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Fassel, Rhodes, or. . .

Fassel, Rhodes, or. . .

Three hundred and sixty six days ago to this moment (about 7:30 EST), Jim Fassel was the upside, the best possible case, the cream of the crop. Ray Rhodes was an unattractive second choice as Dennis Green had taken himself out of the running.

As I left the house to attend a work-related social function, I nearly forgot about the Redskins coaching search, which had been going on for a week since Steve Spurrier quit, and had a few beers, sang some karaoke, shot some pool, and talked with my co-workers and their significant others. It was fun and I stayed out too late and dragged home after eleven (that’s late when you’re my age!). I nearly went straight to bed, but I decided to log on to a few message boards to see if there was any news about the coaching search. They were abuzz with a bolt out of the blue.

Gibbs is back.

It wasn’t a done deal, but the tone of Mark Maske’s report in the Post make it sound like it was very close to being one. I saved Maske’s original report on my hard drive, but I can’t find it now, so you’ll have to settle for the AP’s Joseph White’s report of Maske’s report:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs could make a surprise return to the Washington Redskins.

The Washington Post, citing sources with connections to Gibbs, reported late Tuesday on its Web site that Gibbs was in serious discussions about returning to the team that he led to three Super Bowl titles.

The 63-year-old Gibbs coached the Redskins from 1981-92 before resigning to pursue a career with his own NASCAR team. He has been adamant over the years about not wanting to coach again, although he has retained NFL connections. He is currently a minority owner of the Atlanta Falcons.

The Redskins are seeking a replacement for Steve Spurrier, who resigned last week. They were known to have interviewed three candidates: former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel, former Minnesota coach Dennis Green and Seattle defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes.

Calls to the Redskins and to Gibbs' racing team were not immediately returned.

A similar report also appeared on CBS Sportsline.com.

Gibbs' racing teams have been among the most successful in NASCAR with two Winston Cup championships in the last four seasons. Bobby Labonte took the title in 2000 and Tony Stewart in 2002.

Gibbs' oldest son, J.D., is president of Joe Gibbs Racing. The former coach's youngest son, Coy, finished 14th last season in the Busch Series standings.

Maske’s article was intriguing, to say the least. But it was Mike Wilbon’s column The Next Joe Gibbs Could Be Joe Gibbs that appeared on the Post’s website shortly after midnight that convinced me that it was going to happen: The other day I received an e-mail from someone inquiring about the next head coach of the Washington Redskins. And I immediately dismissed it because the e-mailer was asking whether Dan Snyder had the name Joe Gibbs at the top of his list of candidates, and whether Gibbs would come back, like Vince Lombardi came back, like Dick Vermeil came back, like Bill Parcells has come back a time or two.

I dismissed it because not only has Gibbs said repeatedly over the last 11 years that he wasn't coming back to coach, he has been demonstrably happy in his life outside of football. Most coaches, when they leave football, can never again satisfy their competitive urges. . . .

The Packers have won since Lombardi, the Giants and Patriots have reached Super Bowls since Parcells, the Eagles have threatened to win since Vermeil. But the Redskins have been to one lousy playoff game since Gibbs left. And when Steve Spurrier resigned last week, the desperate cry went out one more time from the sycophants who wondered who out there reminds anybody of Coach Gibbs. D.C. has never gotten over him leaving. The late Shirley Povich might disagree, but it seems to me the pecking order of sports icons around here is Gibbs first, Walter Johnson second.

Well, one would assume that the only thing better than getting a potential Joe Gibbs is getting the real Joe Gibbs.

Now, I’ve never worked in the newspaper business, but I have some idea about how it works. And there is no way that the prime NFL columnist for the Washington Post is going to get up in the middle of the night to bang out a column about Gibbs’ potential return if there wasn’t a real, real good chance that it would happen.

After chasing down information to the point where there was nothing new, it was about 3 AM and I went to bed. As it was revealed later, Joe Gibbs was still hard at work at that hour. As the news of his return was just starting to break, he was on a plane to Buffalo. In the wee hours of the morning he was in the process of hammering out an agreement with Gregg Williams.

In the morning, the cement was beginning to set. The aforementioned CBS Sportsline story came out. When contacted, the Redskins were in the “can’t confirm or deny” mode. The first rock-solid affirmation that Gibbs was back came via the Web from Gibbs own NASCAR team site It was via that medium that Gibbs confirmed the rumors that were barely 12 hours old: Joe Gibbs was again the Head Coach of the Washington Redskins.

There wasn’t a buzz around town, there was an absolute roar. The DC media turned to an all-Gibbs, all the time mode. The press conference was going to be on Thursday evening. I was going to be there.

Next: The Presser

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No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

No tension between Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins, but the coach wants improvement 

MOBILE -- Jay Gruden is making jokes about Kirk Cousins again, and that's good news for Redskins fans that worried about a fracture between coach and quarterback. 

It all started in the weeks following the Redskins dreadful Week 17 loss to the Giants as Gruden and Cousins seemed to be throwing slight jabs at one another.

Gruden, in his end of year press conference, explained that while Cousins "showed flashes" in 2017, when the team goes 7-9, the coach can't say any player was outstanding: 

You know when you’re 7-9, you know it’s hard to say, ‘Wow, this guy really was outstanding.’ You know there’s a few guys obviously that jump out, Pro Bowlers like Ryan Kerrigan had a solid year. Obviously Trent when he played was Pro Bowl type, Brandon when he was healthy was Pro Bowl type guy. Kirk had his flashes where he was really good. From a consistent standpoint, over the course of 16 games, you know we’re 7-9. He did some great things, threw for over 4,000 yards and 29 touchdowns I believe. So, I think he’s a very, very good quarterback without a doubt, but as far as getting us over the hump from 7-9 to winning a division with all the injuries that we had, I think he competed and did some good things.

Cousins, in his year-end radio appearance with 106.7 the Fan, explained that he wants the team to do better but doesn't think the 7-9 record should fall on his shoulders alone. (Quote via Washington Post)

What I gathered from the comment was 7-9 and the quarterback play are causally related and that quarterback play is 7-9, 7-9 is the quarterback play. I saw that and I thought, ‘I think it’s slightly more complicated than that.’ I think there’s a few more dynamics in play as to what your final record is. … At the same time, his job is to evaluate. That’s a big part of his role and his position. In that comment, he’s just doing his job, he’s evaluating the position and he has the right to say what he wants to say.

Both comments were fairly innocuous, but also clearly at odds. Combine that dialogue with the undercurrent of another offseason contract negotiation, and it seemed things between coach and quarterback weren't quite right. 

On Tuesday, speaking at the Senior Bowl, Gruden cleared the air. Asked directly about tension between he and Cousins, the coach was blunt. 

"No." 

Gruden went on to explain his answer about Cousins 2017 play, the now infamous 7-9 line.

"When I say 7-9, if I say one player played great that means I'm saying everybody else was not very good," the coach explained (full video above). "I think we all have to stick together, we all have to improve from a 7-9 season, coaches, players, everybody."

Cousins was good in 2017, throwing for more than 4,000 passing yards for the third straight season. He also showed that he can produce offensively without a great supporting cast, as injuries robbed the Redskins of many of their best passing game threats and seriously damaged the offensive line. 

The quarterback did play two terrible games in the last month of the season, however, including a three interception stinker in the Week 17 finale.

It's possible that Gruden had that fresh in his mind when he spoke in early January, and with the benefit of a little time, his assessment mellowed by late January. 

Either way, Gruden joked about Cousins deserving a vacation, and even said the QB needs a tan. Gruden often uses humor to defuse touchy situations with Redskins players, and maybe he just did it again. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!

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Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins have begun contract talks with Zach Brown, but free agency looms

Redskins fans want Zach Brown back. Bad. And for weeks there had been no news about contract talks between Washington and Brown. 

Now that's changed.

"We've been talking to his agent," Redskins head coach Jay Gruden said on Tuesday. 

Gruden, speaking from the Senior Bowl, explained that the team would like Brown back in 2018 but Washington also understands that the linebacker might want to explore the free agent market. 

"It’s a process," Gruden said (full video above). "These guys have a chance to be a free agent, they had a good year and they want to check what the market is sometimes. If we can get them before they get to free agency, great, but if not, the bidding wars will begin."

For Brown, free agency will look different in 2018 than it did last season when he signed a one-year. bargain deal with the Redskins. 

Prior to injuries forcing him to miss the final three games of the season, Brown led the NFL in tackles. For two straight years, 2016 in Buffalo and 2017 in Washington, Brown has proved to be a tackling machine and arguably the fastest linebacker in the NFL. Brown also signed new representation last offseason, Jason and Michael Katz of CSE Football, and should Brown hit the free agent market the Katz brothers will aggresively market their client. 

Washington Senior Vice President of Football Operations Eric Schaeffer will handle the contract discussions for Washington, and is known as a shrewd negotiator. 

Like many business deals, this will come down to money. Brown established himself as a fit in Washington, both on the field and in the locker room. Interior linebackers do not command top dollar like pass rushers do, but Brown will still expect to be compensated appropriately. 

Further complicating matters for Washington, the Redskins only have Josh Harvery-Clemmons, Zach Vigil and Martrell Speight under contract for 2018. 

It's too early to predict what "it's a process" means from Jay Gruden, but Redskins fans should draw some encouragement that talks have begun with Brown. 

Want more Redskins? Click here to follow JP on Facebook and check out @JPFinlayNBCS for live updates via Twitter! Click here for the #RedskinsTalk on Apple Podcastshere for Google Play or press play below. Don't forget to subscribe!