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Gibbs Fires Himself

Gibbs Fires Himself

According to reports on ESPN.com and elsewhere, Joe Gibbs will hand the play calling duties over to new offensive coordinator Al Saunders next season. This is not a particularly shocking development. Everybody knew that Daniel Snyder was not going to cut Saunders checks worth $2 million a year to be one of those quality control assistants. Calling the plays is a duty suitable for Saunders’ pay grade.

The real news here, of course, is not that Saunders is getting the keys to the car, but that Joe Gibbs is handing them over to him voluntarily. He decided on his own that running the offense and calling the plays was something that would be best done by someone else. He got on the plane, went to Kansas City and, in getting the deal with Saunders done, he fired himself as offensive coordinator.

It’s extremely rare for a head coach to relinquish control like that. Most of them have to have the headset that transmits into the quarterback’s earpiece pried from their cold, dead fingers.

Most other coaches, of course, don’t already have busts in the Hall of Fame. While Gibbs doesn’t have the massive ego that many in his profession possess, don’t think that things like his legacy and reputation aren’t important to him. And it seems as though it was apparent to him that his legacy was not going to be enhanced by him continuing to run the offense.

The question is, can Saunders do it any better?

If you believe that resumes are important, you’d have to think that he can. Saunders learned offense under Don Coryell, the Chargers coach that Gibbs was serving under when he became the Redskins’ coach in 1981. Both took that offense and put their personal stamps on it. Gibbs’ shaping of the schemes, however, took an 11-year hiatus while Saunders’ offense has continually evolved. In the four years that he’s been the Chiefs offensive coordinator the team has scored more points than any other team in the NFL, an accomplishment that has come without the benefit of a dominating defense that consistently gave KC tons of turnovers and great field position.

Still, Gibbs himself sounded a cautionary note that should give pause to those ready to order a bigger trophy case for the lobby at Redskins Park, one that can accommodate the fourth Lombardi that is sure to be there one year and a couple of weeks from today. Talking after the Redskins’ Week 16 win over the Giants, a game in which Gibbs’ play calling was good enough to muster up 35 points, he said, “We don't win with X's and O's.”

It is the players, according to Gibbs, that make the difference. For example, if Mark Brunell is indeed over the hill and Jason Campbell is not yet ready to climb the hill, it won’t matter who is talking into the QB’s helmet, the offense will still sputter when the team needs it to hum.

It will be interesting to see exactly what Gibbs’ role with the team evolves in to. Will he stay in The Submarine at Redskins Park until the wee hours virtually every night? I mean, wouldn’t it be kind of awkward for him to be sitting there, looking over the shoulder of Saunders, the guy he hired to replace him? (I’d like to see somebody diagram that organizational chart.) Will he be able to truly let go?  He’ll be on the sidelines at games, but doing what? Will he be strolling alongside the field, chatting with sideline reporters like Bobby Bowden?

OK, that last one is going too far, but you see the point. In his role as CEO, Joe Gibbs, the master of details, will be leaving the details to others. How well he evolves into that role will go a long way towards determining the success of the Redskins for the next several years.
Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book chronicles every game the Redskins played from 1937 through 2001. It is available at www.RedskinsGames.com





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Matt Ryan throws some serious shade at Kyle Shanahan for the Super Bowl loss

Matt Ryan throws some serious shade at Kyle Shanahan for the Super Bowl loss

Matt Ryan spoke to CBS Sports' Pete Prisco about the loss to the Patriots in the Super Bowl and how the Falcons will rebound in 2017. 

In the process, he took a shot at former offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's play-calling and put some of the blame on his style of coaching for the disastrous fourth quarter.

"Kyle's play calls -- he would take time to get stuff in," Ryan said. "As I was getting it, you're looking at the clock and you're talking 16 seconds before it cuts out. You don't have a lot of time to say, 'There's 16 seconds, no, no, no, we're not going to do that. Hey, guys, we're going to line up and run this.' You're talking about breaking the huddle at seven seconds if you do something along the lines.

"With the way Kyle's system was set up, he took more time to call plays and we shift and motion a lot more than we did with (former coordinator) Dirk (Koetter). You couldn't get out of stuff like that. We talk about being the most aggressive team in football. And I'm all for it. But there's also winning time. You're not being aggressive not running it there."

Those are some harsh words from Ryan and not exactly a ringing endorsement of Kyle Shanahan. This loss will surely haunt him should he never get back to another Super Bowl.

"There's always going to be a little sting," Ryan said. "You never lose that. Hopefully we've got four Super Bowl victories after this one, but that doesn't mean we won't still be like, 'Damn, let's talk about the other one we should've had."

Redskins fans may be able to relate to Matt Ryan's pain as some were vocal about Kyle Shanahan's play-calling during his time in Washington. Maybe Kirk Cousins takes notice of Ryan's comments as well before he considers San Francisco next off-season.

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Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Over/under: Redskins running backs in 2017

Redskins running backs over-under

The Redskins’ running backs depth chart looks quite different from how it did a year ago. Rob Kelley, who was “ninth-string” back last year per Jay Gruden, is the starter. Samaje Perine enters the mix with expectations that exceed those normally assigned to a fourth-round pick. Chris Thompson is the constant as the third-down back. What kind of numbers will they put up this year? Redskins Insiders Rich Tandler and JP Finlay go over-under on some Redskins running back stats. 

Rob Kelley, 1,000 rushing yards

Tandler: If you project Kelley’s production in the nine games he started over 16 games it comes to about 1,050 yards. He had his ups and downs in those nine starts and he will have them this year. But he should have enough ups to be able to average the 62.5 yards per game needed to hit the thousand-yard mark. Over

Finlay: Unlike wide receivers, where 25 guys broke the 1,000 yard mark in 2016, it's getting harder and harder for a running back to hit four-figures. In 2016, only 12 RBs ran for more than 1,000 yards, and only eight got over 1,100 yards. As the NFL becomes more and more of a passing league, less backs are getting the carries sufficient for a 1,000 yard season. The Redskins haven't had a 1,000 yard rusher since Alfred Morris in 2014. While I think Kelley gets the bulk of the yardage, I think it caps out about 900 yards and Chris Thompson and Samaje Perine creep into the total. Under

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Kelley, 10 rushing touchdowns

Tandler: He scored six as the starter last year and doing the math that comes to 11 over 16 games. But last year there wasn’t a player like Perine, who could come into the game and vulture some touchdowns after Kelley did the work to get the ball in goal to go position. Under

Finlay: Sorry to keep going back to stats, but last year only seven running backs got to 10 TDs or more. Only seven! Hard to see Kelley getting there on a team that didn't run all that much, or all that well either, in 2016. Under

Samaje Perine, 500 rushing yards

Tandler: It tough to set a line for a guy who hasn’t played. I’ll go off Matt Jones’ 2015 rookie season when he gained 490 yards while sharing time with Alfred Morris. If Perine averages four yards per carry, which is not hard to do, he’ll need about eight carries per game to get to 500. It’s close but if Kelley is effective, as I believe he will be, Perine might not get enough carries to have a chance. Under

Finlay: Tandler's Matt Jones comp pretty much works for Perine, but Jones had explosive speed that Perine doesn't have. A better comp for me was Derrick Henry last year as a rookie with the Titans. DeMarco Murray was established as the top dog, and Henry worked for a productive 490 yards. Under

MORE REDSKINS: Offer to Cousins not nearly enough

Chris Thompson, 60 pass receptions

Tandler: His role is beyond just third down. If the Redskins are behind in the fourth quarter, Thompson is usually in there to try to help spark a rally. Along with TE Jordan Reed and WR Jamison Crowder, Thompson will benefit from Kirk Cousins’ familiarity with him. Over

Finlay: Thompson should be a strong contributor in 2017, but 60 catches is a lot for a running back. Only David Johnson (80) and Le'Veon Bell (75) went over that number in 2016, while James White had exactly 60 catches. Thompson grabbed 49 balls in 2016, an impressive total. I could actually see Thompson getting a bigger percentage increase in carries, he had 68 rushes last season with a very solid 5.2 YPC, than catches. Under

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