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Fassel, Rhodes, or. . .

Fassel, Rhodes, or. . .

Three hundred and sixty six days ago to this moment (about 7:30 EST), Jim Fassel was the upside, the best possible case, the cream of the crop. Ray Rhodes was an unattractive second choice as Dennis Green had taken himself out of the running.

As I left the house to attend a work-related social function, I nearly forgot about the Redskins coaching search, which had been going on for a week since Steve Spurrier quit, and had a few beers, sang some karaoke, shot some pool, and talked with my co-workers and their significant others. It was fun and I stayed out too late and dragged home after eleven (that’s late when you’re my age!). I nearly went straight to bed, but I decided to log on to a few message boards to see if there was any news about the coaching search. They were abuzz with a bolt out of the blue.

Gibbs is back.

It wasn’t a done deal, but the tone of Mark Maske’s report in the Post make it sound like it was very close to being one. I saved Maske’s original report on my hard drive, but I can’t find it now, so you’ll have to settle for the AP’s Joseph White’s report of Maske’s report:

WASHINGTON (AP) - Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs could make a surprise return to the Washington Redskins.

The Washington Post, citing sources with connections to Gibbs, reported late Tuesday on its Web site that Gibbs was in serious discussions about returning to the team that he led to three Super Bowl titles.

The 63-year-old Gibbs coached the Redskins from 1981-92 before resigning to pursue a career with his own NASCAR team. He has been adamant over the years about not wanting to coach again, although he has retained NFL connections. He is currently a minority owner of the Atlanta Falcons.

The Redskins are seeking a replacement for Steve Spurrier, who resigned last week. They were known to have interviewed three candidates: former New York Giants coach Jim Fassel, former Minnesota coach Dennis Green and Seattle defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes.

Calls to the Redskins and to Gibbs' racing team were not immediately returned.

A similar report also appeared on CBS Sportsline.com.

Gibbs' racing teams have been among the most successful in NASCAR with two Winston Cup championships in the last four seasons. Bobby Labonte took the title in 2000 and Tony Stewart in 2002.

Gibbs' oldest son, J.D., is president of Joe Gibbs Racing. The former coach's youngest son, Coy, finished 14th last season in the Busch Series standings.

Maske’s article was intriguing, to say the least. But it was Mike Wilbon’s column The Next Joe Gibbs Could Be Joe Gibbs that appeared on the Post’s website shortly after midnight that convinced me that it was going to happen: The other day I received an e-mail from someone inquiring about the next head coach of the Washington Redskins. And I immediately dismissed it because the e-mailer was asking whether Dan Snyder had the name Joe Gibbs at the top of his list of candidates, and whether Gibbs would come back, like Vince Lombardi came back, like Dick Vermeil came back, like Bill Parcells has come back a time or two.

I dismissed it because not only has Gibbs said repeatedly over the last 11 years that he wasn't coming back to coach, he has been demonstrably happy in his life outside of football. Most coaches, when they leave football, can never again satisfy their competitive urges. . . .

The Packers have won since Lombardi, the Giants and Patriots have reached Super Bowls since Parcells, the Eagles have threatened to win since Vermeil. But the Redskins have been to one lousy playoff game since Gibbs left. And when Steve Spurrier resigned last week, the desperate cry went out one more time from the sycophants who wondered who out there reminds anybody of Coach Gibbs. D.C. has never gotten over him leaving. The late Shirley Povich might disagree, but it seems to me the pecking order of sports icons around here is Gibbs first, Walter Johnson second.

Well, one would assume that the only thing better than getting a potential Joe Gibbs is getting the real Joe Gibbs.

Now, I’ve never worked in the newspaper business, but I have some idea about how it works. And there is no way that the prime NFL columnist for the Washington Post is going to get up in the middle of the night to bang out a column about Gibbs’ potential return if there wasn’t a real, real good chance that it would happen.

After chasing down information to the point where there was nothing new, it was about 3 AM and I went to bed. As it was revealed later, Joe Gibbs was still hard at work at that hour. As the news of his return was just starting to break, he was on a plane to Buffalo. In the wee hours of the morning he was in the process of hammering out an agreement with Gregg Williams.

In the morning, the cement was beginning to set. The aforementioned CBS Sportsline story came out. When contacted, the Redskins were in the “can’t confirm or deny” mode. The first rock-solid affirmation that Gibbs was back came via the Web from Gibbs own NASCAR team site It was via that medium that Gibbs confirmed the rumors that were barely 12 hours old: Joe Gibbs was again the Head Coach of the Washington Redskins.

There wasn’t a buzz around town, there was an absolute roar. The DC media turned to an all-Gibbs, all the time mode. The press conference was going to be on Thursday evening. I was going to be there.

Next: The Presser

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How a simple bet between Alabama rookies Allen and Anderson could pay big dividends for Redskins

How a simple bet between Alabama rookies Allen and Anderson could pay big dividends for Redskins

The Redskins ranked at or near the bottom of the NFL in a number of defensive categories in 2016, and the first and second round selections in the 2017 Draft should help to address that.

A huge part of the Washington defensive problems stemmed from an inability to get off the field on third downs, and Jonathan Allen and Ryan Anderson should immediately provide a pass rush boost. In 2016, the duo combined for 18.5 sacks, 8.5 coming from Anderson and another 10 from Allen, two huge pieces for the excellent Alabama defense.

On the pro level, Anderson may actually be in position for more sacks as he's likely to play outside linebacker in the Redskins 3-4 scheme. Allen will be more of an interior presence, a natural fit for the 'Skins defensive end spot in the 3-4.

That doesn't mean the two won't compete to hit quarterbacks. 

RELATED: Gruden squashes notion that Alabama defenders do not succeed in NFL

Asked Saturday if there would be a bet between the two college teammates about who gets more sacks their rookie season, Anderson quickly responded, "definitely."

Though he was surprised by the bet, Allen wasn't going to back down from the challenge. (Full video above)

"I guess there is now, I didn't know about it 'til now," Allen said. 

As for the stakes of the bet, Allen said the pair of rookies will figure that out behind closed doors. 

"His bank account is a little longer than mine so we will have to figure something else out," Anderson said.

What's clear from hanging out with both players is their familiarity with one another will help both players transition to the NFL. Allen and Anderson said they had an emotional response when they learned they would continue to play together in Washington. 

"There's very few players that have better film or resume than this guy right here," Allen said of Anderson. 

Anderson, as the Redskins press group has quickly learned, has a certain way with words. Honest and funny, but to the point.

"I'm excited to have one of my dogs with me here," he said of Allen. 

The Redskins ranked ninth in the NFL in sacks in 2016, but will lose Trent Murphy for four games to start the year. Sacks are just one metric to measure defensive success, though an easily quantifiable and fun metric for fans.

Where Washington has to improve is on 3rd downs. In 2016, they allowed a confounding 97 third down conversions, good for 31st in the league. There's only 32 teams. What's worse? The 'Skins gave nine fourth down conversions too.

Regardless of sack totals, Allen and Anderson were brought to Washington to help this defense get off the field. Coming from the Crimson Tide, the two rookies seem up for the challenge. 

MORE REDSKINS: Grading the Redskins 2017 draft

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Grading the Redskins' 2017 draft

Grading the Redskins' 2017 draft

Since we don’t know how the careers of the players picked by the Redskins yesterday will turn out we must dig in a little more to come up with a grade for the draft headed up by Bruce Allen. Here’s my assessment, feel free to leave yours in the comments.

Strategy—B

There really isn’t enough to love or to hate here. They didn’t do much wheeling and dealing while on the clock, making only a minor deal with the Vikings to move up two spots in the sixth round in exchange for moving down 10 slots in the seventh.

For the record, the trade (picks 201 and 220 from Washington to Minnesota in exchange for picks 199 and 230) was just about a wash on the Jimmy Johnson trade chart, with the Redskins giving up a statistically insignificant one point of value.

Whether center Chase Roullier, the player they traded up to draft, makes the team and has an impact or not is not going to make or break the draft but it should be noted that they gave up something of value to get him so it was a player they wanted to make sure they got as his name was still on the board.

The deals that got them up to 10 picks had already been made by Scot McCloughan on draft day last year as he added picks in the fourth, fifth, and sixth rounds with various trades.

Perhaps they deserve the most credit for a potential deal they did not make. As their first-round pick got closer and defensive lineman Jonathan Allen remained on the board it had to be tempting for them to spend a mid-round pick to jump up and grab him before anyone else could. But Gruden said that they had a number of players to choose from as the pick approached and they decided to stay put. The gamble paid off as Allen fell into their laps at pick No. 17.

RELATED: Redskins roll the dice in the 7th round

Talent/fit/needs—A-

The Redskins needed to bolster their defense and they certainly gave it a go. Their first three picks were on defense as were four of their first five and six of 10 overall.

But the raw number of the picks doesn’t really tell the story; it’s the value of the picks that really matters. According to that Jimmy Johnson pick value chart, they spend 1,596 points on defense and 126 points on offense.

They hit on their biggest needs with their first two picks. They had not drafted a defensive lineman in the first round since 1997 and the neglect of the position was evident. In Allen they got a player with Pro Bowl potential in their biggest area of need.

Allen will help the pass rush from the inside and then in the second round they acquired some edge rushing ability with Ryan Anderson. It seems that this pick was strongly influenced by Scot McCloughan’s draft board. His height, weight, and combine numbers were not what a lot of teams are looking for in an edge rusher but his tough mentality and obvious love for the game are attributes that McCloughan valued.

Although Gruden expressed his confidence in Rob Kelley to be his running back it appeared to most outside observers that an upgrade was needed and they got that in Samaje Perine. You can’t have too many good corners and Bashaud Breeland is set to be a 2018 free agent so they took Fabian Moreau in the third round. They had no backup center Roullier could develop into that spot. Gruden said earlier this offseason that they needed a blocking tight end and that is what Jeremy Sprinkle is.

They didn’t hit on all their needs. With the top three inside linebackers set to be free agents next year many thought they would spend a top pick there. And although there were a few possible nose tackles on the board in the later rounds they bypassed that position. You can’t solve everything in one draft but the Redskins have now had eight drafts since converting to the 3-4 defense and they still haven’t found a solution at nose tackle.

As far as value goes, it doesn’t get much better than Allen, who was a consensus top-five talent who lasted until the 17th pick. Moreau may have been a first-round pick before tearing a pectoral muscle lifting weights during his pro day.

On the other end of the value scale, the fourth round seemed to be way too early to take safety Montae Nicholson. There is something to be said for taking a guy with good measurables who didn’t have good game tape and taking a shot at developing him. But the fourth round is too soon for taking such a chance.

READ MORE: Breaking down the Redskins late round picks

Overall—B+

After their first two picks, they didn’t shy away from red flags. Moreau and Nicholson both have injuries that will keep them out of action until sometime in training camp. Sprinkle had a highly-publicized shoplifting citation that got him suspended from Arkansas’ bowl game. Seventh-round pick Josh Harvey-Clemons failed multiple drug tests during college.

They did stay away from players with histories of high-profile violent incidents like Dede Westbrook, Joe Mixon, and Caleb Brantley.

How those red-flag players turn out will be the key to this draft. It’s fine to take some chances, especially when you go into the draft with 10 picks. But you have better win more than you lose.

There were enough players taken who seem to be sure bets to be productive, if there is such a thing in the draft, to make it unlikely that the draft will be a total bust. Allen, Anderson, and Perine are clean prospects who have very high floors. Allen and Anderson may have Pro Bowl ceilings.

Given that, they seem to be assured of having a least a productive draft (again, with the caveat that nothing in the draft is certain). If Sprinkle develops into a good third tight end who can block and be a threat to catch a pass, that’s a plus. If Moreau can develop into a starter, this could be a pretty good draft. If sixth-round WR Robert Davis can contribute on special teams and be a productive fourth or fifth wide receiver, that would be another plus.

In short, the Redskins did some good work towards giving this draft a chance to be a success. Now it’s up to the coaches, to luck, and seeing how players who are projected to play well at age 22 actually perform on the field when they get older and suddenly have a six-figure salary. 

MORE REDSKINS: Clear winner from Redskins 2017 Draft?