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An improved atmosphere in Ashburn?

Jun 27, 2008, 8:18 AM EST


Rarely has one paragraph contained so much fodder for a blog post. First, here’s the whole thing from the Pro Football Weekly website and then I’ll parse it line by line:

Our sources tell us that there has been far less friction in Redskins Park so far this offseason since Jim Zorn has taken over. The root of the earlier stress, we are told, was Gregg Williams, who at times seemed to undermine the authority of Joe Gibbs, creating an awkward work environment at times. Zorn, we are told, has earned the respect of the veterans and is being treated as a nice guy who is not a pushover and is both competitive and intense.

First and foremost here, be wary of the “sources”. They didn’t say anything about “sources at Redskins Park” or “team sources” or anything like that. This probably means that this information is secondhand at best.

That doesn’t mean that what’s said in the blurb isn’t true; in fact, it’s going to be granted some credibility here for the purpose of discussion. If I can accomplish anything with this blog, however, I want Redskins fans to be educated consumers when it comes to the media. While we’re going to keep the vague nature of the source in mind, we’re going to proceed on the basis that he staff at PFW didn’t make it up out of thin air or use the guy who mops the floors at Redskins Park as their source.

So, with that in mind, here’s how I see it:

Far less friction at Redskins Park

I wasn’t under the impression that there was all that much friction among the coaches and the team. In fact, I thought that Joe Gibbs worked to build a consensus rather than taking on a more confrontational style. Certainly there were some moments of public discord, such as the 10-man defense tribute to Sean Taylor that Gregg Williams approved without Gibbs’ consent. In the big picture, however, when they weren’t on the same page it was due more to excessive delegation and problems with clarity in roles than to in-house conflicts.

Still, it would be a major upset if things weren’t calmer at Redskins Park now. The team has yet to face a four-game losing streak under Jim Zorn. The new coach hasn’t yet dealt with the inevitable quarterback controversy. A potential vs. experience roster decision won’t have to be made for another six weeks or so. Check back in mid October to see if things really are different.

Gregg Williams the root of the stress

Did Gregg Williams overstep his bounds on a regular basis? I don’t know, but my common sense tells me that the 10-man defense was the most public example of Williams overreaching his authority, but not the first and only time he did so. One usually doesn’t start out pushing his boundaries with something major like that; you work your way up to it.

Is it possible that Williams acting as though he already was the head coach cost him his shot at the real job when it came up? Again, it’s just speculation here, but I have to think that he had enough such moments to badly damage his chances.

Zorn a nice guy, but not a pushover

The line between being the good guy without being the softie is very fine and is very difficult to navigate. It’s easier when the toughest challenges you face are a rookie tight end oversleeping and missing a minicamp practice and a veteran receiver missing a voluntary workout due to having partied like a rock star the previous weekend. It’s quite another when players get in trouble with the law or when team rules are broken during the regular season. That’s when Zorn’s approach truly will be tested.

Fortunately for Zorn, he inherited a roster populated mostly with high-character guys who won’t test him. However, it takes only one or two events either to establish his authority or to undermine it altogether.

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  1. Anonymous - Jun 27, 2008 at 9:41 PM

    as far as friction goes, you do recall that Al Saunders was kicked out of gameplanning right? Gibb’s and his elder statesman designed the gameplan and saunders called the plays within that said gameplan.all while using saunders playbook. Sounds like a mess to me…

    This Greg Williams/Gibbs drama started right when Williams got his new contract in 2005 and was penciled in as the next HC. GW ran a tight ship on defense,gibbs’s offense struggled. So of course your going to have a few guys look up to GW more so than gibbs.

  2. Anonymous - Jun 27, 2008 at 9:41 PM

    as far as friction goes, you do recall that Al Saunders was kicked out of gameplanning right? Gibb’s and his elder statesman designed the gameplan and saunders called the plays within that said gameplan.all while using saunders playbook. Sounds like a mess to me…

    This Greg Williams/Gibbs drama started right when Williams got his new contract in 2005 and was penciled in as the next HC. GW ran a tight ship on defense,gibbs’s offense struggled. So of course your going to have a few guys look up to GW more so than gibbs.

  3. Rich Tandler - Jun 27, 2008 at 11:01 PM

    I would take that rumor with a grain of salt. So much stuff like that went around–Gibbs called the plays in the Red Zone, Gibbs overruled Saunders on a regular basis, so on–I’m not sure what to believe.

    Still, your larger point is quite valid. Regardless of the details, the Saunders-Gibbs dynamic was always in some stage of a clusterf–k.

    Although neither will admit it any time soon, they both regretted having made the arrangement not too long after it started.

  4. Rich Tandler - Jun 27, 2008 at 11:01 PM

    I would take that rumor with a grain of salt. So much stuff like that went around–Gibbs called the plays in the Red Zone, Gibbs overruled Saunders on a regular basis, so on–I’m not sure what to believe.

    Still, your larger point is quite valid. Regardless of the details, the Saunders-Gibbs dynamic was always in some stage of a clusterf–k.

    Although neither will admit it any time soon, they both regretted having made the arrangement not too long after it started.

  5. Anonymous - Jun 29, 2008 at 9:40 AM

    These “sources” would be the same ones who claimed GW “disrespected” Gibbs in the interview process. To me that means Cerrato/Snyder again trying to justify passing over Williams for HC.

  6. Anonymous - Jun 29, 2008 at 9:40 AM

    These “sources” would be the same ones who claimed GW “disrespected” Gibbs in the interview process. To me that means Cerrato/Snyder again trying to justify passing over Williams for HC.

  7. Rich Tandler - Jun 29, 2008 at 9:47 AM

    I really don’t see why they would feel any need to “justify” the move at this point. It’s done, most are moving past whatever happened during the hiring process.

    We won’t know anything about how sound the decision was for a year or two when we see how Zorn shakes out. Even then, unless Williams lands a head coaching job, we may never really know.

  8. Rich Tandler - Jun 29, 2008 at 9:47 AM

    I really don’t see why they would feel any need to “justify” the move at this point. It’s done, most are moving past whatever happened during the hiring process.

    We won’t know anything about how sound the decision was for a year or two when we see how Zorn shakes out. Even then, unless Williams lands a head coaching job, we may never really know.

  9. Richard - Jun 30, 2008 at 11:03 AM

    I like your point that it’s easy to be happy in training camp but more difficult in the midst of a four game loosing streak. I also like your point of qualifying, “the source.”

    I do not agree with the original article that there were problems between Williams and Gibbs. If you watched Williams in press conferences, week in and week out, you could see how his respect grew for Gibbs over the years. It was also clear that Gibbs would have chosen Williams as a successor as he preached continuity after he retired.

    Williams, under Gibbs, may have grown into the Gibbs type coach; one that respects his players and accepts total responsibility for team failures. In the end the owner may not have been totally convinced Williams had become the “player type” coach necessary for success in today’s NFL.

    Zorn had been that type of coach throughout his career and was the safer bet. It was also a big plus for Zorn that he brought with him the promise of a more effective offense, something Williams could not offer.

    In the end you were right the article was mostly fluff. Most training camps are optimistic, bright, and positive. Those good feelings usually last about two weeks into the regular season.

  10. Richard - Jun 30, 2008 at 11:03 AM

    I like your point that it’s easy to be happy in training camp but more difficult in the midst of a four game loosing streak. I also like your point of qualifying, “the source.”

    I do not agree with the original article that there were problems between Williams and Gibbs. If you watched Williams in press conferences, week in and week out, you could see how his respect grew for Gibbs over the years. It was also clear that Gibbs would have chosen Williams as a successor as he preached continuity after he retired.

    Williams, under Gibbs, may have grown into the Gibbs type coach; one that respects his players and accepts total responsibility for team failures. In the end the owner may not have been totally convinced Williams had become the “player type” coach necessary for success in today’s NFL.

    Zorn had been that type of coach throughout his career and was the safer bet. It was also a big plus for Zorn that he brought with him the promise of a more effective offense, something Williams could not offer.

    In the end you were right the article was mostly fluff. Most training camps are optimistic, bright, and positive. Those good feelings usually last about two weeks into the regular season.

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