Thursday, December 27, 2007

The controversy to come

The Redskins may get a happy ending to a sad season if the they can get past the damned Cowboys and into the playoffs.

If the Skins do that, then make it as far as a second playoff game, starting quarterback Jason Campbell could be available. But, should he start?

Despite that old football cliche, a starter can lose their position if their replacement plays better. [See Jay Schroeder - Doug Williams, 1987] Collins has looked very good leading the Redskins to three critical wins. So, I'll say right now that while Campbell is Mr. Right, Collins is Mr. Right Now. As long as Collins produces, he should start for however far the Redskins get.

The case is made far more eloquently by Scott Van Pelt on Collins or Campbell? The Great Debate.

But, I'm getting ahead of myself. First the Skins have to beat the Cowboys.

Monday, December 24, 2007

What they are writing in Minnesnowta

Here's the link to the StarTribune, the principal newspaper of Minneapolis, Minnesota with their sports columnists describing the butt-whuppin' the Vikings suffered at the hands of the Redskins.

The link points to the story of how Washington stopped the Vikings running game with an eight and nine man front.

Links to other stories laments the inability of the Vikings to defeat the Redskins strategy with their passing game.

Above all, don't miss Sid Hartman's column Madden: Jackson is still developing not so much for John Madden's comments about the Vikings QB Tavaris Jackson, but for the Minnesota links to the Redskins.

Anthony Montgomery played college ball for the University of Minnesota. Hartman traces his development from his Cleveland, Ohio high school, where was a quarterback, through college and his growth in the pros.

Hartman writes that one of the people who saw Montgomery in high school was Redskin scout Shemy Schembechler, yes the son of that Schembechler, who recommended Montgomery to Redskins defensive line coach Greg Blach before the 2006 draft.

Hartman also wrote about Vinnie Cerrato who hails from Albert Lea, Minnesota, and who began his football career as a grad assistant for University of Minnesota coach Lou Holtz in 1984. Cerrato followed Holtz to Notre Dame before taking his career to the pros.

I loved the part where Hartman described Cerrato as "one of the most respected football administrators in the NFL."

Redskin fan opinion may catch up with that sentiment depending on the progress made towards a championship this year and next.

Wishing all my readers, one and both of you, a very Merry Christmas and everything the spirit of Christmas brings.

I can thing of no better gift than to invite you to the blog roll to click on Hail To The Redskins link. You already know the words.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Sean Taylor to Pro Bowl

Commissioner Roger Goodell said "The NFL is proud of Sean Taylor" when he spoke at Taylor's funeral last month.

This month, the NFL named the late Redskin safety as the Pro Bowl starter at safety.

Hog Heaven

The Legend and Legacy of Joe Jackson Gibbs

Joe Gibbs let it be known at his press conference yesterday that he was open to a contract extension that would keep him involved with the Redskins beyond his contract period. Gibbs five year contract ends after the 2008 season.

That answers one question, whether Gibbs would step down after this sad and ugly season. [I can't imagine that Daniel Snyder would fire him.]

It introduces another. What is Joe Gibbs' legacy in his second go-round?

When you are the coach, legacy is the same as wins and losses. But, Gibbs came out of retirement to be the turnaround agent. He said he wanted to restore the Redskins as a winning franchise.

That's a business goal. I'm a business guy who has been thinking about Gibbs legacy. Because of my background, I see Gibbs' larger role as a business management issue. That's how I, or rather that meek, mild-mannered reporter who occupies this space, will assess Gibbs over the off-season.

This post is to capture some ideas for the framework of the evaluation. Successful executives work towards building sustainable competitive advantage. Did the Joe Gibbs - Daniel Snyder make appropriate organizational decisions that will build an organizational advantage that will survive Gibbs departure?

Here are my first thoughts for how to assess Gibbs' legacy:

Impact on the owner -- Daniel Snyder is an earnest, eager, aggressive young owner committed to making the Redskins a winner. He knows how to make money. He knows how to promote a business. His football instincts are impaired. His approach to building winning teams is bass-ackwards. How has Joe Gibbs improved Snyder's approach?

Sourcing talent -- Early in his ownership, Snyder was aggressive sourcing "proven talent" to the roster, with "proven" being aging players on the downside of their careers cashing in on a lucrative last contract. You know how that worked.

If Snyder dimly and slowly perceived that a famous name was no substitute for a scouting report, what has Gibbs done to install a better system?

Valuing talent -- Football free agency tends to overvalue players who are changing teams. The Redskins tend to have minimal salary cap room, forcing them to an annual ritual of renegotiating player contracts. Every team does this, but the Skins have made it a high art form. They are cleverer at managing the cap than building a championship roster.

[I think the Skins have done well on talent valuation. The meek, mild-mannered guy will write something about that for Hog Heaven in the next day or so.]

Succession -- Gibbs is leaving someday. How much disruption will be triggered by his leaving? Succession planning is one of the key things organizational leaders must do well to ensure survival.

That's the approach. It's only a start. I'll refine the approach as the season winds down and write it up in a series between January and the Draft.

Full Disclosure: I am a Joe Gibbs fan. I see the team as better off for his being here. Before Gibbs returned, the Redskins were trying to foist Trung Canidate and Danny Weurffel on us. We are way beyond that. I am not a Gibbs apologist who thinks the team president is above criticism. My loyalty, however, is to the team, so I'm going for a balanced assessment.

Most of you know that I'm posting here on a weekly basis during the season. My content is posted over at Hog Heaven. So check over there for the freshest content. Look here for deeper thoughts, or crib notes of stories being developed for Hog Heaven.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Michael Vick pays the piper

Michael Vick's day of reckoning came yesterday when U.S. District Judge sentenced him to 23 months imprisonment for participating and bankrolling an interstate dog fighting ring.

Rather, Vick was convicted for the dog fighting, but sentenced for lying about it before and after his guilty plea. Wilbon writes that he was suprised by the harshness of Vick's sentence, but should not have been, given Vick's lack of candor with the feds.

The whole self-made tragedy of the Ookie saga rests on that string of deception from the first news to the final FBI lie-detector test.

Worst lie of all was Vick's initial story that relatives living at his Moonlight Drive property were responsible. You're in this thing up to your neck and you throw your family under the bus?

If I were the patriarch of Vick's family, I would want to know why my one grandson publicly maligned my other grandson. I wouldn't be so quick to overlook it because the one was the goose laying golden eggs for the family. But, that's just me.

It's none of my business whether that accounting happened within the Vick-Boddy family. If it did not, however, it informs why Vicks' instincts led him to make the wrong decision at every turn in the saga; why he never outgrew his Ookie side.

Michael Vick never learned to hold himself accountable.

ESPN's John Clayton speculates that Vick could be back in the NFL as soon as the 2010 season. Maybe, if Virginia does not convict him on separate charges and extends his sentence beyond the fed's. [I still think those Virginia charges are piling on. It may be the law, but it's not justice.]

And maybe the 30 months of closely supervised probation will restrict Vick's movement after his release just enough to inhibit joining a team right away. Whenever he joins a team -- if that happens -- it will surely take a full season for Vick to get his "game legs."

It could be 2012 before you see Michael Vick on the field.

I'm trying to fight the tendency of judging Vick too harshly, now; not to be one of those "evangelicals" who are quick to condemn human weakness in others while blind to their own.

There's a little Ookie in everyone. Whether you cheat on your taxes or cheat on your spouse, lie to your boss, or mistreat small animals, everybody is hiding something. Everybody wants a little understanding and a second chance if they get caught.

So now the Michael Vick story morphs to parable -- a tale with a moral lesson for all of us. And the moral is this,

Photo bottom: VarvelBlog found here.

Monday, December 03, 2007

Sean Taylor: Requiem

Watching the Redskins lose to the Buffalo Bills on an appropriately dreary day was draining.

So was Sean Taylor's funeral. The meek, mild-mannered guy who shares this space posted his piece on the funeral over at Hog Heaven. It portrayed a side of Taylor that never got press, but should have. Sean Taylor never knew how many people loved and admired him.

Rich Tandler put up the best post I've seen [so far] on yesterday's game Insignificant But Not Unimportant. He points out that Joe Gibbs' brain boo-boo was not the cause for the loss, just the last of a string of events that resulted.

Tandler lists them for the game, but gets to the heart of the issue by writing:

"And, truth be told, the game was lost at about 3:30 on Tuesday morning when Sean Taylor’s heart stopped beating. Football is a game of emotion and the Redskins had expended a ton of it during the course of the week. When they went up 16-5 it appeared that the Redskins simply ran out of emotional gas. There is only so much in the human tank in a given period of time. Usually, even in a losing locker room, there is some energy there, some adrenaline still flowing. Yesterday there was nothing left but tear-filled eyes and deep sighs."

I've tried to figure out why Sean Taylor's death would affect me so personally. Great player? Tragic circumstances? Yes. But, there are plenty of Redskins players who would not have generated this outpouring.

The loss of Taylor is the loss of hope. Sean Taylor and Jason Campbell are the two players you can -- could have in Taylor's case -- build a team around. I connected with them. Watched them grow as players and presumed their growth as people. I wanted to see how far they would carry the Redskins, and therefore, carry me.

Yet, it's more than the loss of a key player. After watching the Redskins of the 1990s, Taylor was personification of the Redskins we want -- hard-hitting, uncompromising, and yes, intimidating. The better part of the Redskins died a week ago tonight.
I am Catholic. The Gospel reading for yesterday's Mass comes from Matthew 24:37-44

Jesus said to his disciples: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.
In those days before the flood, they were eating and drinking,marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day that Noah entered the ark.
They did not know until the flood came and carried them all away.
So will it be also at the coming of the Son of Man.
Two men will be out in the field; one will be taken, and one will be left.
Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken, and one will be left.
Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come.
Be sure of this: if the master of the house had known the hour of night when the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and not let his house be broken into.
So too, you also must be prepared, for at an hour you do not expect, the Son of Man will come.”

That passage always had a special meaning for me. My Catholic, all-male high school required us to attend Mass every Friday. That passage from Matthew was burned in my brain one Friday afternoon.

My last class that day was sophomore geometry, with time passing in that dreadfully slow way that only occurs at school. At about 2:35 p.m., someone came to the classroom door and spoke quietly to the teacher, Fr. Austin. It was November 22, 1963, and a visibly shaken Fr. Austin informed us that President Kennedy had been shot.

Kennedy, Taylor, both victims of gun violence; both life & death lessons of that passage from Matthew. Ironic that particular reading it should roll around now.