Down the primrose path
In his zeal to reset the Washington Redskins for a productive 2010, team owner Dan Snyder found creative ways to satisfy the Rooney Rule on minority opportunity, ways that effectively render the Rule moot. And it may cost a football coach his career. Curly R's three part series on the death of the Rooney Rule at the hands of Dan Snyder concludes.
Part One: The General Manager
Part Two: The Head Coach
Part Three: The Collateral Damage
Redskins secondary coach Jerry Gray is certainly qualified to be a head coach, he has been in the NFL business for more than twenty years as player and coach and was the Buffalo Bills' defensive coordinator for five seasons from 2001 to 2005. The Lions requested and received permission to interview Jerry for their open head coach position in the 2008 offseason, Detroit ultimately went with former Tennessee defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who happens to be white.
We know Jerry wants to be a head coach, as far back as October of this year there was talk that Jerry could replace Jim Zorn if coach Zorn was fired summarily, Jerry did little to cover for his boss, essentially saying at the time yeah it would be a bummer for Jim Zorn if I got the job that way but getting a head job is what is all about so there you go. In November Jerry interviewed for the head coach position at the University of Memphis, he did not get the job.
Jerry's name first appears as a serious candidate to replace Jim Zorn on 18 December, and by 23 December we learned that Jerry had interviewed for the position, it may have happened as far back as October.
When questions arose as to whether Jerry had interviewed, he first denied, then awkwardly changed his denial to no comment. He has at various times denied to those around him that he has interviewed, but the FPA has said that he did. Jerry himself scheduled a press availability following the game fifteen loss to the Cowboys to address questions about his interview and his shifting story, then canceled it.
From the beginning I did not like the cavalier attitude Jerry had toward the possiblility that he was undermining his coach, and to be fair, defensive coordinator Greg Blache and his staff are holdovers from Joe Gibbs and it is very likely that side of the house sees Dan Snyder as the boss, not Jim Zorn.
Jerry has done little to take any kind of high road and may well pay a career price for his desire to be a head coach at any cost. He will not get the Redskins job, if I am, wrong and he does get the job I will issue a formal apology to Jerry and to the team. Jerry is small potatoes to Dan Snyder and the last time he went small was with Jim Zorn and he will not be making that mistake in this transition. If it is not Mike Shanahan it will be another name brand coach.
Besides, Redskins fans will not line up behind a coach that so shamelessly threw his old boss under the bus. Dan Snyder may have coerced Jerry to go along with some secret plan, may have even issued a threat, veiled or otherwise that if Jerry went to coach Zorn that he was out, whatever the situation I cannot believe the whole thing could have been conducted in a way that did not portray Jerry as such a climber that he would step on Jim Zorn even before the corpse was cold.
Mike Florio at Pro Football Talk wrote a scathing piece on Jerry Gray's future coaching prospects after the coaching community digests what happened in Washington, Mike is a bit animated, I generally agree though that Greg Blache and Jerry Gray devalued themselves in agreeing to the interviews when it is so clear across the football world that there will be a clean house next season (op. cit.).
Now that Jerry's time is nearing an end in Washington other coaches will have to consider whether they want a guy who will go behind their back and try and take their job. Mike indicates that Jerry was a solid head coaching candidate quote about five years ago... Then, he had to claw back to get into the discussion as a coordinator unquote.
So what happened? Five years ago Jerry was defensive coordinator in Buffalo under Dick Jauron, Jerry was a holdover from Gregg Williams' staff, Gregg having been fired as Bills head coach following the 2003 season. Jerry joined his old mentor in Washington before the 2006 season, which happened to see the Redskins top five defense from 2005 collapse to number 31 in most statistical areas.
Although I do not blame that fall on Jerry Gray per se, there was a Thanksgiving 2006 story by ESPN writer and former Washington Post sports writer Tom Friend about the Redskins 2006 dysfunction. A good part of this story was devoted to the disarray and hard feelings introduced when Gregg brought Jerry to Washington, Jerry was immediately in conflict with safeties coach Steven Jackson. The story goes on to describe petty bickering between coaches and indifference to the entire matter on the part of Gregg Williams.
The common thread here? Jerry may not have initiated the problems in 2006 and may not have approached Dan Snyder for an interview in 2009. In both cases though he appears to have demonstrated poor judgment in handling matters of football professionalism, and has shown a an inability to stand the heat in the kitchen, he has a tendency to put himself ahead of the team.
Maybe he thinks that is how you get ahead in this business. Maybe it is.
Dan Snyder: Uncredited image from here via here.