it as football 'literature,' but it's more like a textbook -- 550 pages, 1.8 inches thick, 3.2 pounds, loaded with charts, graphs and bullet points," Wickersham explained. "For example, Walsh includes 57 keys to negotiating contracts ('The negotiator's need for food and sleep can affect his/her ability to function effectively'), 13 pages of sample practices and 108 in-game scenarios."

The video above features Walsh's own thoughts on characteristics great coaches possess. Unpredictability on and off the field is one of them.

The chart below shows won-lost-tied records and number of championships won for the top 20 coaches on ESPN's list, courtesy of Pro Football Reference. The winning percentages listed reflect victories plus one-half ties, divided by total games. For Walsh, that works out to 92.5 victories divided by 152 games, or .609.

video
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.

Cowboys-Redskins: Get excited

December, 28, 2012
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An open letter to the fans of the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins:

Get excited.

You may not need my permission, or my urging. You may already be there -- as excited as you've been about a professional football game in a very long time. And if that's the case, good. You should be. Sunday night's game at FedEx Field for the NFC East title has everything any of you could possibly want. And while some of you will end your night deeply disappointed in the result while others celebrate a playoff appearance you couldn't possibly have imagined two months ago, these next 53 hours are your time to feel like kids on Christmas Eve. Get excited.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III and Tony Romo
Rodger Mallison/Getty ImagesRobert Griffin III and Tony Romo lead their respective teams in the most important game in the Redskins-Cowboys rivalry in years.
Regardless of which team you root for, think about how far you've come to get to this point. It started on the day before free agency, when the NFL took a huge chunk of salary-cap money away from each of these two teams and redistributed it among the others for what to this day continues to look like no good reason. The owner who most vocally championed and reveled in that punishment for your teams' spending during a season that featured no official spending rules was John Mara, the owner of the division-rival and Super Bowl champion New York Giants. His team can't win the NFC East. Yours can. His team needs a minor miracle Sunday just to get into the playoffs. Your team has control of its own destiny. If you want to cackle in glee about that particular irony, that's your right. Get satisfaction.

If the Cowboys are your team, you were 3-5 on Election Day, losers of two straight heartbreakers to the Giants and Falcons and wondering when anything was ever going to change. Defensive starters were dropping like flies, DeMarco Murray was out with a foot injury that refused to heal and Tony Romo was throwing interceptions around as though they were "I Voted" stickers. You were two and a half games out of first place behind the team that took the division from you last December, and you wanted everybody gone. If you want to look back over the last seven games and wonder what made Romo stop throwing picks or marvel at the way Jason Garrett has managed the second half or tell everyone it's about time Dez Bryant turned into one of the best receivers in the league, go ahead. Get amazed.

If you are a Redskins fan, you were 3-6 heading into the bye week. Your coach, Mike Shanahan, was defending comments he made after a miserable loss to Carolina about using the rest of this season for evaluations. You were pleased, obviously, with the brilliance of rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, and of the belief that the future looked bright. But you were still staring at a second half of the season that was going to feel too sadly familiar -- watching from the sidelines while the teams you hate fought it out for the division title. If you want to slap your friends on the back and shout, "Did you ever think we'd win six in a row after the bye and be in first place in Week 17?", be my guest. Get proud.

Whichever of these teams is your favorite, you have to be happy about the fact that this rivalry means something again. Cowboys-Redskins is one of the most historically intense rivalries the NFL has. Popular wisdom holds that the reason the Cowboys were kept in the NFC East when the divisions realigned, in spite of good geographic reasons to move them elsewhere, was to preserve the Cowboys-Redskins rivalry by allowing them to continue playing each other twice a year. So if this week gives you reason to think about Tom Landry and Joe Gibbs and Jimmy Johnson and John Riggins and Michael Irvin and Darrell Green and Troy Aikman and Joe Theismann... good. It's time to hate again -- time to remember why that star bugs you so much, time to get outwardly indignant about a politically incorrect team nickname that wouldn't bother you otherwise. Get trash-talking.

Get jacked. Get geeked. Get fired up. This is a big, big game, folks -- the kind of game that justifies every kind of the silly, overblown enthusiasm sports fans can muster. If you're a Redskins fan or a Cowboys fan, Sunday is your night. And the days leading up to it are for getting excited.
» AFC Scenarios: East | West | North | South » NFC: East | West | North | South

Yes, the start of training camps is two months away, but it’s never too early to consider the coming season. A look at the best-case and worst-case scenarios for the Redskins in 2012.

Dream scenario (9-7): This would mean Washington's first winning season since 2007, Joe Gibbs' final year as head coach. What has to happen to make it a reality? Well, lots, frankly. Robert Griffin III will need to be very good right away at taking care of the ball and limiting the kinds of mistakes it's reasonable to expect from rookie quarterbacks. Most important, the Redskins' offense must play very well around him. They'll need health from Tim Hightower and continued development from promising fellow running backs Roy Helu and Evan Royster. They'll need Pierre Garcon to play like the potential No. 1 wideout his free-agent price tag says they believe he can be. They'll need the offensive line to stay healthy and play well, with left tackle Trent Williams as its anchor. The Redskins' dream scenario sees Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan cementing their place among the league's top pass-rushing duos, DeAngelo Hall harnessing his ability and playing like a top corner, and something emerging from the muddle they take to training camp at safety. The defense looked like a young defense on the rise last year, and if the Redskins are to threaten or possibly exceed .500, it will have to continue that rise.

Nightmare scenario (5-11): And that would mean the same record as last year, and one game worse than the year before, and drop Mike Shanahan's three-year record as the team's head coach to a rather uninspiring 16-32. That would be what's called, in official NFL terms, "not good." In the Redskins' nightmare scenario, Griffin struggles with the transition, the wide receiver group is as uninspiring as Washington's free-agency critics believe it is and the offensive line falls apart due to injury for the second year in a row. In the nightmare scenario, the secondary remains a big-time weakness of the defense and costs the Redskins dearly in division games against the likes of Eli Manning, Tony Romo and Michael Vick. If all of this happens, the Redskins would enter the 2013 offseason with far more to fix than they currently believe they do, and with questions about Shanahan's future as coach. I don't think there's much that can happen to wreck the Griffin honeymoon between now and January, but if the rest of the team plays well around him and he commits too many turnovers, that particular nightmare scenario could make Redskins fans nervous about the new franchise quarterback going into next season.

ManningWatch: Joe Gibbs chimes in

February, 3, 2012
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INDIANAPOLIS — Pro Football Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs won Super Bowls with three different quarterbacks. He would not have objected, however, to a long-term relationship with a player the caliber of Peyton Manning.

Gibbs said he thinks if Manning lands on another team, that team should give him a large degree of control in the offense.
“If he’s physically healthy, I predict there will be 25 teams after him. Now the question is, what’s Indy going to do? They’re sitting there with the first pick in the draft and you know where that’s going to go and so what do you do? I think there are a lot of options there. It’ll be interesting to see what Indy does.

“This guy was special, he was special as a player. And I think really what was really special when you go against him was what he did at the line of scrimmage, mentally. Not only physically could he throw it and do all the things he did, but this guy actually took that audible package at the line of scrimmage and drove you crazy.

“If another team gets him, I would say the smart thing to do is to let him direct and help put in the offense… They say he spent hours and hours coaching. He had to in order to do what he did. I mean he goes to the line of scrimmage and quick counts you and that means you’ve got to get into what you’re going to do. And the next time he stops, backs down, says if it’s one deep I’m throwing it, if it’s two deep, I’m handing it off. And when he threw it, all they had to do was put their hand out. He was special. That part of him, you don’t want to lose that as a coaching staff.”
Mike MartzJerry Lai/US PresswireMike Martz might not return to Chicago when his contract expires after this season.
Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith turned down two opportunities this week to support offensive coordinator Mike Martz, once in a teleconference with Minnesota reporters and a second time when queried by Chicago-area media. Smith, in fact, angrily questioned why the topic was germane before the season ends.

Smith's rare loss of public composure suggests Martz's status is a sensitive subject, both for him and within the Bears organization. I suppose it's possible that Smith hasn't begun the process of evaluating Martz, whose contract expires after the season. But generally speaking, it's not a good sign for an assistant coach when his boss won't say anything comforting about his future.

So as the Bears presumably mull a future without Martz, they'll have to weigh his performance versus the value of continuity. They'll need to decide which is more important, and if there is a way to maintain what they did well this season even while hiring a new coordinator.

As rumors of Martz's demise swirled this season, I wrote several times about the collateral damage of regularly swapping offensive coordinators. The value of continuity within a scheme is reflected annually in the NFL's best teams. As the chart shows, eight of the nine teams who have qualified for the 2011 playoffs have employed the same offensive coordinator and/or used the same scheme for at least the past three seasons.

Martz has certainly displayed some pocks since the Bears hired him in 2010, most notably by opening each season with a skewed pass-run ratio that needed substantial adjustment by midseason. Would Martz's well-known stubbornness outweigh the detriment of starting over? Remember, the Bears' offense was humming in November before quarterback Jay Cutler suffered a season-ending thumb injury. In a subsequent interview, Cutler made clear he doesn't want to start over.

"If you look at the offenses around the league that are really good -- Green Bay, the Patriots, the Saints -- there is consistency there," Cutler said. "They've been in the same system. They've had the same offensive coordinator. They've had the same receivers, tight ends, guys around them that have grown up in the system.

"If you want to be an elite offense in this league, that's what you have to do. You can't keep shipping guys in and out. You can't keep doing different offensive coordinators left and right. It's hard on quarterbacks and it's hard on everyone to learn that kind of stuff."

Cutler offered the quintessential argument for maintaining continuity, and the Bears have had enough success under Martz to make it a reasonable possibility. But if Smith and general manager Jerry Angelo decide to hire a new offensive coordinator, is it possible to maintain most of their scheme?

[+] EnlargeMike Tice
Kyle Terada/US PresswireIf the Bears needed a new coordinator, offensive line coach Mike Tice could be a strong internal candidate.
The answer is maybe, with several caveats and an acknowledgement that I don't know how interested the candidate would be. But if the Bears elevate offensive line coach Mike Tice, they'll have a chance to build off their midseason success in 2011 and minimize the teardown that usually occurs in coordinator transitions.

Tice and Martz have much different personalities and personal histories, but their football backgrounds aren't as dissimilar as you might think. They both have roots in the Don Coryell "three-digit" offense, a scheme Tice learned while playing for ex-Washington Redskins coach Joe Gibbs. Similar to Martz, Tice likes to throw downfield and isn't interested in the shorter passing routes featured in West Coast offenses. With Tice as their offensive coordinator, the Bears could build off the terminology and scheme they have installed over the past two years.

And if his time as the Minnesota Vikings' head coach is any indication, Tice also values some of the adjustments the Bears have made in the past two seasons: Balance with the running game and more liberal use of tight ends to block and provide important outlet receivers against pressure.

Over four seasons with the Vikings, Tice's teams produced 8,140 rushing yards, an average of 2,035 per season. And in half of those years, Tice's leading receiver was tight end Jermaine Wiggins, who caught a combined 140 passes in 2004 and 2005.

Based on Cutler's public request for more balance, quicker drops and better protection, my guess is that he would be on the same philosophical page as Tice. And after being on the same team for the past two years, they should have at least some level of personal acquaintance and be ahead of where a coordinator from outside the building would start.

And now, the caveats. Tice was a quarterback at the University of Maryland, a tight end for 14 seasons in the NFL and has been a long-time offensive line coach. But despite that pedigree, he has never been an offensive coordinator and has never been the primary playcaller of a team. That's not to say he couldn't do it. It's just that after 15 years as an NFL coach, he hasn't done it yet. (We should note that the same was true for current Bears defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli when he was installed in 2010.)

Second, Tice has restored his reputation over the past two years as an exceptional offensive line coach. Elevating him to offensive coordinator almost certainly would rob the Bears of that drill-by-drill expertise. It's difficult, if not impossible, to do both jobs. They would have to hire a new offensive line coach to replace him.

The Tennessee Titans were prepared to offer Tice their offensive coordinator job last offseason. The Bears denied the Titans' request for an interview, giving Tice a new contract instead. For that reason alone, I would imagine the Bears would at least discuss Tice as a possibility if they let Martz go. It wouldn't be a slam-dunk hire, but it would fall well short of starting over. That alone would make Tice worth careful consideration.
Examining the most crucial event in the history of every team in the division.

Sorry, but I've got to wonder: Where's the love for Bill Parcells?

[+] EnlargeLawrence Taylor
Al Messerschmidt/NFL/Getty ImagesLawrence Taylor accumulated 132.5 sacks during his 13 seasons with the New York Giants.
We asked fans to vote for the most important event in their franchise's history. And with all of the history the teams in the NFC East have to offer, the choices were good and plenty. But while fans of the Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Redskins and Dallas Cowboys all chose the hiring of a coach, New York Giants fans overwhelmingly selected the drafting of linebacker Lawrence Taylor in 1981.

Now, don't get me wrong. This is a fine choice. Given the choices that were offered, I would have picked the same, and the large majority of you did. Sixty percent of the more than 34,000 people who voted went with L.T. "Trading for Eli Manning in 2004" finished a distant second at 15 percent, "Tim Mara buys franchise in 1925" was third at 12 percent and "hiring GM George Young in 1979" got 10 percent of the vote.

Taylor was a transcendent player -- a human hurricane who impacted the Giants, their opponents and the history of the league in as direct and lasting a way as any defensive player who has lived. He led the Giants to two Super Bowls and was the face of one of the league's most famous defenses of all time.

But for reasons that escape me, Young's hiring of Parcells was not listed among the choices. The argument has been put to me, in response to my raising this issue, that it was Young who hired Parcells and so his was the more important hire. But it's not as if Parcells was some kind of system guy or front-office yes-man. He put as large and significant a stamp on those Super Bowl teams as did anyone with the possible exception of Taylor. He hired Bill Belichick, Tom Coughlin and a slew of coaches who were critical to the Giants' success and have gone on to do great things on their own. I may well have clicked the box for "other" and written in the hiring of Parcells as the answer.

Some of you agreed, including vinnie 43, who wrote: "Hiring of Parcells wasn't on the list? He's the man who invented Giant football -- run the ball, control the clock and play good defense. Parcells was the best move the Giants ever made."

Robbiemustgo32 voted for the hiring of Young: "LT was the defining image of that era of Giants football, but Young drafted him and he hired Parcells. Without Parcells or Belichick, LT may never have won a Super Bowl."

And speaking for the majority, jwao777: "I cannot emphasize enough how important drafting Lawrence Taylor was to the Giants. He literally changed the course of the franchise. I think of the Giants in terms of before LT and after LT."

COWBOYS: Tom Landry hired as head coach in 1960

The Cowboys became known as "America's Team" for the success they had under Landry, who didn't win a title until 1966 but was the chiseled face of the franchise for 29 years. Of the more than 50,000 who voted in the Cowboys poll, 50 percent picked the hiring of Landry as the franchise's most significant event.

[+] EnlargeTom Landry
Malcolm Emmons/US PresswireTom Landry led the Dallas Cowboys for almost three decades and won the team two Super Bowls.
Landry put together 20 consecutive winning seasons, won five NFC titles and two Super Bowls. He was an innovator, reviving the shotgun formation and establishing flex defenses. Though it has been more than two decades now since he was fired by a flashy young owner named Jerry Jones, Landry's still the most recognizable figure in team history. Fans justifiably give him credit for the lofty place the team holds in their hearts and in NFL lore.

Jones' 1989 purchase of the team (which resulted in the hiring of Jimmy Johnson as head coach and led to three more Super Bowl titles) finished second with 39 percent of the vote, easily besting the team's 1966 conference title (4 percent) and the 2003 hiring of Parcells (3 percent) which, as we've already discussed, should have been in another team's poll.

I can see the case for either of the top two choices, and frankly I believe I voted for Jones, since the change the franchise has made under him has been more all-encompassing dramatic on and off the field. A couple of people wrote in wondering why the Herschel Walker trade wasn't among the choices, and some others wondered why they couldn't vote for the hiring of Johnson.

DomeRanger83 appears to be in the Landry camp: "If you're old school, the defining moment for the Dallas Cowboys was their 1st Super Bowl win against the Miami Dolphins in S.B. VI. Before having the moniker of 'America's Team' in the '70s, they were the team that 'Couldn't win the big one!'"

But theyoman359 thinks everything changed the first time Jones came down from the owner's box and stood on the field with Johnson: "This gesture catapulted Jones' ego into the stratos, and ever since that day, his will and his ego have clouded the reality of the team's efforts. I think he meant to emulate Steinbrenner, but went too far."

EAGLES: Andy Reid hired as head coach in 1999

Dick Vermeil delivered the franchise's first Super Bowl appearance, and Reid has often been criticized for only delivering one so far (and failing to win it). But in 12 years as head coach, Reid has reached double-digit victory totals eight times. He has won more games (118) and more playoff games (10) than any other Eagles coach. He has delivered seven division titles, coached in five NFC Championship Games and of course reached that one Super Bowl in the wild and wacky season of Terrell Owens.

[+] EnlargeAndy Reid
Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesAndy Reid has been one of the most successful coaches in the history of the franchise.
Along with Donovan McNabb, Reid launched the Eagles into a cycle of success that represents the longest sustained period of excellence in the franchise's history. His hiring pulled in 56 percent of the more than 34,000 votes cast. Vermeil's hiring in 1976 got 18 percent of the vote. The back-to-back titles in 1948-49 got 12 percent. And the trade that sent McNabb to the Redskins last season got nine percent. I guess because it opened the door for Michael Vick?

DimorphicAU: "Andy Reid has us on the path we are on now, perennial contenders lacking that one final killer blow. Hopefully shoring up the defense in the offseason will put us on track for a SB berth."

(Editor's note: There are worse things, of course, than being perennial contenders...)

Latinferno dissents: "The most DEFINING moment in Eagles history was the 1960 NFL Championship team. The last of the "60-minute men" in HOF Chuck Bednarik making the game-saving tackle to be the ONLY team to defeat the Vince Lombardi-led Packers in the playoffs."

REDSKINS: Joe Gibbs hired as head coach in 1981

Given the choice, the more than 20,000 Redskins fans who voted in our poll justifiably prefer to remember the three Super Bowl titles Gibbs won with three different quarterbacks than to focus on the negative change that was brought about when Daniel Snyder purchased the team in 1999. Gibbs' hiring easily out-polled Snyder's takeover, 63 percent to 26 percent. The hiring of George Allen in 1971 got six percent, and the 1964 trade for Sonny Jurgensen got three percent.

[+] EnlargeJoe Gibbs
AP Photo/Doug MillsJoe Gibbs led Washington to three Super Bowl titles in the 80s and 90s.
There's no doubt that Gibbs will forever be linked to the team's glory years. As much as Landry in Dallas and Parcells in New York, if not even more so, Gibbs is the face of the long-lasting success the Redskins had in the 1980s and early 1990s. The Snyder era has changed things, there is no doubt.

It could be argued that the Redskins' descent into mediocrity under Snyder's stewardship was a more significant (if certainly not more positive) change than the rise to prominence under Gibbs. But I think the fans got this one right. Snyder hasn't wrecked the Redskins beyond repair. The reason expectations are what they are, and the fans are as passionate as they are, is because of what Gibbs built and accomplished.

KurtzJack56 voted for Snyder and isn't happy about it: "The best thing that he could do right now for the team and the franchise is to sell the team."

rakeshmistry1986 was in the Gibbs camp "by a wide margin": "Even in Gibbs' second go-round, he still led us to the playoffs twice in four years despite how flawed of a team Snyder and Cerrato gave him."

Lockout will hurt the Redskins

May, 26, 2011
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Mike Shanahan Geoff Burke/US PresswireThe lockout threatens to disrupt the momentum Mike Shanahan built heading into the offseason.
The Redskins are a critical part of NFL labor strife lore. Under Joe Gibbs, they survived the strikes of 1982 and 1987 better than any team in the league, winning the Super Bowl at the end of each of those disrupted seasons. The New York Times did a big story on this a couple of months back, examining the reasons Washington was able to go 8-1 in '82 and 3-0 with replacement players in '87 and weather those labor storms to become champions. Not coincidence, say those who were involved, as much as it was about Gibbs and the way the veteran cores of those teams held things together.

Knowledge of this history has led some to suggest (facetiously, of course) that 2011 could be the Redskins' year. Hey, they always win the Super Bowl when there's a work stoppage, so this is just what they need, right? If there'd been a lockout two years ago, Jim Zorn would be wearing a ring right now and Mike Shanahan would be coaching the Cowboys. Or something like that.

Well, unfortunately for the Redskins, while history may well be on their side, reality is not. Not this time. Given their current circumstances, the Redskins are surely more likely than any other NFC East team to suffer damage as a result of the lockout. Given where they are right now in the development of their franchise, the Redskins might be hurt worse by this lockout than any team in the whole league.

This is a critical season for Mike Shanahan as Washington's coach. Sure, it's only the second year of his five-year deal, and for that reason job security is the last thing he's worried about. But this year is critical for other reasons -- reasons that pertain to Shanahan's goal of building the Redskins back into contenders.

Shanahan's first season was a bumpy one, and his midseason handling of Donovan McNabb and the quarterback situation in general raised eyebrows among people who'd expected a man with his résumé to deal with such things more artfully. But on balance, the 2010-11 season served a key purpose for Shanahan. It established him as the unquestioned leader, face and voice of the franchise. The skirmishes with McNabb and Albert Haynesworth were merely the most public manifestations of Shanahan's assertion of himself. Zorn had been weak and overmatched in the head coach role, and it was important for Shanahan to establish right away that he would be neither.

Critical to that effort was the subversion by team owner Daniel Snyder of his own out-front persona. As a condition of taking the job, Shanahan insisted that he be given control over football matters and that Snyder not meddle in personnel decisions to the extent that he had in the past. Against all expectations, Snyder actually pulled this off. The 2010-11 season was his quietest as Redskins owner, and his disappearance into the background helped Shanahan do the things he needed to do in order to deliver his new-sheriff-in-town message.

[+] EnlargeDaniel Snyder
AP Photo/Paul SancyaDaniel Snyder has stayed out of the limelight since Shanahan came aboard.
The lockout could wipe out some of that momentum. Shanahan's assertion of leadership and Snyder's step into the background are vital to the Redskins' near-future success, but one year wasn't enough to lock those things in. With Shanahan unable to coach, the risk rises that he ends up starting from or near scratch once his players return to Ashburn. With Shanahan and GM Bruce Allen unable to make personnel moves, the risk rises that Snyder gets itchy and impatient and backslides into his old ways. He could decide to go nuts once free agency opens against the advice of the football minds he hired and promised to leave alone. Not saying this is what will happen, mind you, just that the "pause" button the league has pressed on its offseason increases the risk.

It's also preventing the Redskins from doing a number of vital housekeeping things. They need to move on from McNabb and figure out what their 2011 quarterback situation really is. If it really is John Beck, then he'll need to know he's not just a Shanahan smokescreen and get in to practice huddles so his teammates know it, too. If it's to be Carson Palmer or someone not currently on the roster, then they need to get on with that as well.

They need to resolve the Haynesworth situation, of course. He needs to go, certainly, and dispatching him will be as cathartic a move as Shanahan's ever made. But the lockout will end with Haynesworth still on the team, along with all the distractions he brings, and his mere presence will be a story for as long as it takes them, post-lockout, to get rid of him.

They need to keep working on Jim Haslett's 3-4 defense, because as we discussed here Monday the second year is a crucial one for the install of a 3-4. They need a nose tackle, and they need to know how realistic it is to get someone like Aubrayo Franklin in free agency -- a move that probably would help them more than a splashier play for someone like Nnamdi Asomugha, though they need to know about him, too. And as they've seemed to since the Art Monk days ... sheesh, they still need help at receiver.

The Redskins have a lot they need to do -- more than most teams, really, given where they are in this particular chapter of their history. Because of that, when I'm asked which team in this division I think will be hurt most by the lockout, my answer's easy. This won't be 1982 or 1987 for the Redskins. This year's work stoppage is a huge problem for them.

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