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Unknown Assistant Holds Key to Season

Jan 31, 2006, 10:47 AM EDT

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The Redskins’ coaching staff has a pile of resumes that would make Monster.com jealous. At the top, of course, is the only active Hall of Fame performer in major professional sports, Joe Gibbs. Reporting to him are two former head coaches, and a total of six who have held a coordinator position. Thirteen of them have 10 years or more of NFL experience.

Hidden among all of the heavy hitters with offices in Ashburn is a coach who has never sniffed a head coaching job at any level. Bill Lazor’s NFL coaching experience totals just three years. The “Buffalo” entry on his resume is not the Bills, but the Bulls, as in the University of Buffalo where his title was Offensive Coordinator–Quarterbacks. Prior to that he coached at Cornell, his alma mater and not even a powerhouse in the Ivy League. Gibbs hired him when he came back as a quality control coach. That’s the same title that Gibbs’ son Coy, who got ready for NFL coaching by driving in the NASCAR Busch series, holds. Here is how Redskins.com explained his contributions to the team in 2005:
Lazor worked closely with Musgrave last season. In the hours before a game, Lazor typically helps out in terms of getting Redskins quarterbacks and wide receivers warmed up.
That means that he tossed passes to Santana Moss and Chris Cooley before the games, hardly a duty that he was uniquely qualified to do. But Lazor, the coach with one of the smallest piles of laurels, has the biggest, most important job of all the coaches this offseason.

When quarterbacks coach Bill Musgrave left to tutor Michael Vick in Atlanta, Lazor was elevated from offensive assistant—that was his entire title, just offensive assistant—to QB coach. He may have gotten a case of the bends from such a swift elevation to such heights.

Certainly nobody reading this needs a primer on the importance of quarterback play when it comes to success for an NFL team. While it doesn’t have to be great (although that helps) it at least has to be highly competent if a team has high aspirations. And the Redskins have their sights set on huge, let’s say super, success in 2006.

Lazor’s primary task will be to run a finishing school for Jason Campbell. After watching how Mark Brunell wore down towards the end of the 2005 season it seems that if the Redskins are going to make it all the way, Campbell will have to be a major contributor somewhere along the way. Besides Campbell himself, the person primarily responsible for ensuring that he is ready to make that contribution will be George Lazor.

Lazor will get some help. Al Saunders will be spending some quality time with Campbell and it’s been speculated that now that Gibbs has given up some of his responsibilities on offense, he will spend some time tutoring Campbell. Make no mistake about it, though; Campbell’s development will be on Lazor. He will be the one spending countless hours reviewing film with Campbell, showing him the finer points of proper form and technique, drilling him on how to read the blitz and when to take a sack.

It’s highly doubtful that Lazor’s salary is one of those that small-market owners and Paul Tagliabue are complaining about when they point to what they perceive to be the runaway spending on coaches that Dan Snyder and the Redskins are engaging in. However, if the seven-figure salaries being pulled down by Williams and Saunders are going to prove to be money well spent by Snyder Lazor, one of those at the bottom end of the big-money pyramid, and Campbell will have to come through.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book chronicles every game the Redskins played from 1937 through 2001. It is available at www.RedskinsGames.com

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