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Gregg Williams in the Crosshairs

Gregg Williams in the Crosshairs

You can reach Rich Tandler by email at WarpathInsiders@comcast.net

Normally, one would say ho, hum. Another article ripping the Redskins for being an organization is disarray. Wake me up when they get past the part about Dan Snyder being a megalomaniac and fantasy football owner. Most such articles never do.

This one, however, merits close examination. This article is not from one of your typical foaming at the mouth, Snyder hating, Art Monk dissing, card carrying Redskins bashers. It’s by Tom Friend, currently with ESPN and formerly with the Washington Post. He was the Post’s Redskins beat writer for much of the team’s glory years under Gibbs. What he has written about the Redskins in the past has been mostly fair and has stayed away from the conventional myths that surround the team (i. e. Snyder as fantasy GM). For a national writer he seems to be pretty knowledgeable about the team. So, when Friend writes an article that takes Joe Gibbs to task and rips one of his assistant head coaches and beats up on a lower level assistant we should take a closer look.

It’s a long article, a few thousands words, and it needs to be read in its entirety. I’m going to summarize a few things here, but you really have to read the whole thing if what is following here is going to make any sense.

In summary, Friend says that:

  • Gregg Williams is arrogant and mean spirited. When his defense was one of the best in the league he could get away with being that way. Now that his defense is statistically the worst in the NFC his style is wearing thin—to the breaking point, in fact—with his players. He stubbornly insists on sticking with a variation of the Cover 2 defense that has the safeties also playing the run and the mish mash isn’t working. Instead of getting the best of both worlds, the defense is getting the worst of it.
  • Steve Jackson, who coaches the safeties, is pouting over not being promoted to secondary coach. Williams threw him a bone and let him run meetings with the safeties, meaning that they have been meeting separately from the cornerbacks. This has led to communication breakdowns in the secondary, leading in turn to busted coverages and big pass plays by opposing teams.
  • Joe Gibbs has passively watched all of this unfold, something that he never would have done in the 1980’s. In fact, it seems to Friend as though Gibbs has lost his fire after cranking it up for the five-game run to the playoffs at the end of last year.

On the first read, anyone who cares about the Redskins has got to be saying, “Holy crap,” or perhaps something much stronger. Not only is it a scathing indictment of the team’s present state but it makes the team’s future look rather dim as well. More upheaval on the coaching staff and player turnover seems to be in the offing when next year rolls around. On top of that, the whole question of “if Gibbs can’t save the franchise, who can?” seems to be heading towards finding out who the alternatives to Gibbs are.

It’s an indictment, yes, but is there enough here to demonstrate beyond a reasonable doubt that this article accurately portrays the state of affair at Redskins Park? The thinnest aspect of the piece is that it is built primarily on profanity-laced statements made by one defensive player who remained anonymous. To his credit, Friend does point this out in the latter part of the article when he lends a few paragraphs to rebuttal of what he wrote. There is a lot of conjecture by Friend here, a lot of analysis presented as fact.

There are some contradictions in here as well. Williams supposedly let players like Antonio Pierce and Fred Smoot walk because the players didn’t matter; the success of the defense was all about his schemes. But why, then, did he push to sign Adam Archuleta and Andre Carter? And there’s this:

Scapegoat No. 3: Rogers. He's the cornerback that was left on an island on the go-ahead touchdown Sunday against Tampa Bay's Joey Galloway. Williams blitzed and missed, costing the team the score. Afterward, Williams took public blame for the call, a rarity, but a Redskins player said, "No, he didn't. In meetings, Carlos still heard about it."

So, what, Williams, behind closed doors in a meeting, was not supposed to say anything to the player who was nowhere near the receiver who scored the game-winning touchdown? I think that we’re reaching here.

That doesn’t mean that there isn’t some truth, perhaps a lot of truth, in what Friend wrote. While it’s unlikely that the one defensive player who talked with him represents the view of most of the unit, there are always players who don’t like a coach’s style or disagree with is tactics. This player probably has company in feeling the way he feels about Williams. The way that the defense has been performing with a supposed upgrade in personnel certainly doesn’t speak well about Williams’ schemes.

It’s certainly possible that a turf war led to the corners and safeties meeting separately. That’s an assertion that would be too easy for someone to refute if it wasn’t accurate. Was Jackson pouting and not coaching during practices and during the Tampa Bay game? What may look like pouting to one—arms folded, distant look on the face--may actually be a state of deep thought. We don’t know. The player may know or he might just think he knows. If you don’t like somebody you’re usually going to have a negative take on whatever he does.

Has Joe Gibbs been watching all of this going on, condoning it with his silence? Or, worse, has he been totally unaware of? The third option, of course, is that all of this is being blown out of proportion and there’s nothing for Gibbs to correct.

Just like with all of this, I think that the truth lies somewhere in between the confused, messy picture of an organization in disarray that Friend paints and the ideal scenario of a tight, well-oiled machine running the Redskins’ football operations. When you’re winning, the flaws are largely ignored and the good traits are magnified. When you’re losing the bright spotlight shines on all of the warts.

It’s as simple as this, really: This is the kind of stuff that’s going to get written about you when you are falling as short of expectations as the Washington Redskins are. When the Redskins were winning five straight to get into the playoffs last year Gibbs was calm and unflappable. Now they’re 3-7 and he’s detached and burned out. When I talk to him he seems like the same guy to me. If the Redskins win three in a row, Williams will be a hard-nosed innovator who demands the best out of his players. Now, he’s stubborn, arrogant, and mean. Again, he’s the same guy who has been exchanging jabs with the press every Thursday during the season for the past three years.

Are there big problems at Redskins Park? Yes. Are they as bad as Tom Friend and his anonymous source make them out to be? Probably not.

Rich Tandler is the author of The Redskins From A to Z, Volume 1: The Games. This unique book has an account of every game the Redskins played from when they moved to Washington for the 1937 season through 2001. It makes the perfect stocking stuffer for the Redskins fans on your shopping list. For details and ordering information go to http://www.RedskinsGames.com

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Need to Know: Another big day on the ground on tap for the Redskins?

Need to Know: Another big day on the ground on tap for the Redskins?

Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, December 11, eight days before the Washington Redskins host the Carolina Panthers.

Timeline

Today's schedule: Redskins vs. Eagles 1 p.m.

Days until: Panthers @ Redskins 8; Redskins @ Bears Christmas Eve 13; Giants @ Redskins, New Year’s Day 21

Injuries of note:
Out:
G Long (concussion), S Blackmon (concussion), DE Lanier (leg)
Limited: TE Reed (shoulder), G Scherff (ankle), DE Jean Francois (knee/foot), DE Baker (ankle), G Shawn Lauvao (groin)
Final injury report

Final thoughts on Redskins vs Eagles

—The Redskins have not stopped a team in a goal to go situation since September. The Eagles are good in such situations, converting TDs 84 percent of the time. If the Redskins can get a stop and force a field goal try when the first time the Eagles get down there that would be a big psychological boost for the visitors. Or, better yet, maybe they can just not let the Eagles get any first and goal opportunities. That’s what happened when the teams played in Week 6.

—In that Week 6 meeting the Redskins rushed for 230 yards, their best performance on the ground this season by 79 yards. Matt Jones picked up 135 yards on 16 attempts, Rob Kelley had 5-59, and Chris Thompson kicked in with 9-37. It’s unlikely that Jones will be active so it will be up to Kelley to get things rolling on the ground.

—For all the talk about Kirk Cousins having the Eagles’ number, he had one of his worst statistical games of the year against them in Week 6. He completed just 52.9 percent of his passes, his lowest completion percentage of the season. Cousins also threw perhaps his worst interception of the year, a pick six that tied the game at 14 in the second quarter. The bottom line was that he made some plays and the Redskins won but he likely will have to play better this time for his team to prevail today.

—Carson Wentz has six interceptions in his last three games, including three last week against the Bengals. Josh Norman is due to get an interception, overdue, in fact. Don’t know what will happen but the chances seem good that a Redskin will get his hands on a Wentz pass today.

—We saw last week that the Redskins are not a lock to go on the road and win against a team that is desperately fighting for its playoff life. Fortunately for the Redskins, the Eagles do not have players who are the equals of David Johnson, Larry Fitzgerald, and Patrick Peterson. While plenty can go wrong I think the Redskins come away with with the win.

Redskins 28, Eagles 24

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Redskins bring former starting center back to active roster

Redskins bring former starting center back to active roster

The Redskins officially brought Kory Lichtensteiger back to the active roster, and while the move is now for depth, it could have other ramifications down the road. 

The move is on the NFL's transaction report for Saturday. To make room for Lichtensteiger, the team released defensive lineman A.J. Francis. 

Dealing with injuries up and down the line of scrimmage, Lichtensteiger's return could give the offensive front more flexibility. When Lichtensteiger got injured Week 3 and sent to the injured reserve, third-year pro Spencer Long stepped in and performed well at center. Last week in Arizona, Long sustained a concussion.

That injury opened the door for John Sullivan, who will start this week in Philadelphia with Long ruled out. Sullivan was brought in as a backup to Long once Lichtensteiger was put on IR. With Long now in the NFL concussion protocol, the Redskins need another center should Sullivan get hurt. Alas, Lichtensteiger's return from the IR. 

Left guard Shawn Lauvao also sustained an injured groin, and that's where things could get interesting. Long is capable of playing guard, as is Lichtensteiger in a pinch. Should Lauvao's injury persist, Lichtensteiger might be able to help there.

Against the Eagles, the plan certainly appears to be second-year man Arie Kouandjio starting in place of Lauvao. Kouandjio made one earlier start this season - Week 4 against Cleveland - and the results were mixed.

If Kouandjio stumbles and Lauvao needs more time, Lichtensteiger's return to the roster gives Jay Gruden and Bill Callahan more flexibility, especially when Long returns from injury.

In fact, once the team has Long, Lichtensteiger and Sullivan healthy, there could be a bit of a logjam roster-wise on the offensive line, but considering all the injuries, bumps and bruises that are part of O-line life by the last four games of the season, the Redskins staff likely won't mind figuring that out. 

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