Monday, July 31, 2006

NFC East By The Numbers: Head Coaches

The foundation for the hyper-competitive 2006 NFC East was laid in 2003 when Washington and New York upgraded their coaching staffs. Dallas snapped in its coach the prior year. All did it to compete with Philadelphia who was kicking butt with Andy Reid teams. The East already has one coach in the Hall of Fame, one destined to make it and one, who is coaching in Sunday's Hall of Fame game, a very likely candidate. The HOF jury is still out on Tom Coughlin, but he remains an upper-echelon coach.

Players can win you games. Coaches win the season. Players see themselves as NFL employees. Free agency is hell on team loyalty. There is no doubt that players will go elsewhere for the big payday when their contracts expire. A few try to bluster their way out of current commitments, as Deion Branch is now doing at New England. Player turnover is the new reality.

Where have we seen this before? College, especially college basketball, where the head coach is the continuity factor, the "face of the team." It's getting that way in the NFL, too. To compete and win on a sustained basis, you must compete for coaches more than for stars. There are no stars but coaches. That's why Daniel Snyder/Joe Gibbs loaded up on Saunders/Williams/Bugel, all former head coaches. It's why LaVar Arrington and Lav Coles were expendable. If Gibbs could lure Russ Grimm, who will someday be a head coach, away from the Steelers, I'm sure he would do it. And teams can do it without running afoul of salary caps.

Andy Reid had his way with the NFC East early in the decade when he was up against Dave Campo (15-33) and Steve Spurrier (12-20). How does he stack up now? Here are the records for current NFC East coaches ranked by percentage of career regular season wins through 2005.


Sunday, July 30, 2006

The Redskins' New Sheriff

The biggest change at the 2006 Redskins is Joe Gibbs' realignment of the coaching staff. When Gibbs set himself up as Coach-In-Chief, he brought in Al Saunders as Chief Offensive Officer to balance out Gregg Williams as Chief Defensive Officer. Today's Washington Post carries a lengthy article on Saunders and how he was lured to the Redskins. You can see the article at the link below.

The Redskins' New Sheriff

No one familiar with Gibbs' coaching career is surprised that he would find, recruit and keep, high caliber assistants for his staff. That was the modus operandi of his coaching mentors and a lesson Gibbs always took to heart. Nor would they be surprised that Gibbs approached Saunders, who was a grad assistant on John McKay's Southern Cal coaching staff when Gibbs was an assistant there. Saunders was an assistant coach on Don Coryell's San Diego Chargers staff when Gibbs was the offensive coordinator. Saunders succeeded Gibbs as the Chargers O-coordinator when Gibbs departed for the Redskins. For more on his coaching bio, see Joe Gibbs' Coaching Pedigree (also lengthy).


Football At Last!

Redskins players report to training camp today. At last, the long offseason is over.

Joe Gibbs and crew reloaded this offense with magnum shot and brought in Al Saunders to take aim at the Super Bowl. The Redskins will go deep in the playoffs, provided they avoid devastating injuries like the Browns suffered when LeCharles Bentley injured his knee on the second day of training camp. Cleveland fans are convinced that God hates them.

This year, I'm keeping every ticket stub and saving every GAMEDAY magazine. This is the year we've been waiting for!

I lived for years in Minneapolis, wonderful place Minneapolis, and occasionally glance at the Vikings. I think the purple people are in for a rough season. Fans will point to every reason but the real one, questionable decisions of the Vikings new owner, Zygi Wilf. Something about that term "triangle of authority" rubs me wrong. Wilf strikes me as making poorer owner decisions than Daniel Snyder did in 1999-2000. But, I live a thousand miles away now (997 miles house-to-house) and am not a close observer anymore.


Saturday, July 29, 2006

Arrington Agent Poston In Suspense

LaVar Arrington's agent, Carl Poston, has been suspended by the NFL Players Association for two years for his roll in the botched negotiation of Arrington's contract with the Washington Redskins two years ago. A $6.5 million bonus Arrington felt due him was not included in the final contract that he signed. The ensuing dispute soured Arrington's relationship with team owner, and former friend, Daniel Snyder. Player's agents are an extention of the players' union, which is why the Player's Association can impose a suspension.

The Redskins front office maintained that no such bonus was part of the agreement and that any oversight was the fault of LaVar's agent, Carl Poston. Evidentially, the player's union agreed. NFLPA Executive Director Gene Upshaw said Poston "was making a mockery of our system. We have decided to take action . . . ." The screw-up started a chain of events that led to Arrington's bitter departure this season.

Arrington, even injured, was a fan favorite. Why he bore a grudge against the owner, rather than his agent, mystifies me. Wish I knew the inside story.


ESPN: Why do I read these guys?

Reputation is a trailing phenomenon; a look back at what was in hope of seeing what's now. In sports, reputation lags greatness, or badness, by a season or three, then lingers even as performance changes.

ESPN Magazine published its fantasy football rankings in its July 31, 2006 editions. They discount the fantasy value of Redskins players. Clinton Portis is the only Redskin ranked in the top five of his position. Chris Cooley is the only other Skin ranked in the top ten of his. I suspect ESPN gives more weight to the team's reputation for making big free agent moves with little payoff, than to Joe Gibbs' astute matching of player attributes to his game plans.

Here are ESPN/Sports, Inc.'s 2006 fantasy ranking of Redskins starters:

Mark Brunell, QB, 24th out of 30
Clinton Portis, RB, 5th out of 50
Santana Moss, WR, 16th out of 50; Randle-El and Lloyd are not ranked
Chris Cooley, TE, 7th out of 25
Jon Hall, K, not ranked

In fantasy sports, its a good practice not to load up on players from your favorite team. But Redskins receivers could be a steal in middle and late rounds of the your draft.

ESPN had a full page profile of Chris Cooley ("Remember This," page 70-71). The article's point was that you can't win your fantasy league without go-to grinders like Cooley who are selected in the middle rounds of your draft. Cooley is an eight year fantasy player in a league with high school friends from Utah. Last season, he lost his semi-final game to a friend -- who had tight end Cooley on his roster. "Dude," the article quotes Cooley, "I beat myself." More important to Redskins fans, Cooley says that, with Al Saunders' new offense, "I guarantee my yards per catch will be up."

Finally, the magazine quotes former Redskins, now Packers wide receiver Rod Gardner (page 36) saying " A lot of fans don't know what I look like, but when I say my name, they say 'Oh, I own you.' Last year, a guy thanked me for helping him win his fantasy league. He brought his kids to a game to get my autograph. He wasn't even a Packers fan."

Rod Gardner has fans?


Saturday, July 22, 2006

Early questions about the season

We are getting close to football action! Training camps start next week and newspapers are starting their early look at the NFL 2006.

The Mercury News published "Twenty Questions as NFL Teams enter training camps," actually republished from The Philadelphia Daily News.

USA Today offers "Nine Questions as 2006 kick-off nears."

The StarTribune reports that the Vikings "triangel of authority" will not boost Brad Johnson's pay. So the team that once had the lowest paid head coach now has the lowest paid starting quarterback. Smart!


Thursday, July 20, 2006

Hail to the Chief

Chief Zee is one of the most recognizable football fans in the NFL, often getting face time on national broadcasts of Redskins games. On July 18, 2006, The Washington Times reported that health issues may prevent Zema "Chief Zee" Williams from attending games this season. Williams was treated for a stomach aneurysm and a blood clot in his leg last May and is now confined to a wheelchair.

Williams supposedly created his Chief character in 1978 when he attended a Redskins-Cowboys game in full regalia. He was one of thirty-one winners of the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fans contest in 2000. While attending a 1983 Redskins game in Philadelphia, he was attacked by Eagles fans who stripped him of his costume and broke his leg. During the Gibbs I era, when Redskins-Cowboys games were a regular feature of Monday Night Football, Chief Zee was often shown in a mock battle with Crazy Ray, his counterpart mascot of the Dallas Cowboys. The winner of these set-ups was usually the home team mascot.

Chief Zee is not officially associated with The Washington Redskins football organization. Williams, who lives on a fixed income, bears all of the cost of outfitting the Chief character and traveling to away games.

Chief Zee is a favorite whipping boy to those who oppose the use of Native American names and symbols as sports mascots. But, to legions of fans, he is as much a part of the Redskins tradition as the Hogettes and "Hail to the Redskins."


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

NFL's look ahead at the NFC East!

Vic Carucci’s feature article “A Look ahead at the NFC East” is now posted. Carucci is the lead feature writer at

Carucci takes a “what’s going to help, what’s going to hurt” approach, but he does not forecast a winner. No career-minded NFL executive would. He does give a fast read on roster changes at each team the likely impact on the field. He predicts a tight race for the division crown. You can find his piece by looking here.

On a side note, posts a piece on sportswriters called Don't Believe The Hype. I couldn't help thinking about Michael Irvin and Sean Salsbury as I read it!


Monday, July 17, 2006

U.S. Government Honors the Redskins

OK, taking a lot of liberal license here, but the new $50 US Buffalo gold bullion coin looks strangely familiar!


NFC East: The Soap Opera Division

Pundits and bloggers are catching on that the most competitive division race will be in the NFC East. What’s missed is the East’s high quotient for drama worthy of any pot boiler. Call it the “All My Children” effect since most of the fireworks involve prodigal players coming home to roost.

Dallas. Fifty percent of all the soap opera in the NFL this year will involve Terrell Owens because, well, he’s Terrible Owens. Turmoil follows him like stink trails a garbage truck. Jerry Jones kept the petulant drama queen in the NFC East by signing him to Dallas. The sky high interest in the Cowboys’ first game on September 10 is purely to see how TO does for the silver and blue. He’ll win over the last Cowboy skeptic when he spikes the ball on the mid-field Cowboy Star after his first touchdown. Fans will take up a collection to pay his fine.

Terrell Owens may be the player you love to hate, but the NFL loves Owens. Why else would they schedule the Cowboys to seven national broadcast games by Thanksgiving? New York, Philadelphia and Washington combined are on eight national TV games by Thanksgiving -- three of them against Dallas.

Who do the Cowboys play in game one, anyway? Who cares! It’s not about the contest. It’s about TO. And no, having TO does not make the Cowboys the instant division winner. It’s not Dynasty. It’s Dallas.

Brotherly Love. Before last season’s playoffs, I wrote about Super Bowl match-ups I’d like to see. One of them was a scenario where Lil Eli faced off against the man he is compared to most, big brother Peyton. Manning’s Indianapolis Colts visits Manning’s New York Giants Sunday night, September 10. Both of these guys have something to prove following their team’s playoff el foldo act. Peyton has the lesser burden. It wasn’t he who missed the field goal that would have won against Pittsburgh. However, questions arose about Eli after the Giants’ collapsed against the Panthers. This game will show a lot about Eli Manning’s development. It won’t make or break the season, but I sense Giants fans are holding their breadth. Which side of the stadium will Archie sit?

Need more family conflict? The Giants will be in four other sibling rivalry games. Santana and Signorice Moss face off twice when the Redskins and Giants play. Matt and Tim Hasselbeck are opposite each other when the Giants visit Seattle September 24, although it's unlikely that Tim sees the field. Tiki and Ronde Barber battle when the Giants host Tampa Bay on October 29. That is the only game when brothers will be on the field at the same time. Tiki is the halfback for the Giants and Ronde is a defensive back for the Buccaneers.

Brad is Back. And he’s not mad anymore. When he was with the Redskins, Brad Johnson’s performance was solid, but under-appreciated. In his Little Danny days, when he thought the owner’s job was to select talent on the field, Mr. Snyder eschewed substance in favor of style. So, Johnson slipped out the door at the end of his contract. Johnson won a Super Bowl ring with Tampa, while Snyder gave us Jeff George, Tony Banks, Shane Mathews and Danny Woeful. (Well, Weurffel was more Spurrier than Snyder, but who put Spurrier in charge?) Put them all together and you still don’t have a decent Johnson. Ironically, in Mark Brunell the Redskins have a Johnson-like quarterback. Savvy game management and low turnovers are these guys’ forte. If Johnson were the starter when Joe Gibbs arrived, maybe the coach wouldn’t have made Brunell his first player move.

This historic showcase game on September 11 is the lead off of the first NFL Monday night double header.

JAG. Mark Brunell was a hero in Jacksonville. Then he got hurt. The new coach and new management handed the starting job to Byron Leftwich, who never gave it back. Brunell was relegated to the bench where he rusted. Then a rusty coach gave Brunell a shot at resurrecting his career and stuck by him when no one else did. The result was Brunell’s 2005 campaign (3,050 yards, 23 TDs, 10 Interceptions, 85.9 QB rating).

I don’t think Brunell has a vindictive bone in his body, but pride will drive him to show well against his old team when the Jaguars visit FedEx October 1. The knock on Brunell is his age and sturdiness. But young Leftwich suffered injury late last season and missed critical games. He lacked sharpness in Jacksonville’s playoff game and it cost them dearly. Nobody questions that Leftwich is the guy for the Jaguars. Virtually everybody fears that Brunell too old to start for the Skins. Enough, already! At age 36, Brunell is one year younger than John Elway was when Elway won his first Super Bowl. Brunell v Leftwich flavors an excellent match-up of playoff teams.

October 8 is Soap Opera Sunday! Before Joe Gibbs became the face of the Redskins (again), LaVar Arrington was the face of the team. He was the best player on a defense that starred Champ Bailey, Fred Smoot and Antonio Pierce. He was the best player when defense was the only thing worth cheering for. Then came a mysterious injury and a more mysterious dispute with the owner and somehow Arrington followed Bailey, Smoot and Pierce out the door. But LaVar left with a huge chip on his shoulder. Arrington is not the player he was in his first two seasons, but he would like to give the football finger to the Redskins’ owner and coaches. I bet he plays like the LaVar of old when the Giants visit FedEx at 1:00 PM October 8. Although well liked by Redskins fans, LaVar’s DC return will be greeted lustily and profanely.

At FedEx, profanity is simple bad taste. In Philadelphia, it's an art. Iggles fans will apply all of their artistic talent when Terrell Owens returns to town with his Cowboy friends Sunday night, October 8. Lock up your women and hide the children. Set your Tivos. Movies will be made of this game. Water cooler chatter will carry from Monday through Thursday. Most of the entertainment will be in the stands as Philly fans have their first chance to vent since the drama queen was run out of town. If there is a God, the Iggles win this one.

The Amazing Race. As the world turns like sands through the hourglass, the days of our lives go on game by game. The East gets a healthy dose of reality TV late in the season. The division race will be so close in December that tie-breaker implications will out weigh any personal animus in the soap opera rematch games. Eagles at Cowboys on Christmas Day and Redskins at Giants on December 30 will determine the NFC East winner. Three of these teams could make the playoffs.

What a season that was!


Sunday, July 16, 2006

Patrick Ramsey

David Hutchinson in his column on July 15, 2006 at the Star-Ledger (New Jersey) wrote a snippet about former Redskin Patrick Ramsey’s prospects with the Jets.

“QB Chad Pennington remains the favorite to win the starting job entering training camp, but rookie Kellen Clemens could emerge as the backup.

“Although the club signed QB Patrick Ramsey to a one-year extension through 2007, his roster spot is hardly guaranteed. Brooks Bollinger is also in the mix.”

Ramsey (career 5,649 yards, 34 TDs, 29 Interceptions, 75 QB rating) won the hearts of Redskins fans for his courage during the Spurrier experiment. The kid would take a hit and get up for more. But, Spurrier’s football concepts were not the best NFL foundation for a young quarterback. Spurrier’s “Fun N Gun” offense had “Pass N Gas” blocking schemes and Ramsey took many hits. Sonny Jurgensen says that he blinked, either throwing the ball too soon or holding it too long.

The trade to the Jets was hoped to be a fresh start for a good kid with some talent. Hutchinson hints that it may not turn out so well. Training camp hasn’t started yet. Can things be that grim for Patrick?

Hang in there, Kid!

Saturday, July 15, 2006

So, you want a NFL career . . . .

So, you want a career with the NFL, but have no athletic talent at all? Check out the NFL job board at where front office jobs are open for several teams. Look, but don't apply for any positions with the Redskins until after Mr. Snyder hires me!

TO on TO

Coach John Thompson scored a biggie when he landed a 30 minute interview with Terrell Owens on his Sports Talk 980 radio show. Big John & crew treated Owens with respect, that is to say, with kid gloves, but that gave TO a chance to give his side of the story.

According to Owens, the whole thing was Sal Paolantonio's fault by misrepresenting the the facts of his conflict with the Eagles. Owens says his new agent Drew Rosenhaus merely pointed out (to him) that his market value was much higher than he was being paid and that Rosenhaus simply asked the Eagles to "consider" adjusting his pay structure at some point in the future. He did call his ESPN interview, when he famously agreed that the Eagles would be better off with Brett Favre than with Donovan McNabb, a mistake.

By and large, Coach Thompson accepted Owens' responses at face value without recalling that: Owens refused the 49ers trade to the Ravens that would have paid him more money; that Owens CHOSE to join the Eagles for less money to play with Donovan McNabb because McNabb was less gay than Jeff Garcia, who is now with the Eagles; that Owens' public insinuations of McNabb commenced from the end of Super Bowl XXXIX; that Owens non-cooperation with Eagles was his deliberate ploy to trigger a trade or renegotiation of the contract he egerly accepted a year earlier and against the advice of the NFLPA. Owens omits in the interview that his unhappiness with his contract began when Marvin Harrison and Randy Moss signed richer deals a year later. He says he's learned from his mistakes; but, the interview showed that he is still mystified that people react to his lack of tack and inflammatory statements. The poor little man-child!

That shifty Paolantonio is at it again writing in a July 13, 2006 ESPN column that Andy Reid was open to reinstating Owens but that "somebody" killed it; that somebody likely being McNabb.

Download the interview from Sports Talk 980. Look for the tab "T.O. on 980!," then click the download button for the thirty minute interview. You will need a media player.

Nationals on the move?

Although this is a Redskins blog, the Washington Nationals busted a move Thursday towards becoming a complete team – someday. They sent pitching talent to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for a starting infielder and a slugger. The pitchers help the Reds win their division, while Washington gets a nucleus of talent to build upon. That's the hope, anyway. Beyond that, I don’t follow baseball enough to comment. So, here are a few assessments from the blogosphere.

Supplemental Sports Source writes that Alfonso Soriano is U-Haul’s #1 Customer

Cross Town Rivals advises Reds fans to relax, despite the substantial hit in production. says Cincinnati sent a loud message with the trade that they are playing for keeps for a playoff spot.

TJ Furman asks “what were the Reds thinking?”

Bottom9 examines the deal player by player and concludes that Cincy traded away two valuable players without getting much in return.

Monday, July 03, 2006

The Long Off-Season

I can think of no reason
for this long off-season.
This pointless delay
seems almost like treason.

It was plain as your nose
at last season’s close,
the team got it together.
Coach is no average Joe.

With defensive dash
and offensive flash,
they’ll hustle and muscle
them cowboys to mash.

It's time for the fun
of a Super Bowl run.
Quit messing around.
Get this off-season done.

I can think of no reason
for this long off-season.
This pointless delay
seems almost like treason.

© 2006, Master4caster, Anthony G. Brown, Maryland