Redskins

Column: 'All they had to do was look for the hat'

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Column: 'All they had to do was look for the hat'

There's a very good reason why coaches on NFL and college football sidelines this weekend are dressed exactly like the guys down at your car wash - or maybe it's the other way around.

There are actually 250 million or so rea$ons in the case of the NFL, and who knows how many more for college football teams, since most programs get to negotiate their own licensed apparel deal. It wasn't always like that, of course.

There are hats on the heads of more than half the coaches pictured in both halls of fame, as well as sports coats, ties and even the occasional bow tie completing the look. Some looked so distinct - Tom Landry of the Dallas Cowboys and Alabama coach Paul ``Bear'' Bryant come to mind - that even decades later, you could identify them just by seeing their profiles.

Not the current guys, though.

``Tommy thought it was important to look business-like, yet he would be the first one to tell you clothes don't win games,'' said Alicia Landry, whose late husband was arguably the best-dressed NFL coach ever. ``But at the very least, the players always knew where he was with a glance. All they had to do was look for the hat.

``Nowadays, and I hardly watch any games, they all look the same to me,'' she added. ``Except for that one coach who always wears his hood up.''

That would be New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick, whose hoodie is on of the NFL's best sellers. But make no mistake - that has more to do with his success than his sense of fashion.

``The idea,'' NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said, ``is fans see it on Sunday and buy it on Monday. But most of our coaches would rather wear a golf shirt and windbreaker than a suit and tie, anyway. Besides, these guys are so good they could probably coach in pajamas.''

Don't even think about it.

Next season marks the 20th anniversary of one of the NFL's most questionable decisions: requiring its coaches to choose their sideline wardrobes each season from a selection laid out by the league's official apparel manufacturer, currently Nike. The league gets its royalties, the coaches get a stipend and the rest of us get eyesores, like Rex Ryan in a Jets' sweater vest big enough to double as a tent or Green Bay's Mike McCarthy in a down jacket that makes him look like the Stay-Puft Marshmallow Man - in green.

The last coach to work the sideline in a coat and tie was former 49ers coach Mike Nolan in 2007. He thought it would be a great way to pay tribute to his father, Dick, who roamed the same sideline from 1968-75. The NFL originally said no because Reebok, its supplier at the time, offered neither a sport coat or tie in its line with the logo. After three years of petitions, Nolan and then-Jacksonville coach Jack Del Rio, neither of whom is a head coach today, both got to wear NFL-sanctioned versions.

``No one's asked since,'' McCarthy said, ``but we'd look into accommodating them if it could be worked out.''

Fat chance of that happening.

Dan Reeves, who played for the Cowboys and was Landry's assistant before coaching in Dallas, New York, Denver and Atlanta, was the last coach to routinely don a coat and tie for games. He was grandfathered in on the 1993 agreement, but switched to polo shirts when he arrived in Atlanta in 1997.

``The Smith family owned the team at the time, and when we negotiated a contract, it was part of the deal,'' he said. ``They were dead last in merchandising sales at the time, so I understood. They were trying to get the people in the stands to start wearing the gear ...

``But I got into the habit because of Tom Landry and I kept with it because, I believe, the coat and tie calmed me down. I'd get all riled up and start pulling on the coat or the tie, and then I'd remember how stately and in control coach Landry always looked. So I wonder,'' added Reeves, ``if that wouldn't help some of the guys out there right now.''

If that doesn't work, maybe some of today's coaches should solicit fashion advice from the people they trust most.

Miami Hurricanes coach Al Golden's crisp white dress shirt and a sharp orange tie make him arguably the best-0dressed coach in the college game. He played for the late Joe Paterno at Penn State, himself one of the last throwbacks to the jacket-and-tie set. But when Golden got his first break as a head coach at Temple in 2006, he usually wore a sweat shirt.

One day he got a call. On the other end was his mom.

``Wear some pants and a shirt,'' she said.

Advice well worth heeding.

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Jim Litke is a national sports columnist for The Associated Press. Write to him at jlitke(at)ap.org and follow him at Twitter.com/JimLitke.

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A Madden ratings performance adjustor explains what goes into the job that everyone's jealous of

A Madden ratings performance adjustor explains what goes into the job that everyone's jealous of

Even on a field filled with NFL players, experienced coaches and a few celebrities, Clint Oldenburg stood out. 

It wasn’t because of his stature or that he used to play pro football, either.

It was due to his jacket.

A jacket, which led to a photo, which led to a tweet, which led to unexpected Internet fame, all thanks to the four words written on Oldenburg’s back: “Madden Ratings Performance Adjustor.”

Oldenburg was spending Week 9 at FedEx Field, sent by EA Sports to get more information on Adrian Peterson at that afternoon’s Redskins-Falcons game. The future Hall of Famer is in the middle of a comeback season, so Oldenburg was charged with checking in on him.

4.5 million Twitter impressions later, Oldenburg now knows that countless people are supremely jealous of his weekend vocation.

"I wasn’t really engaging on my cell phone during the game, and then when I was catching my cab to the airport after the game I looked at it and said, ‘Holy crap,’” he said in a recent phone interview.

"I was in shock as to what was happening.”

A fifth-round pick of the Patriots in 2007, Oldenburg also had brief stints with the Jets and a few others, including the Redskins. These days, he spends Monday-Friday working to make Madden’s gameplay better.

But he’s also a part of the Ratings Adjustor team, a small group of evaluators who travel to stadiums, observe players and submit their notes to a fellow employee. That primary analyst takes their notes into account and then has the final say on every player’s precious overall rating, which can fluctuate with each Madden update. 

Now, you may find the idea of sending someone to the site of a matchup to do this gig a bit preposterous. But according to Oldenburg, being there in-person does make a major difference.

"The benefits of the sideline really are for pregame,” he explained. “Just seeing how guys are working in pregame, getting a close-up view of their actual athletic skills, their footwork.”

Oldenburg also likes the “better perspective” he gets once the action kicks off. For example, while focusing on Peterson during the Burgundy and Gold’s loss to Atlanta, he felt like No. 26 missed some cutback lanes, something Oldenburg always finds himself paying attention to thanks to his days battling along the line.

Much like the thousands of social media users who shared various reactions about his job, players take an interest in him as well.

While in Landover, kicker Dustin Hopkins found Oldenburg on the sideline and passed along a request: That day, the team was planning on kicking off short as opposed to through the end zone, so Hopkins wanted to make sure his kick power wouldn't be decreased. 

"They wanna come talk about what we’re doing,” Oldenburg said about the athletes he’s tasked with grading. "Information like that is always valuable."

After his playing career wrapped up, Oldenburg jumped into an internship working on the video game that he loved growing up. “Everything took off” after that 10-week program, and he’s been enjoying it ever since.

"I always had to scratch and claw for everything I got,” he said near the end of the call. "I wanted to find a career that I knew I’d be happy doing.”

In the end, he landed in a career that makes him happy. And as one viral tweet showed, plenty of others would be happy in his role too. 

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Morrissey to have hearing for body slamming Oshie, here’s why a suspension is likely

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Morrissey to have hearing for body slamming Oshie, here’s why a suspension is likely

In what was an injury-filled day for the Capitals, the exclamation point of the night on Wednesday was a vicious body slam by Winnipeg Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey to T.J. Oshie.

Late in the game, Oshie skated to the corner of the offensive zone after the puck while locked in a physical battle with Morrissey. Morrissey checked Oshie into the boards, then, as he was falling back, Morrissey slammed Oshie down to the ice. Oshie appeared dazed after the play and now Morrissey may have to answer for the play.

The Department of Player Safety announced Thursday that Morrissey will have a hearing for what it calls interference/unsportsmanlike conduct on Oshie. A date and time for the hearing have not yet been determined.

Chances are, Morrissey is not going to walk away from that hearing unscathed.

The DPS already set precedent for a similar hit earlier in the season when Florida Panthers defenseman Mike Matheson slammed Vancouver Canucks rookie Elias Pettersson to the ice. Matheson was suspended two games for the play.

Matheson’s suspension was a matter of some debate within the hockey community. Some say Matheson was only finishing his check and the play looked worse than it was because Pettersson is only 176 pounds, nearly 20 pounds lighter than Matheson. Morrissey will not be able to make that argument considering both he and Oshie are listed at 195 pounds by their respective teams.

Also working against Morrissey is the fact that he is a repeat offender after he was suspended in the 2018 playoffs for a cross-check to Minnesota Wild center Eric Staal.

With no practice on Thursday, it is unclear if Oshie has suffered any injury from the play, something else the DPS takes into consideration when determining suspensions. Considering his concussion history, however, seeing him slammed to the ice in the manner he was on Wednesday was a troubling sight.

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