- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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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.
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 via the Dallas Morning News.
“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.