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Sellers: Players were treated like “little kids”

May 29, 2008, 1:25 AM EDT

Comments Off on Sellers: Players were treated like “little kids”

While Jim Zorn may need to be careful and tiptoe around saying anything critical about Joe Gibbs’ coaching, it’s apparent that at least one Washington Redskins player doesn’t feel so restrained.

Last week, when talking about the differences between how things are going this year as opposed to recent seasons, fullback Mike Sellers said, “We don’t have people watching us constantly and telling us what to do like we’re little kids. He (Zorn) puts it on ourselves. We’re being treated like men.”

It’s hard to figure out where to start with this one.

There isn’t any context given in the quote, which I found on the Pro Football Weekly website (there’s no permalink to the one-paragraph blurb, so it may scroll down off of this page over time).

I’ll look at it on the assumption that he’s referring to on-field matters. I don’t think that Gibbs had “people” watching players in the lounge at Redskins Park or following them home.

So, they had “people” watching them while they did their jobs? Uh, isn’t that, you know, why coaches get paid? Are Zorn and his staff not watching and correcting mistakes and refining technique? I doubt it.

The part about being treated like “little kids” under Gibbs while Zorn treats them like “grown men” is the real slap in the face to Coach Joe. Didn’t Gibbs take Mike Sellers off of the scrap heap after he’d been out of the NFL for two years when nobody wanted him after some substance abuse problems? Didn’t Gibbs go to great lengths to give Sellers a bigger role in the offense the last couple of years even though he rarely came through?

All that being said, it would be a mistake to write off Sellers’ comments as those of some kind of ingrate. If you don’t parse the words and look at the general feeling, there seemed to be some frustration at the performance of the coaching staff in general and Gibbs in particular.

While there is universal respect for Gibbs the man, especially after the strength he gave everyone in the wake of the murder of Sean Taylor, there apparently isn’t such reverence for how he handled the mechanics of coaching the team.

Even in their better seasons—2005 and 2007—Gibbs’ Redskins were maddeningly inconsistent. Both playoff teams had good starts, extended midseason losing streaks, and then hot finishes to scrape into Wild Card spots.

I have heard that Gibbs often had trouble keeping his herd of 20 assistant coaches on the same page. In particular, as much as they tried to minimize it and sweep it under the rug, there was always some tension between Gibbs and Al Saunders. It’s been rumored that Gibbs took over the play calling when the Skins got into the Red Zone. At the very least, Gibbs would overrule Saunders on occasion in such situations.

And such situations certainly create confusion on the part of the players. They need to know who’s in charge and what to expect.

Now, does that equate to being treated like “little kids”? It wouldn’t seem like it. Gibbs went out of his way to get high-character players on his team, the kind of men you don’t constantly have to watch.

Mike Sellers is an emotional type of player who doesn’t always have that filter between the brain and the mouth activated. He may have been thinking about a particular incident or issue when the spoke of little kids vs. grown men. Or he may have articulated his general frustration in an odd way.

Or, maybe he should be taken literally and he really does believe that Gibbs treated his players like children.

Regardless, it will be interesting to see if other players make similar comments. I believe that Gibbs retired at least partly because he didn’t think he was 100% up to the job any more. If that was the case, the players would be the first ones to notice it and we will see if others choose to talk about it.

Again, the Sellers quote was out of context, so take that into consideration when you evaluate it. However, it’s hard to imagine any context in which it wouldn’t be, to some degree, a potshot at a Hall of Fame coach.

  1. Anonymous - May 29, 2008 at 6:14 AM

    gibbs was one of the all time greatest coaches ever in gibbs 1..the record proves it

    in gibbs 2, he wasnt even close to the same coach– except in the handling of the taylor tragedy.. and even there the team laid an incredible egg against the bills.
    there is simply NO WAY that would have ever come to pass had it occurred in gibbs 1.

    whatever the motivation of sellers it might have the intent of distancing himself deliberately from gibbs to make himself not seem one of gibbs pet players who could have diminishing roles and diminishing chances of making the squad under zorn.. guys like thrash, rock, sellers, k campbell who were mortal locks for the roster under gibbs, face very stiff competition with less assurance of making the team based upon memory of past performaces.

    cant hurt him to try and bond with the new regime…


  2. Scott - May 29, 2008 at 11:10 AM

    As you said, the biggest key here is that this quote was almost certainly made in a context of which the reader is not aware. We should be real careful not to disect this in minute detail without the benefit of that information.

  3. Rich Tandler - May 29, 2008 at 11:15 AM

    That was my initial inclination, Scott. But, as I said in the article, it’s hard to imagine any context where this isn’t a shot at Gibbs.

    Even, yes, reader beware.

  4. Califan - May 29, 2008 at 4:31 PM

    Ironically, Santana Moss said that the players learned how to “become men” with Gibbs as coach when he retired the 2nd time. Archives

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