Monday, March 29, 2010

We Need to Be More Careful with the Joe Gibbs Parallels

Everyone's going to be the next Joe Gibbs. Stop it.

Last week Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs, twice the head coach of the Washington Redskins, three time winner of the Super Bowl, was back in town for an appearance at Redskins Park, nominally it was about some Joe Gibbs charity, the real significance was as plain as the picture you see above; to link the Redskins' past glory with its hopeful future.

Joe Gibbs and Mike Shanahan, standing side by side, smiling and joking, assuring that even before Shanahan has coached a single game that he is in the pantheon.

That Mike Shanahan had his own Maroon and Black moment at this event, when he incorrectly tallied the number of points the Redskins scored in the second quarter of Super Bowl 22, it was 35 not 28 coach, that is a number burned into the brains of every Redskins fan old enough to remember it and Washington set seven Super Bowl records in that game, coach Shanahan's moment will not be remembered significantly.

What will be remembered is that image, of the two superstar coaches together, one hoping to bring the Redskins and himself back to the upper echelons, one humble and fading but still relevant.

And so that image and the media circle jerk around it leads, intentionally, to the notion of Mike Shanahan inheriting the mantle of Joe Gibbs, that Redskins fans can have their cake and eat it too, the football world can move on from Joe Gibbs and still Redskins fans can have a wizened old man of football, an acknowledged guru at the helm.

And maybe it is a good analogy, perhaps Mike Shanahan will return the Redskins to glory. Perhaps coach Shanahan can produce something akin to eight playoff appearances, four Super Bowls with three championships and a .674 regular season winning percentage with a 16-5 playoff record in twelve seasons.

But we do not know obviously, and therein lies the risk of making the inevitable comparison to Joe Gibbs. This experiment with established football royalty may succeed, it may tantalize while disappointing, it may crash and burn. We will have to wait and see.

But do you know who else was compared to Joe Gibbs on his way in the door at Redskins Park?

Jim Zorn.

Back in February of 2008, the day after the promotion of Jim Zorn from offensive coordinator to head coach, the Washington Post's Mike Wise wrote a column titled Redskins Looked Below the Radar, and in this piece Mike writes that shadow general manager Vinny Cerrato's ultimate selection of Jim Zorn as Redskins head coach had strong echoes of former general manager Bobby Beathard's selection of Joe Gibbs in 1981.

Both were from the offensive side of the ball, both continuing to serve under their mentors, Jim Zorn under Mike Holmgren and Joe Gibbs under Don Coryell. Both were selected out of relative obscurity and did not have many or any other suitors at the time of their hiring, and both succeeded team icons, Jim Zorn following Joe Gibbs himself the second time around, and Joe Gibbs following Jack Pardee, former Bear Bryant Junction Boy and George Allen protege, as a player Jack had helped get the Redskins into Super Bowl 7.

And both are evangelical Christians.

So that 2008 bottle spin of conventional wisdom was that someone [Bobby Beathard : Vinny Cerrato] sensed something about a head coaching candidate [Joe Gibbs : Jim Zorn] that caused him to go out on a limb with the owner [Jack Kent Cooke : Dan Snyder]. From Mike's piece:

...Zorn might be the most out-of-the-box Redskins head coaching hire since an anonymous offensive wizard in San Diego was plucked from obscurity by Bobby Beathard in 1981 -- when coordinators didn't have cult followings and $2 million-a-year deals.

Before he's portrayed as Everybody's Eighth Choice, Jim Zorn could turn out to be Cerrato's Joe Gibbs. In his first genuine decision as the team's executive vice president of football operations, there is real potential for symmetry here.

Like Gibbs, Zorn is principled, passionate and extremely candid. Zorn is said to have no fraud in him and plenty of authenticity. He says what's on his mind, which might endear him to the fan base but (now that Gibbs's spell has worn off of Snyder) might drive his perception-driven employers up the wall. (op. cit.)

We know how it worked out for Jim Zorn and Vinny Cerrato, cigarettes and blindfolds.

So yeah, Mike Shanahan might be the next Joe Gibbs. Redskins football history is littered with the next Joe Gibbses. Even Joe Gibbs was not the next Joe Gibbs.


As a final note to this piece on the dangerous Joe Gibbs parallel, the day after that February 2008 piece, Mike Wise wrote another (op. cit.), wherein Mike discusses how, after two days Jim Zorn was displaying deference and independence in the right mix, how he was saying all the right things and how

...[T]he Redskins got the man they wanted, no question. Snyder and Cerrato wanted someone who wouldn't rock the boat or reinvent the wheel on offense, someone who could cut his teeth -- someone new, who has yet to believe the myth about his own coaching prowess.

Could that be a distant early foreshadow to Mike Shanahan, now in total control of every aspect of the Redskins football program? It would seem that being the next Joe Gibbs means different things at different times.

Joe Gibbs and Mike Shanahan: Ricky Carloti / Washington Post photo from here.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Time to Let Them Smoke Up

Or at least stop caring if they do it on their own time

Interesting story in Sports Illustrated this week, you can look at this piece as a serious cultural commentary or you can look at it as a bullshit fluff piece of the type that spontaneously erupts in the vacuum between NFL free agency and the draft.

Actually it is the former, marijuana use has achieved such a commodity status in society that we can now talk openly about first round NFL talent having a quote history of marijuana use unquote, or not seeing where admitted use would be problematic in a workplace like the NFL that expressly bans the drug and enforces that ban with suspensions and forfeiture of pay.

And those facts and circumstances in draft consideration are not accompanied by the words jeopardizing his career.

We are so far from 1995, when University of Miami defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who ran a 4.7 forty at the combine, fell from maybe number two or three overall down to number twelve overall to the hometown Buccaneers over stories of marijuana use, stories that I am fairly certain were backed in leaked college drug tests.

At this point NFL general managers and talent evaluators do not look at marijuana use, past or present, as something that automatically disqualifies a player from their draft boards, but rather a predilection toward pot use is something that is managed.

One anonymous NFL head coach is quoted in the Sports Illustrated piece thusly:

"It's pretty significant as a trend,'' the head coach said. "But if you knocked everyone off your board who has experimented with weed, you'd lose about 20 percent of your board, not to mention disqualify a few recent presidents. A third sounds a little high to me, but it's not a rare occurrence to have a player with some pot use in his background. You have to make a judgment on each individual guy."

That same head coach said that earlier in his NFL coaching career, if a player had failed a drug test for pot in college, his name would be quickly removed from the draft boards of most teams. But times have changed. Clubs are doing more work to try and identify whether a prospect's pot use falls under the experimentation heading, or is done with regularity. (op. cit.)

Look at how NBC's own Pro Football Talk reported on this story:

The issue would better be described as an epidemic of guys getting caught.

At this point you may as well decriminalize it in the NFL culture, that is the way it is heading in this country. Put the same rules on marijuana use that you would with alcohol, cigarettes, model glue or nitrous oxide, which is to say you do not come to work baked out of your gourd and try to fake it through practice.

See that's a problem, like when Chris Webber got pulled over on his way to Bullets practice, he was in his bigass SUV with a burning joint and no identification. Ok that's bad, that's not good and should raise a red flag just as would a guard hiding a flask in his gut or a safety with a whippetizer balloon hanging out his facemask.

That is where we are as a society. It is simply not considered bad anymore at large to have smoked pot, or even to smoke it occasionally. And we know it is not a performance enhancer, that argument is done. Remember Ross Rebagliati?

Ross was the Canadian snowboarder in the 1998 Nagano Japan Winter Olympics that won gold in the snowboard giant slalom, that medal was later stripped for a positive test for mary jane, then returned to Ross when a court of sports arbitration ruled the Olympics had no established policy for marijuana, which even then was acknowledged as not a performance enhancer.

Unless that is, you are trying to eat a whole pizza, drink a whole case of beer, reconcile Jerry Garcia versus Duane Allman and finish Legend of Zelda in one day, in this case marijuana definitely enhances performance but we will only see that sport in the Olympics if they come to Charlottesville in 1989.

The hilarious thing about the Ross Rebagliati story is that marijuana was added to the list of substances banned by the Olympics after this episode because, even as Olympic spokesperson the unfortunately named Dick Pound admitted pot could not possibly enhance an athlete's sporting performance, the Olympic committee

...[D]ecided in the case of social drugs we should take a stand, and Olympic athletes should be put to a somewhat higher standard than society in general, said the committee's vice president, Dick Pound...(op. cit.)

So the Olympic pot ban was all about social perception of marijuana use, not about its strict legality, which is not uniform across the globe. So they should not smoke pot. Eat all the McDonald's you want, fuck like bunnies, all fine. Just no getting baked and watching Ren and Stimpy DVDs.

But wait it gets better. That same year, 1998, Chris Webber was arrested a second time for pot, this time trying to bring eleven grams, a nug less than a half, through the airport in Puerto Rico. He paid his local fine and moved on but the publicity around the incident spurred talks between the league and the NBA Players Union about adding marijuana to the league's list of banned substances, which at the time consisted principally of cocaine and heroin.

Fast forward twelve years and our social perception of marijuana use has changed. The kids that grew up hearing horror stories about gateway drugs and psychotic rages and alleyways full of begging stoners too high to keep a job then grew up and realized science bears out no physical addiction, no propensity for migration to other habits and maybe even finds some medical benefits.

In California voters will see a November referendum on the legalization of marijuana, the measure proposes to legalize, regulate, sell and tax the hell out of it. Suddenly something we always knew, pot could be taxed like tobacco or liquor and sold safely to the public with the state reaping billions in new tax revenues of the only kind you are allowed to raise, sin taxes, that whole idea is now a serious economic and strategic idea by Very Important People, not just some hippy mumbling wouldn't it be great if into a smoky bong then immediately forgetting what he said.

Stop testing for it in the NFL, or make it a periodic test rather than a random test and enforce zero tolerance for showing up to practice stoned and just move on, pot's a thing now.

Marijuana bud from here via here.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

I Need to Be the Best Player I Can Be for the Seven in Ten Plays I'm Out There For

I guess you could call that a paraphrase

So everyone is not on board. Is anyone surprised that the one that is not all in with new coach Mike Shanahan's plans and offseason regimen is defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth?

I will go ahead and give you the bottom line up front, the BLUF as my brother the writer Marine calls it: prima donna with guaranteed money coming has no motivation to subordinate his ego to the team dynamic.

First it was the musings, the random comments that perhaps in this slow motion transition from a 4-3 base defense to a 3-4 base defense, a scheme the Redskins have never ever run, Albert thought Albert was not the right fit at nose tackle, that he was not quote built to be a nose tackle unquote.

Actually Albert, at six feet six inches and 350 pounds, not 330 or 340 as he self reported (op. cit.), you would happen to be built exactly like a nose tackle. Whether you can play the position is a legitimate question. A nose tackle in the 3-4 lines up in the zero technique, right across from the center and occupies two or three offensive linemen. A hold the line guy so the more athletic players can get through or around to make a play.

Young Albert envisions himself running all over the place, creating havoc and keeping the offensive line off balance, in fact when he first came on board the immediate conventional wisdom was that maybe he should be allowed to do just that.

The same day there was also a Remember Dana Stubblefield piece in the Washington Post, Dana was an overpaid guy that came from a great 49ers team and never lived up to his contract and is now universally recalled as a Redskins failure.

Last season, Albert's first in Washington, after some initial misgivings about how he would fit into then defensive coordinator Greg Blache's strict assignment based scheme, Albert made the transition; less than a month before the season Albert even said last year's Redskins line of Andre Carter, Cornelius Griffin, Phillip Daniels and himself was the best line he had ever played on.

How did it all work out in 2009? Well between occasional flashes of domination Albert kind of came and went. From the start of the season he spent a lot of time on the turf watching the sky or limping off to catch his breath. He seemed to be poorly conditioned, if unable to play a full NFL game is considered poor conditioning. He only appeared in twelve games, or seventy five percent of the schedule.

Thirty seven tackles and four sacks last season, there may have been an Albert Haynesworth Halo Effect when he was out there and effective, if there was it was exactly that: a halo effect of the exact type from which the team would hope to benefit if Albert could get in the trenches and strain against the middle blockers, take away center running lanes and push the pocket back from the center.

He's a nose tackle, play him that way, maybe with less running around he will not need to take so many in game smoke breaks.

Then it was the offseason conditioning, Mike Shanahan was pretty open about how his offseason workouts are VINO, Voluntary In Name Only, he wants everyone to buy in, with no performance expectations this season and no salary cap and a new real actual general manager in Bruce Allen, coach Shanahan will only play the players he wants, the ones that earn it.

Except for Albert Hanyesworth. Albert is guaranteed twenty one million dollars next month and despite the wild west of the no salary cap era, the team does not want to waste money and like all other teams may be concerned about retroactive cap penalties from this season when we resume with a new cap in a year or two.

So Albert is tenured and gets to do whatever he wants, including train and condition on his own. Albert will not be participating in the team's offseason conditioning program, he says he needs to do this, to get back to being the premier tackle in the league which I guess is an admission that he was not last season and for good measure Albert also throws former coach Jim Zorn and the team's offseason conditioning program from last season, in which he participated, even further under the bus.

For my part, I was unhappy back in the Joe Gibbs II days when Sean Taylor and Shawn Springs and Santana Moss and Clinton Portis all worked out on their own, it makes those hamstring pulls and that tendinitis and that torn abdomen seem more preventable with a professional staff overseeing but that said I always thought the Joe Gibbs regime had a cookie cutter approach to offseason conditioning and not one focused on an individual player and individual positions. So I guess maybe it was a wash. With Jim Zorn who knows who was really in charge of that program.

But with Mike Shanahan I will wager he has everything laid out for each player and for each position. Telling coach that you respect him but will not be there for the team's first taste of how he does things just serves to push you away.

You better come back a lean 350 and ready to do whatever the hell the team wants.

Albert Haynesworth heading off the field in a football game, he would come back after a blow: Getty Images from here.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

An FYI to the PTB

Tailgating is apparently not a food related activity

Food bloggers and sports bloggers should NEVER mix socially.

Clique t-shirt from here.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

How Did I Get On This List?

For thirty five bucks one lucky fan gets to walk the plank

I got some bacn mail today, a season ticket offer from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, it is the first email I have ever received from the team, I have no idea how I got on this list...

...unless they still have me on their list from the time I used a cracked password to buy illicit playoff tickets then flew into Tampa for twenty two hours, got hammered and laughed in their little inbred faces as the Redskins beat the Buccaneers even after Sean Taylor got ejected for spitting on Michael Pittman.

Thanks guys, I'm all set with the Redskins.

Image grab of bacn mail by me

Friday, March 05, 2010

2010 Free Agency Open Thread

2010 starts today


2200 Saturday 6 March 2010: There has been a signing, and it is a good one, history will now always remember that the first incoming free agent signed by the new Redskins management regime of new real actual general manager Bruce Allen and head coach Mike Shanahan was... an offensive lineman. Say hello to Artis Hicks, 31 years old, late of the Minnesota Vikings and earlier with the Eagles, Artis has played both guard and tackle. Artis at one point was a regular starter, his last two years with Philadelphia and his first with the Vikings, and has been a reliable backup the past two years. Jason Reid is already penciling him in at right guard where the Redskins started five different players in seven different starting offensive line combinations, I would say there is a decent chance we could see him at either right guard or right tackle. Welcome Artis, Curly R is already working on your introduction.

1730 Saturday 6 March 2010: The Offseason of Cautious Moves continues as the Redskins visit with fourteen year veteran center slash guard Casey Wiegmann, Casey played for coach Shanahan in Denver but was let go last month after new coach Josh McDaniels' first year. Casey did not sign a contract and he may be on the market later. At that age he may be a good depth player.

1700 Saturday 6 March 2010: The team still has not reached out to unrestricted free agent longsnapper Ethan Albright, I hope they are just taking care of other business, Ethan is a mainstay and even at 38 with fifteen years in the league, nine in Washington, there is no reason to switch up now. The team brought in a your guy, Nick Sundberg for competition, I have to think it will end up Ethan's job, he is a consummate pro, he is like the guys that walk around with headsets and clipboards but never get on camera, the show could not go on without them. His annual re signings are a humorous subject, he has no agent and every year they FedEx him a standard one year contract for the veteran minimum, he signs it and sends it back. The difference between Nick's presumed one season veteran minimum of four hundred thousand dollars and Ethan's ten-plus season veteran maximum of 860 thousand dollars cannot possibly be a stopping point in this uncapped season.

1500 Saturday 6 March 2010: Scuttlebutt from Pittsburgh brought to you by the Washington Post is saying that recently released Steelers tailback Willie Parker might be headed to Washington for a visit next week, with Ladell Betts, Rock Cartwright, Marcus Mason and Quinton Ganther all gone, by the way those four guys teamed up for 214 carries or 63 percent of all 338 running back carries and 766 yards or 61 percent of all 1260 running back yards last season, there will need to be someone back there besides Clinton Portis.

1100 Saturday 6 March 2010: Linebacker Larry Foote looks like a good idea the more I read about it, if the Redskins are going to go 3-4 let's go all the way and do it with 3-4 experienced players. Washington cannot continue to go it with converted linemen at the linebacker positions.

0730 Saturday 6 March 2010: I wake to find no earth shattering signings by the Redskins, wonder if this is what it is like to root for a normal team. My parents are coming to brunch but all I want to do is sit in front of my computer hitting Command-R over and over.

0015 Saturday 6 March 2010: After one last look around there is no news and as far as I can tell there are no late night negotiations or signings expected to happen, we will pick it up tomorrow, stay tuned and drop me a comment or an email if you hear something I missed.

2350 Friday 5 March 2010: Ouch, it would suck to be a Cardinals fan right now, that team has lost quarterback Kurt Warner to retirement, linebacker Karlos Dansby to free agency, safety Antrel Rolle, who they had cut to avoid paying a roster bonus of four million dollars but wanted back, Antrel has signed with the Giants, and now the final insult, the team has traded disgruntled yet productive receiver Anquan Boldin to the Ravens. Reason number 7,683,444 why being a Cardinals fan would suck. Hey Anquan, say hi to Jim Zorn for me when you get to Baltimore.

2100 Friday 5 March 2010: Oh for three, Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby has signed with the Miami Dolphins and it looks as though either a) The Redskins really did have a philosophy this year of appear to be interested in only the biggest names and then do nothing and confuse the opposition or b) The Redskins blew another one and they are just playing it off.

There is also word that former Steelers and current Lions linebacker Larry Foote will be visiting Ashburn on Monday, Larry played under former Steelers and new Redskins linebackers coach Lou Spanos in Pittsburgh.

2030 Friday 5 March 2010: Green Bay left tackle Chad Clifton, at 33 one of the prized if underwhelming unrestricted free agents, visited Ashburn today but left without a contract and now word on the street is Chad has re signed with the Packers. In fairness to Chad, he is a good player, after a decade of Chris Samuels Redskins fans are going to think any replacement left tackle short of Bryant McKinney or is somewhat chumpish. Oh for two.

1830 Friday 5 March 2010: In a bad omen that Arizona linebacker Karlos Dansby is not destined for Washington, Miami has released linebacker Joey Porter. No official word on Karlos, ESPN's Adam Schefter was all over Karlos to the Dolphins about six hours ago.

1730 Friday 5 March 2010: While I believe a lack of on strings attached free agents in the marketplace, to the tune of over 300 players that would have been unrestricted free agents last season, has as much to do with the Redskins low profile as does Some Big New Philosophy around Ashburn, the apparent attention the team is paying to the long term a significant departure from focusing on reworking contracts of aging, unproductive veterans to remain under the salary cap in hopes of playoff runs that never occurred. In a league where 30 is considered old, the Redskins have been too old for too long. Allen and Shanahan began to address the age issue with the cuts.

Excellent stuff from Jason Reid at the Washington Post.

1500 Friday 5 March 2010: In the annals of I meant to do that, here is a good one: Redskins new real actual general manager Bruce Allen said about an hour ago on Dan Snyder owned ESPravda 980 that, get this, the Redskins were never interested in Julius Peppers, that it was all rumors and haha can you believe how fast they spread. I think an argument like that is just plausible walkback from missing out.

1445 Friday 5 March 2010: Julius Peppers is off the market, signing a something something year deal for something something million dollars with the Bears, it turns out Chicago was going Peppers all the way and Washington may never have been a serious player for his services. Oh for one. Interestingly, the same Mark Maske piece in the Washington Post reports that the Eagles offered Julius a contract, that would seem to go against the Eagles philosophies and as such I would guess their money was not as competitive.

1430 Friday 5 March 2010: Pro Football Talk is reporting and the Washington Post is retweeting that the Redskins are looking at quarterback Rex Grossman as a possible backup. With the backup the past four years, Todd Collins, shown the door yesterday, six foot tall maybe Colt Brennan coming off a season erasing quote hip injury unquote and incumbent starter Jason Campbell a restricted free agent the team has sought to do no more with than tender a one year, first round compensation offer, it raises a legitimate question, which would be who would Rex be backing up?

1415 Friday 5 March 2010: Restricted free agent Lorenzo Alexander aka Scarface has re signed with the team, Lorenzo in the past has played defensive end and defensive tackle and was prepped for emergency duty on the offensive line in 2007. In the presumed new 3-4 defensive scheme Lorenzo will join Chris Wilson and Brian Orakpo as linebackers converted from defensive ends. Might want to throw a real linebacker in there at some point in this offseason.

1400 Friday 5 March 2010: The Redskins have re signed former 400 pound man right tackle slash right guard Mike Williams, Mike was thrust into action last season among the line shuffling and injuries. This proves the team cannot find a worse lineman.

1230 Friday 5 March 2010: While sitting in Famous Dave's for lunch I heard ESPN's Adam Schefter reporting that Julius Peppers is heading for Chicago and Karlos Dansby is heading for Miami, no final word on contracts for either at this point, it looks like the Redskins may not land either of their top two targets.

1200 Friday 5 March 2010: Defensive end Phillip Daniels, one of the Redskins four unrestricted free agents, has signed with the team, after coming back from a torn ACL in 2008 training camp Phillip played on a one year deal in 2009. With center Casey Rabach signed that leaves longsnapper Ethan Albright and punter Hunter the Punter Smith as the team's only remaining unrestricted free agents, and I think the team wants to keep both.

1030 Friday 5 March 2010: Left tackles Chad Clifton of Green Bay and Tony Pashos of San Francisco both will be visiting Ashburn today. I would take either or both.

0900 Friday 5 March 2010: Remember that I am taking today off just to track the Redskins free agency activity, everyone fed, kids on the bus, now the two year old and I are sitting here waiting for something to happen.

0700 Friday 5 March 2010: The first thing I notice when I woke up is that ZOMG TEH REDSINS DIS NOT SIGN EVERY JUAN!!!1! Ahh for the days when the team could work out a one hundred million dollar contract from midnight to five am and still not be in violation of tampering rules...


Original post...

Happy Football New Year people, the great uncertainty
that is the NFL 2010 offseason is upon us, all completed contracts terminated at midnight. Normally, as was the case in 2007 and 2009 as examples, the Redskins would be the team roaring out the gate with money and high profile players.

This year though things are different. With the salary cap disappearing and a weak version of the reserve clause in place, free agency will be different this year. For those that still do not understand how it is working this year versus any other year since the salary cap went into effect in 1994, here is a primer:

Under regular Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) rules, if your contract is expired and your team has not released you and you have four or more years of service, you are an unrestricted free agent. There is no right of refusal from your original team, tender offers are not applicable, the losing team has no recourse. You sign with anyone you want. The losing team will get some draft pick compensation, but it will be low round and will be granted by the league as additional pick(s) and will not come out of the losing team's pocket.

If your contract has expired and you have not been released by your team and you have three or fewer years of service, you are a restricted free agent. Your team assigns your relative worth in draft picks, and any other team that signs you must surrender that pick or picks to the losing team. The draft pick(s) may be in higher or lower rounds, the original round or a combination. In addition, your current team has the right to match any contract offer from another team and retain your services for that price.

In exchange for making it harder for you to leave the team by requiring other teams surrender picks, the team must offer you a one year contract at a salary commensurate with the draft pick compensation the team has placed on you. To avoid teams assigning artificially low picks and salaries to try and devalue a player a team believes other teams may not have interest in, years of service, draft position and playing time all factor into a formula for a minimum required salary offer in that one year deal.

So if the team assigns a third round pick to your value, the team must also offer you a one year deal within the range of a third round pick with your experience. A first round requirement will yield a higher salary and combinations higher still. This entire process is known as tendering.

A Redskins example: Last offseason, 2006 sixth round pick Reed Doughty's contract expired and he was coming off season ending back surgery. He had three years of service. The minimum tender offer based on his draft position, years of service and playing time would have been one million dollars. The team did not feel Reed was worth that and extended him a contract at less than the tender value. This offer was not considered qualifying and therefore the team forfeited its restricted claim on Reed and he became a free agent. When no other team was interested in Reed, he was brought back at less than the tender value, about a half million dollars, which turned out to be a great deal for the Redskins. Even better now that this offseason, with four years of service, the team has tendered Reed at a second round pick, four rounds higher than where he was drafted. He is due for a raise.

Under this year's special rules as the CBA crumbles, the restricted free agency rules have been extended to free agent players with four or five years or service, meaning a player must complete his sixth year of service in order to reach unrestricted free agency. This then adds the entire draft classes of 2005 and 2006 to the list of players that have not earned freedom of movement in the league, in essence a previously negotiated right has been taken away from them, and those guys are pissed.

The tendering rules apply to these players this year as they would to players of three or fewer seasons last year. This means that if a team decides to tender an offer, it must be of no less dollar value than the matrix of draft position, years of service and playing time would dictate. In terms of draft picks, it can be as high as the team feels is fair compensation for losing the player.

Another team then, signing one of the players in this class, would be obligated to surrender draft picks specified in the tender offer. But first the losing team would have the right to match the offering team's contract to retain the player. If a team does not tender an eligible restricted free agent, it signals the team does not feel the player is worth the minimum tender and the player becomes an unrestricted free agent.

So the net effect of these special rules for this year should be a reduction in the movement of players in the primes of their careers. For the Redskins, this scenario affects linebacker Rocky McIntosh, safety Reed Doughty, cornerback Carlos Rogers and quarterback Jason Campbell, each of whom has been tendered by the team.

This fact does not mean the player will play for the team in 2010, or even that the player will be signed. All it signifies is the Redskins are seeking compensation and right of first refusal from any team that wishes to sign these players.

So heading into today the Redskins pretty much need one of everything, with Chris Samuels retired and Randy Thomas cut, they could use a lineman or two. If the team is switching from the 4-3 base defense to the 3-4, they are likely to need some real linebackers, not simply converted linemen. With Fred Smoot cut (op. cit.) and Carlos Rogers not worth his first round pedigree, they could use another starting corner. Clinton Portis is coming off a concussion-shortened season and has Methuselah Syndrome for a player of his age, and Ladell Betts, Rock Cartwright and Marcus Mason were all released (ibid.), so I guess you could say the team could use a tailback or two.

I can go on and on about the Redskins needs but I won't, let's just see how it works out. Defensive end Julius Peppers of the Panthers and linebacker Karlos Dansby of the Cardinals have been the principle names associated in the press with the Redskins, I would take both of them though Julius is going to cost a pretty penny.

Free agent left tackles Chad Clifton of Green Bay and Tony Pashos of San Francisco appear to be the top tackles available and should be in the mix. The team has already re signed center Casey Rabach, which means mediocrity is guaranteed to continue at that position, along the line last season mediocrity was superior so we will take what we can get.

Let the games begin.

Other Curly R Free Agency Open Threads: 2007 :: 2009

Free Agent BMX logo gaffled from here.


Shit bummer

The Redskins closed out football year 2009 with slash and burn, the reality of new management, a new coach and no NFL salary cap all smashed into Redskins Park together last night as the team released ten players., two of them career Redskins and five with six or more seasons in Washington. The team will save seventeen million dollars against the cap in salary. The released players:

Tailback Ladell Betts, career Redskin, eight seasons, Ladell was drafted in 2002 in head coach Steve Spurrier's first year. Ladell's career highlight is the 2006 season when he stepped in for an injured Clinton Portis and ran over 1100 yards on just nine starts, and whipped off an incredible five game stretch of one hundred yards or more rushing, a bright spot in an otherwise dreary 5-11 2006 season. Ladell suffered ACL and MCL tears in 2009 game ten against the Cowboys.

Right guard Randy Thomas, eleven seasons overall, seven as a Redskin, Randy was one of the Jetskins arriving in 2003 along with Laveranues Coles, Chad Morton and John Hall, Randy went out on injured reserve early in the season two of the last three years.

Tailback and kick returner Rock Cartwright, career Redskin, eight seasons (drafted in 2002), Rock was the epitome of a team player, carrying the ball when asked, then taking a back seat when Clinton Portis arrived, then finding a late career niche as a successful kick returner.

Receiver Antwaan Randle El, eight seasons total, four as a Redskin, Antwaan was among the the group of extremely high profile free agents signed before the 2006 season, along with Brandon Jacobs, Adam Archuleta and Andre Carter, Antwaan's production was steady though his effectiveness seemed to wane, he will be remembered for being flexible enough to play all three receiver positions and for being a terrible punt returner.

Defensive tackle Cornelius Griffin, ten seasons overall, the past six as a Redskin, Cornelius was in the class of free agents signed by head coach Joe Gibbs his first year back in 2004.

Quarterback Todd Collins, fifteen seasons total, four as a Redskin, Todd swept in with offensive coordinator Al Saunders in 2006 as a veteran of Al's system from Kansas City. Todd, the Pride of Walpole Massachusetts, will always be revered in this town for his four game run propelling Washington into the 2007 playoffs after starter Jason Campbell went down with a dislocated kneecap.

Cornerback Fred Smoot, boomerang Redskin, nine seasons total, seven as a Redskin in two separate stints, Fred left Washington before the 2005 season as a brash, trash talking cover corner with sticky fingers. He returned in 2007 as a role playing butterfingers with a large cushion between him and the receiver.

Curly R favorite tailback Marcus Mason, three years total, parts of two as a Redskin, Marcus burst onto the scene as an undrafted free agent in 2007, made the cut, was moved to the practice squad, returned in 2008, was cut in a bullshit political move just before the season, spent that season with Baltimore and the New York Jets, was back in the 2009 offseason, made the cut, was let go then brought back with injuries to Clinton Portis and Ladell Betts. A strong ball carrier, his blocking improved over three seasons but was never up to par and he never ingratiated with the staff(s).

Fullback Eddie Williams, 2009 seventh round pick, did not make final cuts, was signed back to practice squad and then brought over to the active roster after tight end Chris Cooley broke his ankle in game seven versus the Eagles, Eddie did not see any live action.

Defensive end JD Skolnitsky, rookie free agent long shot free agent defensive end, did not make final cuts in 2009 and was signed back to the practice squad, he did not see any live game action.

That is quite a list of casualties. But with no salary cap and therefore a chance to unload anyone you want with no cap penalty or dead cap space implications for the future, the team let them all go. Perhaps some of these players will be back at a reduced rate, if the team has openings at the margins heading into training camp and wants veterans for continuity.

Kind of a bummer when things like this happen, even when you know they are coming and even when you know some of these players need to move on.

Curly R will look at each of the veterans and long time Redskins individually, and each will receive a fitting farewell.

Ladell Betts celebrating his fourth quarter touchdown in the Redskins 27-17 2009 game nine victory over the Broncos: Gerald Herbert / AP photo from here.

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Thank You Chris Samuels

Leaving a hole in our hearts and one along the line

And so it ends, ten year Redskin left tackle Chris Samuels is formally retiring today, the spinal stenosis that ended his 2009 season is simply too great a risk to his health, his mobility and his life to continue playing the violent game of professional football.

It was a no brainer of a decision and he has the full support of every Redskins fan in the world. His shoes would have been hard to fill by any player, after all he has been here a decade, the lack of an obvious successor at left tackle makes Chris' final departure all the more difficult for Redskins fans to accept.


Chris was the undisputed top tackle prospect in the 2000 draft coming out of the University of Alabama, Chris was the winner of the 1999 Outland Trophy as the nation's top interior lineman. The Redskins selected Chris with the number three overall pick in that draft, the Redskins having traded two other 2000 first round picks, their number 24 overall and the number twelve overall to San Francisco for the number three.

Curly R aside: As an historical note, the number 24 overall pick in the 2000 draft was the Redskins designated pick for having completed the 1999 season 10-6 and the number twelve was compensation from Carolina for the Panthers having signed defensive tackle Sean Gilbert to a free agent offer in 1998, that Sean worked out for us after all didn't he.

Chris challenged for the starting left tackle position immediately and won out over Tre' Johnson and that was all she wrote for a decade, he was the guy, it was his job to protect the blind side of whatever Redskins quarterback was back there, be it Brad Johnson, Jeff George, Todd Husak, Tony Banks, Kent Graham, Shane Matthews, Patrick Ramsey, Danny Wuerffel, Tim Hasselback, Gibran Hamdan, Mark Brunell, Todd Collins or Jason Campbell.

Chris also anchored the ground game, springing Stephen Davis (twice), Clinton Portis (four times) and Ladell Betts to thousand yard rushing seasons. There were a number of games in 2008, with an ineffective Stephon Heyer and Jon Jansen and Randy Thomas shells of their former selves on the right side, where the running game comically went over left tackle again and again and again, even when the opposing defense knew it was coming, Chris could still get Clinton to the second level.

It is often said that football is the ultimate team sport and as such, it can be difficult or impossible to assess an individual's performance because of all the moving parts around him; a great pass for example is a combination of blocking, quarterback play and receiver play.

With Chris Samuels though, we have the ability to isolate his performance as outstanding. Think of this, here are Chris' six Pro Bowl years, along with the Redskins record and other notes:

2001: 8-8 under Marty Schottenheimer, Tony Banks was sacked 29 times and Stephen Davis and Ki-Jana Carter combined for over 1700 rush yards.

2002: 7-9 under Steve Spurrier, two passers threw the ball over 220 times and neither had a 73 rating; it took three ball carriers to get to 1600 yards rushing.

2005: 10-6 under Joe Gibbs, Santana Moss and Clinton Portis both set still standing franchise records at their positions and the Redskins won a playoff game for the first time in six years.

2006: 5-11 under Joe Gibbs, Mark Brunell was benched midway through the season and Jason Campbell finished with a lower rating than Mark; with Clinton Portis' shoulder separated, Ladell Betts ran for over 1100 yards on nine starts.

2007: 9-7 under Joe Gibbs, Clinton Portis had a quote disappointing unquote 1200 yards rushing and Jason Campbell did not crack 78 passer rating; the Redskins returned to the playoffs; Chris and his Pro Bowl teammates tight end Chris Cooley and longsnapper Ethan Albright each wore jersey number 21 in honor of fallen teammate Sean Taylor.

2008: 8-8 under Jim Zorn, after a hot 6-2 start the team deflated with a 2-6 run at the end, the team finished the season without Chris after he tore a triceps tangling with linebacker Terrell Suggs in the game nine Monday Night Terrible Towel debacle against the Steelers, Chris missed the final seven games.

Success for the team and success for Chris were not inextricably linked. He played on and excelled every year no matter the change, this is a huge part of what makes Chris one of the greatest Redskins ever.


Overall Chris was an extremely durable football player, playing in 146 of a possible 165 games including playoffs, starting every one single one of them. Toward the end as they all do he battled lingering injuries, a knee that kept him out two games in 2007, the triceps tear in 2008 and the neck injury in 2009.

That neck injury, a stenosis narrowing of the spinal column at the base of the neck, is a condition Chris has known about since childhood, but has managed and was not considered a threat to his health or his ability to play football, it was in fact that condition that led him to play with that gigantic neck brace cowl on his shoulder pads.

All the years of abuse though took their toll, in a game five loss at the Panthers Chris took a shot to the head and shoulders that left him numb, and much more than the usual neck stinger, which is an offensive lineman's lot in football life. A long and patient examination revealed that his condition had worsened, another such hit to his head or neck could leave Chris paralyzed, or dead.

In the end it was the easiest decision of his life. He has had a great football career and accomplished everything an individual contributor possibly can.

We are better as football fans from ten years of Chris, the Redskins are better for having selected him, thank you Chris and Redskins fans and The Curly R wish you all the best as your life enters this new phase.

Chris Samuels is a sure fire Redskins Ring of Famer. The only thing between him and Canton is the rest of those Redskins teams.

Chris Samuels: Washington Post photo from here.