Saturday, February 24, 2007

Irregardless, Bad

Irregardless is not a word and this is not a Joe Gibbs workout policy

Stan Humphries has a Super Bowl ring, and it says 'Redskins' on the side. It's from the 1991 season. Bobby Beathard selected Stan in the sixth round of the 1988 draft from Northeast Louisiana University, now the University of Louisiana at Monroe. He was a solid Joe Gibbs quarterback, 6 foot three, 223 pounds, brick of foot and cannon of arm, and he was on a predictable arc to the starting job in Washington.

In the old days, before it meant the end of the season, Joe Gibbs would stash his future starters on injured reserve aka the 'taxi squad.' For his first season, Stan was on IR and never appeared in a game. Second year two games 10 attempts, third year seven games 156 attempts. With Mark Rypien not yet cemented as a solid NFL starter, the Redskins had options. It was good.

Then something happened. In between the 1990 and 1991 seasons, Joe Gibbs asked Stan to stay in Washington for offseason workouts. Stan wanted to be at home in Louisiana and refused. Stan didn't throw a pass in 1991, though databaseFootball and Pro Football Reference differ as to whether he appeared in a game. Mark Rypien started all 16 games in 1991, never got hurt and the garbage time that season all went to former Giant Jeff Rutledge. The Redskins went on to win Super Bowl 26.

That offseason, Charley Casserly and the Redskins shipped Stan off to the San Diego Chargers for a third-round pick (op. cit.). He went on to become one of the greatest Chargers ever, leading the team to Super Bowl 29 three seasons after leaving the Redskins. Although the Chargers lost the Super Bowl to the San Francisco 49ers, that season's team of destiny, Stan has more pride in the AFC Championship ring he earned in 1994 than the Super Bowl ring he has from the 1991 season.

For a decade now I have read about how Stan feels he was not treated fairly at the end by Joe Gibbs, and I always thought tough shit NFL football is year round whether you like it or not and the pay is pretty good so suck it up. If your coach thinks you can be better, it is a good thing to listen.

Which is why I was floored to read today in the Washington Post that Joe Gibbs is now permitting players to be in charge of their own conditioning, away from Redskins Park, wherever they want. While the Howard Bryant piece is short on detail, such as benchmarks and whether the team will have any influence over the player workouts, I generally view trusting players to take care of their own offseason conditioning as another bad sign that Joe has lost his fire, is just ceding the team to the players.

It began with the free agent signings and aftermath of the 2006 season. To my sensibilities, Joe picked all these 'stars' (ok we are saying for the sake of argument that Joe is on the level when he says all these players were picked by him or his staff and not by Dan Snyder with Joe's rubber stamp) but then when the top drawer still needs motivation and management, Joe shrugged his shoulders like Norval Turner and just said, if they don't want to do it, I can't make them.

Back in the day, Joe could coach 'em up. He took a team of replacement players and won all three strike games in 1987, including the famous Monday night Dallas game when the picket line-crossing Cowboys regulars, including Tony Dorsett, Danny White, Randy White and Too Tall Jones, lost at home to the Redskins who had a convicted drug offender out on work release at quarterback.

It continued with Al Saunders. Joe designs the offense and calls his own plays. Bringing in anyone else, irregardless of whether it's another Don Coryell alum, signals that Joe is not invested enough in the outcome to handle the details.

And now, two years after Joe tolerated Sean Taylor not returning team calls he is trusting players to stay in condition on their own. In the economics of football, obviously there will be many players that still show up to Redskins Park, lower caste players that want face time. But the big ticket players, the money players, expect that they will be "handling it" on their own.

Yes, there are top drawer players that take care of themselves, but Clinton Portis, Sean Taylor and Brandon Lloyd are not Donovan McNabb and I have no sense that these guys doubt their raw abilities or believe they can be better, and I'll be on Fat Patrol come training camp.

Joe Gibbs: Michigan Daily here / AP photo