Wednesday, January 8, 2014
Quick Takes: Coaching under Snyder
By John Keim
Whoever the new coach is must know how to deal with owner Dan Snyder. I don’t mean that in a negative way, either. But there is an art to dealing with any owner. Marty Schottenheimer, for example, did not like to clue Snyder in on all that he wanted to know. He wanted to just worry about coaching. That’s fine, except that you need to understand your boss. This one likes to be informed. It’s his team; inform him.
Joe Gibbs was a master at this. You could see it during his four seasons, how he massaged Snyder and Vinny Cerrato’s egos during news conferences, etc. Made them feel like they were giving invaluable input all the time. Gibbs also knew when to let Snyder “win;” in other words, he knew when to pick his battles. Gibbs also knew Snyder idolized him. Who didn't?
As one person from that staff once said, “That way, when it came time to pick his fights with Dan, he’d get what he wanted. He managed Dan well.”
Mike Shanahan got a lot of what he wanted in terms of the facility – the bubble, moving training camp to Richmond. But, according to reports like this in The Washington Post from Rick Maese -- a good compilation of life under Snyder over 15 years -- he did not always get what he wanted when it came to, say, quarterbacks. None of this is breaking news because it’s slipped out over the years. The point is, however, if this is what’s being said from a certain side then it’s clear when there were other battles to fight, Snyder won.
Having general manager Bruce Allen in the building helps because he can serve better as a go-between to the coach and the owner than Cerrato ever could. I haven’t heard this said, but it just makes sense to me that Snyder has more respect for Allen than he did for Cerrato.
But the point is, any new coach must do a good job massaging this relationship with the owner. It just helps. I don’t care what line of work you do, ultimately you have to please your boss. Winning matters, but Schottenheimer had that team headed in the right direction and still got fired.
The lessons: Keep the owner informed. But the lessons for Snyder should be: let the football people make the football decisions. If there’s a tie and they ask for your input, then provide it. There’s been too much micromanaging at Redskins Park over the years, whether it’s from the owner or from a coach who dabbles in everything. Again, it’s their right. But when you don’t win? You change. It’s not enough to say someone wants to win. Learn how to win.
I go back to Gibbs. The Redskins had a chance under him because he knew how to deal with Snyder and he hired a terrific defensive staff and let them do their jobs. Also, you did not have coaches worried about players going to the owner during this regime, either. That will be an issue for some, especially if they feel Robert Griffin III's relationship with Snyder is too cozy.
By the way, if the guy Shanahan really wanted instead of Donovan McNabb was Marc Bulger -- as has been reported before -- then it's not as if either one was a great choice. Bulger did not attempt a pass after the 2009 season. Maybe Shanahan wasn't as sold on Robert Griffin III and was cajoled by the owner into trading up for him (though I don't recall hearing that until late in this season), but it's not as if other reported options have fared better. It was a lot to give up, yes, but it's highly possible they'd still be in need of a quarterback.
It’s why you have to have a certain personality to make it work (not just here, but many places). If you just look at a coach’s scheme and his X's and O's and make a judgment based off that -- good or bad -- you’re missing a huge part of what this job is about. A huge part. It's important to be creative and flexible, but this job is about managing people as much as any. Does the guy have a command and presence? Is he a leader? That's what matters.
I wrote off Jim Caldwell as a candidate, only because I had heard questions about how strong he was in certain areas. But I have since heard that the more people dig on him, the more they hear good things about his leadership and how he holds people accountable. He's also been ultra prepared in his interviews. So we'll see. It could make him a strong candidate for one of the four openings.
It’ll be interesting what happens here with Jay Gruden, who is interviewing Wednesday. Clearly there’s a familiarity with him – not just with Allen but with several people on the staff who remained (Sean McVay, Raheem Morris, Jim Haslett). Yes, some people have connected the dots and think that’s why Gruden ultimately will be hired. Again, we’ll see. I'll have more on him later. I also know the Redskins kept enough coaches around in case whomever they hired did not have a good pick of candidates (if they are hired later in the process, that is). Tampa and Houston both have an advantage when it comes to filling out a staff with their coaches hired so soon.