Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Hard Bigotry of High Expectations - Part One

Or, Heading for a Coaching Recession

The esteemed Rich Tandler, Redskins blogfather (old blog, new blog), editor in chief of Redskins Warpath Insider and author of The Redskins From A to Z, the story of every Redskins game played from 1937 to 2001, dropped by Curly R's Hatchet Job series on the team's efforts to move past Gregg Williams and feign fan involvement in decision making. Here is what he said in response to part two, the kerfuffle over whether Gregg Williams somehow insulted Joe Gibbs to Dan Snyder's face in one or more of Gregg's four interviews:

OK, I still have yet to hear anyone who claims that Snyder wants only to hire a butt-kissing lackey to be his head coach give an answer to this question:

How do you explain his choices of Marty, Spurrier, and Gibbs as the three head coaches he has hired?

As a matter of fact I can explain it and at no extra charge I can sum up why fans are discontent with all the coaching options in the offing.

Part One: Norval Martyball the Ol' Ball Coach and Saint Joe
Part Two: A Failed Coachinomics Policy


Dan Snyder was out of bullets after Steve Spurrier. He bought the team before the 1999 season and by the 2000 season the pattern was established: just buy whatever looked good. That led to Bruce Smith and Deion Sanders and Jeff George, the team that thought it didn't need coaching and to Norval Turner getting fired while the team was still in playoff contention which is funny because Norval doesn't do the Inspiration Thing so one would have expected that veteran team to respond to him. Dan had a strong hand with that team and misplayed it in football and with the fans.

Dan's reaction to accusations of meddling after the 2000 season was to raise the stakes by hiring Marty Schottenheimer, who had savaged Dan a month earlier on ESPN, saying he could never ever work for an owner like Dan, one that had no idea what it really took to build a team in the National Football League.

Dan showed huge maturity and gave Marty a four year 10 million dollar contract and made him director of footall operations (op. cit.), in theory Marty was running the team from top to bottom. Well played Mr. Snyder, well played.

From the beginning there were questions about whether the new money wet behind the ears owner and the old school disciplinarian could coexist and after firing that snake Vinny Cerrato as his first order of business Marty went 0-5 to start, then 8-3 to finish for an 8-8 record in 2001.

Marty is the inverse Norv, only doing the Inspiration Thing so the reasonable expectation would have been that the 2001 overpaid aging veterans would have tuned Marty out which they did. That team resisted Marty, remember when Bruce Smith bitched to Mark Maske about the Oklahoma Drill? But Marty reined them in and we can never know how years two and three of Marty's three year plan would have played out.

After that 2001 season Marty was out and three of the assistants fired with Marty accused Dan Snyder of bugging their offices and phones, on more than one occasion Dan knew snippets of what had been private conversations that did not involve him and Dan knew them verbatim. An interesting sidelight to this conversation is that newly re-signed Redskins linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti and new Dolphins head coach Tony Soprano Sparano were both on that Redskins staff. I'd ask them about that if I thought I could get a straight answer.

Dan Snyder had wanted Steve Spurrier to succeed Norval Turner after the 2000 season* but Steve was not yet ready to leave the University of Florida. A year later he was and Dan gave Steve the richest deal ever for an NFL head coach, 25 million over five years.

Spurrier was just a bad bet. Like Marty's plan we can never know if Steve's pitch and catch way of bidness would have succeeded in the NFL, it looks a lot like the quote unquote spread offense the Patriots ran this season, Steve never had the wisdom to look for the players he really needed and team management never had the foresight to help Steve out.

So there Redskins fans were, watching the puerile drama play out, Steve Spurrier on a South Carolina golf course, Dan Snyder in Washington, everyone playing games of the coach Spurrier can stay as long as he wants just not too long.

All that time, that three days when we wondered what was going to happen to Steve I thought the team and Steve's agent were negotiating a buyout. But no, radio silence not unlike how Dan has treated Joe Gibbs' assistants so far this offseason. Steve finally phoned in his resignation, gave up 15 million dollars by not insisting on a buyout or absent that letting himself get fired (op. cit.), he was so disgusted with himself and the Redskins he just wanted it to end. Dan had misplayed this one badly in football and with the fans.

And there we were, Marty had gotten away, Marty Schottenheimer, maybe the closest thing left to the old school and from Curly Lambeau to Vince Lombardi to George Allen to Jack Pardee to Joe Gibbs to Richie Petitbon the Redskins knew about the old school.

Meanwhile Martyball was across town with the San Diego Chargers where he amassed a 47-33 record and two playoff appearances in five seasons and in an irony right particularly galling to Redskins fans was fired after a 14 win season.

Marty was the one that got away.

Redskins fans were angry, it was a parade of weak tea candidates for the Redskins head coaching job in January 2004, Jim Fassel, Dennis Green and Ray Rhodes, all qualified guys but all retreads. Dan Snyder had fucked the team and unfucking it was going to take time and Redskins fans were not excited about sticking around for three years while some already been heard from outsider underachieved. After sacking Marty and then soaking fans with Steve Spurrier all the while spending money and draft picks like a drunken sailor to no avail, Redskins fans were not confident about the future of the team.

Then out of his ass hat Dan Snyder pulled Joe Gibbs and suddenly we were home again, like a hug from mom and warm apple pie.

Curly R's Hard Bigotry of High Expectations concludes tomorrow with part two, A Failed Coachinomics Policy.

* A Google News Archive search of Steve Spurrier and Redskins and pre-2001 yields these

Composite image by me; Marty Scottenheimer detail from here; Steve Spurrier detail from here; Joe Gibbs detail from here.