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Stability, But With Change

Stability, But With Change

You can reach me by email at rtandler@comcast.net

Rich Tandler is the author of Gut Check, The Complete History of Coach Joe Gibbs’ Washington Redskins.

In an extended session with the press on Monday, Joe Gibbs talked in broad terms about the team's plans for the offseason. The following quotes are from articles by Nunyo Demasio in the Washington Post and by Jody Foldesy in the Washington Times.

After addressing his players yesterday, Gibbs today will begin a week-long analysis of the team. He intends to have a depth chart by Friday that will rank the players at each position, providing a blueprint for the offseason to owner Daniel Snyder and Vice President Vinny Cerrato.Right off the bat this is not good news. Not the fact that Gibbs and company are breaking down the team's personnel strengths and weaknesses; that's standard operating procedure in the NFL. No, it's the fact that the blueprint will be presented to the tag team of Snyder and Cerrato. It doesn't appear that a real NFL General Manager will be shepherding the team through the ’05 offseason.

Among the issues Gibbs addressed in wide-ranging comments was the status of left tackle Chris Samuels, whose hefty contract has created speculation about his future. Building on complimentary quotes that followed Sunday's 21-18 win over the Minnesota Vikings, Gibbs made clear that Samuels will be around next season.

"Chris Samuels played his rear off," Gibbs said. "We're going to respect that. We think a lot of Chris Samuels. Chris Samuels is going to be a part of this thing. We just need to get [a contract extension] worked out."

It’s good that Gibbs added that final qualifier. If there is no extension worked out, there would be cap charges for Samuels of some $9.6 million next year and of over $11 million in 2006. Those are hard numbers to swallow for any player, much less a solid but not stellar offensive tackle.

Wideout Rod Gardner had his worst season, and the trade rumors that have followed him in his Redskins career may finally become fact.

It’s official—Rod Gardner is a bust. His nickname on the team is “50/50”, based on his chances of catching a given pass. The odds of him remaining a Redskin seem to be considerably longer than that.

A replacement for Garnder could come via the NFL draft. Washington will draft ninth in the first round and receivers such as Michigan’s Braylon Edwards and former USC receiver Mike Williams are likely to be available and attractive at that spot.

(Linebacker Antonio) Pierce remains an important part of Washington's plans, and he said he has a meeting scheduled with coaches this week to discuss his future. The Redskins have been working to retain Pierce for several months, but he recently switched agents and probably won't sign for at least a few more weeks.It’s possible that Pierce canned his old agent because he wasn’t getting a deal with the Redskins done quickly enough. On the proverbial other hand, it could be that Pierce thought that his former agent wasn’t being forceful enough with the team and wanted the player to sign a deal for far less than his market value. Stay tuned.

Holding a more uncertain future is cornerback Fred Smoot, whose contract talks are at an impasse. Although Gibbs said the club wants to keep Smoot, the coach also made clear there's a maximum price.

"We've got a certain number of bucks to spend," Gibbs said. "My motivation is the core group. ... There may come a situation, hopefully not, where we've got to look out for the core group. If one person ... becomes unreasonable, we've got to protect the core group."

The emphasis was added to that last part of the quote since gives a lot of credence to reports that Smoot is looking for guaranteed money in the neighborhood of $15 million. That’s a lot for a corner who has never been to a Pro Bowl and who never intercepted more than five passes in a season despite playing opposite Champ Bailey for his whole career. For that matter, so is $10 or $11 million that the Redskins reportedly are offering. According to Cerrato, the offer on the table would make Smoot one of the 10 highest-paid corners in the league. Clearly, Smoot is a member of the “core group” that Gibbs would like to protect, but not at any cost. Again, stay tuned.

While in his last meeting with the players Gibbs promised a minimum of change in the coaching staff and in the roster. Still, Gibbs thinks that the team has room to maneuver if it wants to:

Complimenting owner Dan Snyder on his handling of the books and calling the club's cap cushion "substantial," Gibbs added: "We kind of know where we are. Obviously you project where the cap's going to be. And then [there are things] we can do to free up money in there. We've got a great plan."

The offseason retooling will involve more than personnel. Gibbs plans to look at his offensive schemes and fix whatever was broken enough to cause the team to rank 31st in the NFL in scoring with 240 points. "More than anything, we need to take a long, hard look at everything on offense," Gibbs said. "We're going to take it all apart and see if there's a way to upgrade what we're doing."Gibbs certainly wouldn’t be afraid to play the copycat game that is so popular in the NFL. "We're constantly looking to steal, borrow, whatever, what somebody else is doing," he said. A lot said by Gibbs in the 55-minute session, but not much concrete. The players seem to be as much in the dark about what may happen as the rest of us are. Said Lavar Arrington: I don't know. I'm part of the Redskins organization. That means anything can happen during the offseason.

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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!