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Just Shut Up

Jul 9, 2005, 2:22 AM EDT

Comments Off on Just Shut Up

Sometimes what is written here results in great acclaim for the author. Other times the comments are a mix of applause and contempt. The reader reaction to the entry about the Redskins’ limiting of public and press access to training camp practices, though, was something entirely different. I was told, in a variety of ways, and by almost everyone who commented, to shut up about it.

I do plead guilty one of the charges leveled at me by some readers, that I was “selfish” in requesting that Joe Gibbs open more camp time to observation. That is certainly true. The amount of time that the public and press can watch the Houston Texans’ camp practices is of zero interest here and there couldn’t any less interest in how John Gruden chooses to operate access to the Bucs’ camp. I only care about how much I can watch the Redskins’ camp because that affects me and people I know and converse with.

However, there were a few things mentioned about the concept of having fans at camp sessions or not that I thought were off base and I want to comment on them here.

First, there were some comments that the presence of a lot of fans and reporters during camp sessions will distract the team. First of all, it didn’t seem to prevent Gibbs’ teams from focusing enough on practice when they were winning three Super Bowls in ten years. And if you can’t focus in front of a few thousand friendly fans, most of whom are just conversing among themselves while trying to catch a glimpse of what’s happening out there, what’s going to happen on September 19 in front of some 60,000 hostile folks in Dallas who will be trying like crazy to distract you? Trust me, if you can’t block out the training camp crowd, you can’t even block out the friendly home crowd much less a fiercely hostile throng on the road.

Others expressed fears that writers, or fans, or scouts from other teams will reveal secret strategies that the team will be working on during camp. These fears are unfounded. Scouts from other teams are prohibited from going to training camp unless, as the Redskins did a few years ago, the team charges admission. Fans can’t see much. And if someone can find a single instance of a writer revealing a specific strategy that he unearthed while observing Redskins camp practices, before, during, or since Gibbs I, please cite that instance for me, because it will be the first one I’ve ever heard about. Remember, Gibbs always said that he changed about 40 percent of his offense from year to year, so it wasn’t like there wasn’t a lot of new material to be installed every year.

Another line of thinking was that if it leads to more wins, it was the right way to go. That’s would be great if it were that easy. If closing camp practices equals more wins, then why not close all of them? Why not hold them in North Dakota or someplace where only the most sophisticated satellite surveillance could see what’s going on. I’ve beaten the theme of Gibbs’ previous tenure to death here, so let’s skip over that easy one. Look around the league and you’ll find no correlation—zero—between the number of closed camp practices and the number of games a team wins. It’s just nonsense.

That leads in to another chorus of folks who said that if that’s what Joe Gibbs wanted then that’s all they need to know, it was fine with them. Now, anyone who has read what’s been written in this space more than once or twice knows that I am not one who is quick to be critical of the Hall of Fame coach. If anything, I’ve drawn heat for agreeing with his actions too often. I just think that in this particular case Gibbs is doing the team and its fans a disservice and perhaps he wasn’t looking at the whole picture when he decided to have so little of camp open to the press and public.

In what way is Gibbs doing them a disservice? Other than in the ways that I discussed on my original blog, training camp is the only chance that many—make that the vast majority of—Redskins fans have to see their team in person. With preseason tickets now being part of the season ticket package there is no opportunity to see them there. Training camp is the only opportunity.

And this leads to the point about the harm being done to the team. Maybe the Redskins don’t think that they need to attract and keep new fans, but they do. There is constant competition for the dollars and attention of the sports fan everywhere and Washington is no exception. The team has been hit from the south by the Carolina Panthers and from the north by the Baltimore Ravens and internally by the Nationals and Wizards. Many a casual fan has been turned into a lifer with an autograph and a smile from a Redskin player at camp and the loyalties of many impressionable kids have been sealed for life as well with the same.

One of the few readers who tended to agree with my position was a poster on the board who goes by Tennessee Carl. He summed it up better than I could:

When I was up at Carlisle, there were little ol’ couples who’d been to camp with the Redskins since the 1960s. It was their vacation. How do you measure that sort of loyalty in your fan base? And don’t you lose something when you close that door?

As I said earlier, give us Ws and nobody will care much. But we aren’t winning. So when the franchise goes into seclusion and comes out with another crappy product on the field, it just breeds more fan alienation.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, has more respect for Joe Gibbs than I do. I just respectfully disagree with his stance here. And if I told him my opinion it’s very likely that he, just like most of the readers here, would tell me to just shut up.

  1. Anonymous - Jul 12, 2005 at 12:38 AM

    These are issues that obviously affect a journalist’s ability to do his/her job to the fullest, so it makes sense that a reporter or journalist would see things differently. And Rich did make some good valid points which may be true. But to the avid fan, who’s been suffering through miserable season after season and who’s desperate for a winning team, it seems like a relatively small issue, which is why the fans don’t seem to care so much.

  2. Doug - Jul 12, 2005 at 3:38 PM

    I doubt Joe Gibbs, or anyone else here, for that matter, has or would advise you to shut up. That would be disrespectful, and I’ve never known Joe Gibbs to be anything but respectful, even to those who didn’t deserve it.

    I’ll stand by my original statement, that he “may” view fans and press at practice as a distraction. If so, I appreciate his making a change to improve the team.

  3. Anonymous - Jul 13, 2005 at 1:08 AM

    It is a shame that you felt the need to use the title that you did. It may grab some attention, but it detracts from your argument. None of the posts I read were as …rude.

  4. Muccman - Jul 19, 2005 at 7:40 PM

    Hey hey lighten up folks….I’ve never seen this much hostility on Tandler’s blog. Also, I think when Rich used the title “Just Shut Up,” he was referring to the general feeling in all the comments made toward him, not throwing out a personal message at them. So lets get back to Redskins talk and the real issues here, like how Santana Moss will hold up as the #1 receiver, or if Arrington can put all his injury and personal problems of the last year behind him and come out strong this year.

  5. Doug - Jul 20, 2005 at 12:29 PM

    Hey muccman, we’re just passing the time here, waiting for the start of training camp. No hositility, just talk. I had hoped for a discussion of the starters and backups at each position.

    You brought up Arrington, so I’ll start: LaVar has more “potential” to be a star than anyone on this team. However, he has a long ways to go to actually become one. He needs to become dedicated to football, and to making himself a better player. If he will immerse himself in football, and follow instructions from his coaches, he could have an incredible year. If, on the other hand, he pouts about the 6.5 mil he thinks the Redskins owe him, his on the field performance will suffer.

  6. Joe - Jul 20, 2005 at 2:27 PM

    Arrington has seemed pretty immature when it comes to this contract squabble. Sounds to me like the Postons are giving him bad advice… what’s new?? Regardless, you have to give him credit for his loyalty. He constantly says how much he loves being a Redskin and how much he loves the fans and, to me, that means something. I think the personal stuff will get resolved.

    It’s popular for media types to call LaVar overrated and uncoachable. The last we really saw him was 2003 and he was playing for a head coach (Spurrier) and d-coordinator (Edwards) who were, in retrospect, under-qualified. He and Trotter did their own “free-lancing” and looked horrible. Do you blame that on bad players or bad coaching? As it relates to Trotter, it’s clear the guy can still play. I’m willing to believe the same goes for Arrington.

    LaVar was very productive before 2003. Remember when he returned that INT against Carolina in 2001? Or when he knocked out Aikman? Or when he collected 11 sacks under Marvin Lewis? In the case of LaVar, I don’t think we have to worry about him re-dedicating himself. If the guy can get healthy, he’ll have a strong year.

    What do you think about Moss and the WRs?

  7. Doug - Jul 21, 2005 at 3:40 PM

    Joe, I agree with you about Arrington. I think he can be great, and should be great in Greg Williams’ defense. Hopefully, he dedicates himself to the task at hand.

    As for Moss, Patten, Jacobs, Thrash, and McCants, I love them all. I think (hope) Jacobs is ready for a breakout year. Patten brings speed and that winning attitude. Moss is a guy that I always wished we had drafted when we took Rod Gardner instead. Thrash is the consummate pro, and McCants – well, I like to think he can contribute, but it would help if he’d volunteer for special teams. Gibbs doesn’t seem to care for guys that won’t play teams. Throw in Cooley having a huge year and we look pretty good in that department. Of course, most of this depends on Patrick getting them the ball. I think he’ll do a great job this year. Archives

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