Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Gregg Williams Mess, Redux

Gregg demonstrating how he was yanked out of Washington

With the Jaguars coming to town for the final preseason game Thursday it seemed inevitable that we would rehash the rise and fall of former Redskins defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, brought to town by Joe Gibbs, architect of a top ten defense in 2004 and 2005, exposed as vain and a poor manager in 2006, redeemed in 2007, out of favor and dismissed in 2008. Today, seven months to the day after he was fired by the team, Jason La Canfora at the Washington Post has that piece, and it was better than I thought it would be.

For those that do not recall I was not in favor of Gregg Williams as the next head coach of the Redskins, though I never ever would have wanted him to be disrespected with his reputation dragged through the mud the way it was. For that I blame Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato. I continue to insist it was Gregg's personality and not his ability that got him fired; there was no way Redskins management was going to tangle with what amounted to another Marty Schottenheimer, a proven winner with some blemishes that simply does not give a crap about toeing lines and therefore will stubbornly refuse to endorse or enable poor football management.

There is some enlightenment in this piece, seven months ago it was big news, that is a lifetime in football and it already seems in the rearview for Redskins fans. Gregg can now reflect and is a bit more introspective than I recall. The salient details:

Every time Gregg has spoken of Redskins management he has spoken glowingly. Well duh, the NFL is a business where there are only 32 offices to work in, it is a rarity to see a guy get trounced by a team and not come back on the surface as it being a quote learning experience unquote. Gregg is in it for the football and the money and he will not be burning any bridges publicly. Privately though I am sure he has some hard feelings. Redskins management was too cowardly simply to let Gregg go, they had to ensure that he was run out on a rail in order to make management's decision not to promote the logical guy to the job look like an informed decision rooted in disrespect for that Redskins legend, Joe Gibbs.

Sean Taylor is still close in Gregg's heart. Gregg Williams was not in the time Redskins fans knew him a particularly emotional guy, certainly not in the way Joe Gibbs or Bill Cowher express themselves. He was Sean's coordinator, worked with him every day and Sean was the best player on the team. Throw in the relationships Gregg's sons had with Sean and suddenly it is less a story about two guys getting paid to play a game than the sudden and unexpected loss of a very close co coworker.

Gregg feels betrayed by his former top assistant and current Redskins defensive coordinator Greg Blache. Gregg brought Greg to the Redskins and they worked all four years together. In this piece we learn that Greg accepted the defensive coordinator position before Gregg learned he was being fired. Both events were reported as of happening on 26 January, though the exact timing was not evident in the reporting and is not laid out in Curly R's coaching chronology (op. cit.).

Reading between the lines it seems clear to me that Gregg feels he was undercut, or at the very minimum that Greg should have shown the loyalty to wait until the position was actually open before taking it. I do not want to get on too high of a horse here, I personally experienced the same thing, with an overboss approaching me to take my mentor's position before the position was open and I refused. Once the position came open (it was an amicable move at the time) I reconciled with my mentor and took the position. Maybe I am a fool adherent to the doctrine of loyalty, I can sympathize with Gregg in this case.

And it casts Mr. Blache in a new light. At the time of his promotion in January and then again in a profile piece in May he is portrayed as someone that was not looking to stay in coaching and that Dan Snyder made an offer so large Greg could not refuse. Interpolating, this tends to indicate Greg was approached by Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato about taking Gregg's job, Greg said no... no... no... no..., wait how much? I wonder if it makes Gregg feel better that Greg only betrayed him for the right price and that Greg turned four years under Gregg into his biggest contract ever when Greg could have had another coordinator position whenever he wanted (Greg was the Bears' defensive coordinator for five years before joining Gregg's staff).

Greg was Gregg's top lieutenant for four years and now they do not speak and if I read the WaPo piece correctly, they will not speak on Thursday.

Gregg also feels he was smeared on the way out of town. That is the word Gregg's agent actually uses, smear. If you will recall there were stories (op. cit.) that team management was angry with Gregg Williams for arranging the missing man formation tribute to Sean Taylor in game 12 against the Bills without Joe Gibbs' knowledge. Later there was a story that somehow Gregg had quote disparaged unquote Joe Gibbs in one of Gregg's four interviews for the Redskins head coaching job.

That attack could only have come from one place, team management, where else since if it was a renegade story the team could have taken control of the message and stopped it right in its tracks. Of course Dan and Vinny denied it, there would be no advantage in admitting it.

Looking at the layout of this piece the point that Gregg's chances fell when Vinny was promoted to director of football operations on 22 January (ibid.), four days before being fired, is made immediately after the paragraph describing the smear campaign against Gregg and Dan and Vinny's denials thereof, and further details stories of quote friction unquote between Gregg and Vinny. Again reading between the lines here it seems clear to me that Gregg feels Vinny was the source of the smear campaign. Dan would have had no choice but to go along or throw Vinny over the side which he was not going to do.

Gregg Williams wants to be a head coach again, and Washington is not off his list. Gregg signed a one year contract with the Jaguars (see my take for Jaguars fans on Gregg's hiring by Jacksonville at Big Cat Country from January here) and will take another job if it comes open, I cannot be surprised by this, he has been a coordinator for five years after having a coveted head position and even if he wants it to prove he can do it more than he wants it, I cannot blame him. He may be this year's Marvin Lewis, on retainer for one year to the Jaguars and off to another team. Or maybe he will sign up for a multiyear deal with Jacksonville and continue to rehab his image and look a year or two down the road.

The interesting part is that if that voice on the other end of the phone was Dan Snyder, Gregg would answer it and come back. Of course he would, he got fired for not giving enough of a crap about management to toe their line, why would he care if he goes back to work and makes millions working for guys that actively worked to discredit him with millions of Redskins fans.

That is why you have to like Gregg, he has no conscience. I wish him all the luck of the league in Jacksonville.

Gregg Williams: Phil Coale / AP photo from here.