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Gibbs Fires Himself

Gibbs Fires Himself

According to reports on ESPN.com and elsewhere, Joe Gibbs will hand the play calling duties over to new offensive coordinator Al Saunders next season. This is not a particularly shocking development. Everybody knew that Daniel Snyder was not going to cut Saunders checks worth $2 million a year to be one of those quality control assistants. Calling the plays is a duty suitable for Saunders’ pay grade.

The real news here, of course, is not that Saunders is getting the keys to the car, but that Joe Gibbs is handing them over to him voluntarily. He decided on his own that running the offense and calling the plays was something that would be best done by someone else. He got on the plane, went to Kansas City and, in getting the deal with Saunders done, he fired himself as offensive coordinator.

It’s extremely rare for a head coach to relinquish control like that. Most of them have to have the headset that transmits into the quarterback’s earpiece pried from their cold, dead fingers.

Most other coaches, of course, don’t already have busts in the Hall of Fame. While Gibbs doesn’t have the massive ego that many in his profession possess, don’t think that things like his legacy and reputation aren’t important to him. And it seems as though it was apparent to him that his legacy was not going to be enhanced by him continuing to run the offense.

The question is, can Saunders do it any better?

If you believe that resumes are important, you’d have to think that he can. Saunders learned offense under Don Coryell, the Chargers coach that Gibbs was serving under when he became the Redskins’ coach in 1981. Both took that offense and put their personal stamps on it. Gibbs’ shaping of the schemes, however, took an 11-year hiatus while Saunders’ offense has continually evolved. In the four years that he’s been the Chiefs offensive coordinator the team has scored more points than any other team in the NFL, an accomplishment that has come without the benefit of a dominating defense that consistently gave KC tons of turnovers and great field position.

Still, Gibbs himself sounded a cautionary note that should give pause to those ready to order a bigger trophy case for the lobby at Redskins Park, one that can accommodate the fourth Lombardi that is sure to be there one year and a couple of weeks from today. Talking after the Redskins’ Week 16 win over the Giants, a game in which Gibbs’ play calling was good enough to muster up 35 points, he said, “We don't win with X's and O's.”

It is the players, according to Gibbs, that make the difference. For example, if Mark Brunell is indeed over the hill and Jason Campbell is not yet ready to climb the hill, it won’t matter who is talking into the QB’s helmet, the offense will still sputter when the team needs it to hum.

It will be interesting to see exactly what Gibbs’ role with the team evolves in to. Will he stay in The Submarine at Redskins Park until the wee hours virtually every night? I mean, wouldn’t it be kind of awkward for him to be sitting there, looking over the shoulder of Saunders, the guy he hired to replace him? (I’d like to see somebody diagram that organizational chart.) Will he be able to truly let go?  He’ll be on the sidelines at games, but doing what? Will he be strolling alongside the field, chatting with sideline reporters like Bobby Bowden?

OK, that last one is going too far, but you see the point. In his role as CEO, Joe Gibbs, the master of details, will be leaving the details to others. How well he evolves into that role will go a long way towards determining the success of the Redskins for the next several years.
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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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!