"Laughter gives us distance. It allows us to step back from an event, deal with it and then move on." --Bob Newhart
On Thursday, we did just what Bob Newhart suggested. We took a step back and had a few laughs (at least some of us did). Today, we make a final decision on which unemployed Super Bowl coach the Redskins should hire. A friendly reminder to all: We are pretending to be owner Daniel Snyder as he makes this very important decision.
On a side note, do you remember going to the doctor's office as a kid? You had to wait in a lame waiting room that never had any sports magazines -- nothing that appealed to kids who were sports enthusiasts, at least not in my doctor's office. Since I couldn't find any pictures of my favorite sports heroes, I always gravitated to the Highlights magazine to work on the missing-picture puzzle (I still do today). You know the one where they had a list of things you had to find somewhere in the picture, hidden behind a rock or alongside the page. Well, Thursday's column was meant to poke fun at the Redskins' situation, a la Bob Newhart above, but there was a ton of truth on the page -- you just had to find it. I guess you could say that was our attempt to make our first Highlights puzzle.
OK, back to the Redskins. Now, when hiring a head coach, you must have a "Come to Jesus" meeting with yourself. In the case of the 'Skins, Snyder is Snyder. He's not going to change how he operates -- for anyone. He didn't pay all this money for an NFL team just to sit idly by on the sidelines as a spectator. He thinks he can run a team, he thinks he can build a team, he thinks he can general manage a team -- and that's not going to change. Not now, not after breakfast, not tomorrow, not two weeks from now, not a month from now, not ever.
A perfect example was Thursday's supplemental draft. The 'Skins once again mortgaged their future, using a 2010 pick for defensive lineman Jeremy Jarmon. I have nothing against Jarmon as a player; I'm more in the Wes Bunting camp, believing he can be a good player for the 'Skins next year. He can play all three downs and will provide depth along the line.
However, it's the plan on how to build the team that bothers me most. As long as Snyder is the owner, he's going to manage each player personnel situation as an independent item. He will never put to paper a business model of how he wants to build the 'Skins for today, for tomorrow and for the next three years. This behavior always amazes me -- a man makes billions of dollars in one business, then comes into the NFL and forgets all the good business methods that allowed him to make his fortune. Insane, right?
We know Snyder won't change; we also know that most of the five coaches we evaluated for this series have strong beliefs about how they want to set up an organization. In fairness to Snyder, he will allow all five coaches to bring in any assistant coaches they want, paying each one above the going rate. The divide will occur over the structure of the front office. That will be the point of contention for any of the five. Some will be willing to deal with the explanation Snyder might offer (Brian Billick, Jon "Love You Bro" Gruden, Mike Shanahan and maybe Mike Holmgren), others will take a "my way or the highway" approach (Bill Cowher).
This discourse over the front office is not new in Washington. It has been a recurring theme since Snyder came into the NFL. The only person he feels works best for him is Vinny Cerrato. Cerrato understands how the owner works and, more importantly, how he behaves. Cerrato was very close to Snyder's father Gerald before he passed away, so Vinny is more like family than employee. Even though there were reports (not verified) that Snyder was angry at Cerrato for not making the deal to get Jay Cutler, their relationship will continue no matter who's hired as coach.
How does all this end? When you break down the coaches as if you were Snyder, the first one off the list would be Billick. Not because he's not a good coach but because he will not generate the "star" appeal Snyder craves. Snyder loves stars and loves being around them, so the next coach he hires has to carry a little celebrity swagger.
As I mentioned, I really don't think Cowher would take the job, no matter how many dollars Snyder throws his way. For Cowher to come back, a team would have to meet certain criteria. Cowher pays attention to the NFL; he knows that when he returns, he needs the right team. He has watched other Super Bowl-winning coaches return in failed experiments -- George Seifert being the main example. Making the wrong move can hurt one's legacy. (It took former Kansas City Chiefs coach Hank Stram many years to overcome the debacle in New Orleans, which many felt kept him out of the Hall of Fame until 2003. Stram had 130 wins in his NFL career, but the last memory many had was his New Orleans stop, which almost killed his career.)
I feel like Ryan Seacrest on American Idol as he gets to the final three. Our remaining contenders are ex-49ers coaches who all have ties to Bill Walsh. Mike Shanahan, Jon "Love You Bro" Gruden and Mike Holmgren are the choices for The Daniel. Which one will he pick?
Gruden is doing Monday Night Football, and he will work with the front office set-up that Snyder has installed. He might bitch off the record to anyone and everyone about the lack of talent in Washington, but he will coach the team hard. He would want to bring in his former GM in Tampa, Bruce Allen, in some capacity, which shouldn't be a problem with Snyder.
Holmgren is smooth enough to get along with anyone, including Snyder. He has a relationship with Vinny from their days in San Francisco, and because Snyder allows the assistant coaches to be heavily involved in personnel decisions, I can see Holmgren making this work well. Holmgren would need control of the 53-man roster, but once he secured that item, I believe he has the experience to make this work.
Shanahan has a ton of money coming from the Broncos, so he can be a little picky about his next job. Had the 'Skins made the Cutler deal, this move would be a no-brainer, with or without Cerrato in the front office. FYI, Shanahan and Cerrato have a friendship from their 49ers days. Snyder has the money to pay Shanahan and the money to pay players, both important items on the Shanny checklist. In addition, Shanahan would want to hire his son, Kyle, who is an outstanding coach in Houston, as his offensive coordinator. If the control issues regarding personnel can be smoothed over, I can honestly see Shanahan and Snyder getting along.
I can see Snyder being able to sell himself to any of the three as his next head coach. He's a great salesman, much like Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who might be looking at the same three coaches. Someone once told me that Jones is such a good salesman he could talk a cat off the top of a fish truck. The same could be said for Snyder.
Who will "The Danny" pick? My bet is Shanahan. That move would send shock waves along the I-95 corridor as the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Giants would be impressed -- and also very worried. Shanahan will be a different man when he returns. He will be energized, and he will succeed.
If Snyder makes this pick, Hail to the Redskins will be playing all the time. I can see the NFP's Ray Gustini dancing right now. ...