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Changing Of The Guard

After two years of watching Joe Gibbs rule over everything remotely related to the Redskins' offense, it's awful strange watching him meander around training camp fiddling with his flipchart and casually cruising from one practice field to the other. The sight of him standing off to the side, far removed from the rest of the staff, watching intently while the defensive linemen plow into each other in one-on-one drills struck me as particularly bizarre. It just would not have happened pre-Al Saunders.

Anyone harboring questions about just how in charge Saunders is need only get out to Ashburn for one of the remaining open practices. Saunders is in the middle of everything, nearly running into players during practice, offering congratulations to the players, sequestering himself near the quarterbacks and receivers as they learn his offense. Saunders is the most visible person most days, darting among the hordes of massive players on the 90-deep roster, while it takes a concerted effort to find Gibbs.

There's no doubt that Gibbs is a presence, and he is clearly still the Big Dog around here. But even in these early days of camp the changing of the guard is obvious. Saunders is in charge in the meeting rooms as well, although Gibbs participates in the strategy sessions, and oversees the late-night sessions. While the terminology may be largely the same, the receivers and quarterbacks have all commented on just how different this timing offense is, with quicker drops, a faster release of the ball, and more downfield options. These guys may be from the same coaching tree, but Saunders definitely has his own branch, and his own way of doing things. Out with the H-back, in with the tight end.

The CEO role looks good on Joe, though. He has more time to keep his finger on the pulse of anything Redskins' related - not just the X's and O's of the offense - and says he already has a better connection to what is going on in other aspects of play. If he wants to hop into a defensive meeting and check things out, he can. If he wants to mingle with players and gather information in the training room, he can. If he needs to intervene in a contract negotiation, handle NFL office issues or address concerns with the wretches of the media, there's finally time for that, too.

I think it was a pretty gutsy and courageous thing for Gibbs to do, especially given the strides the club made last season and knowing full well that if the league got a CBA extension Danny was going to flood the market with his dolla bills, bringing in loads of new toys for the coaches to play with. For a man whose offense won three Super Bowls, and who restored order and purpose to this long foundering franchise in just two years, to remove essentially himself from the heart of the operation, implicitly admitting that this other guy could take the team to immediate heights that perhaps he could not, is pretty rare in this day and age.

That sad part is, if it doesn't work, if somehow all of the talent and Saunders's long-praised offense don't take, Gibbs will have to shoulder a hefty chunk of blame for stepping aside. It's a gamble for him, too, but my guess is that of all of the offseason acquisitions, the arrival of Saunders will trump the rest.


So I went back and re-read the threads about the Skins chant contest, and I have to say I'm partial to the one set to the tune of Wham's "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go." I'm going to print out the final three entries from last week - the Nelly tune and the Pink Floyd one - and give them to Chris Cooley and give him the final say. That way, there can be no complaining. Clearly the dude has good taste in music and is an eclectic enough chap ... Anyone else as fired up for the new season of "The Wire" as I am? It is definitely the most original, creative and well written show on TV, and I'm not just saying that because it's filmed in my hometown. That's one of very few shows that I can catch mid episode - any episode - on a repeat and immediately put down the remote and watch it til it ends. A while back my wife and I named two of the naughty squirrels in our neighborhood - the one's infatuated with out trash - Stringer Bell and Avon Barksdale. If that ain't an homage, I don't know what is ... I've been very remiss in not tracking down Joe Bugel yet in camp. He's a blast to shoot the bull with. He's scheduled for a press conference after the second practice today, though, so we should get plenty of good blog fodder from that ...Got to see "Little Miss Sunshine" Sunday afternoon with the Redskins off. Great movie. Great cast. Great script. Will win many, many awards. There is a pageant scene at the end that any fan of Rick James or by extension, I suppose Dave Chappelle, will certainly appreciate ... For some of the open practices here there have actually been cops on bikes presiding over the festivities along the sidelines. I know there has long been a heavy security vibe in these parts - long live the police escort - but this one left me scratching my head .. Had our first training camp scrap this morning. Jon Jansen, who had a rough time of it during 1-on-1 drills with the defense, got into it with sixth-round pick Kedric Golsten during the 11-on-11 drills. Nothing major. Just boys being boys.

Hope ya'll are having a pleasant morning. Cheers.

By Jason La Canfora  |  August 8, 2006; 11:07 AM ET
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great comments and great job. Being a life-long skins fan I hunger for information like yours.

Has anyone ever wrote a book on Gibbs - the PE major to CEO story in Nascar and the NFL? I bet it would be a best seller and if I knw how to right .... :)

Is the "Dirtbags" still a nickname in use today or do I need to change vanity plates again?

Posted by: X Hog | August 8, 2006 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Gotta love the reference to The Wire...easily the best show that no one watches on HBO! I agree that this is a easy program to sit through mid-episode, but it is a lot better with seasons 1 & 3 than season 2. While I am going to miss McNulty, Griggs, Daniels and Prez, the new season has a lot of potential with things heating up around city hall and Carchetti angling for the mayor's job.

Posted by: Lester Burnham | August 8, 2006 1:54 PM | Report abuse

It's not as if St. Joe didn't have practice being a CEO...after all, he did turn that car racing gig into the 3rd most profitable NASCAR team (according to Forbes).

If you ask me, it's the natural evolution of a man who was known as much for his people management as his Xs and Os. And, yeah, I think it was pretty selfless and courageous, particularly in this day and age of celebrity coaches.

Posted by: P Diddy | August 8, 2006 1:59 PM | Report abuse


You re the man! I am psyched about the upcoming season. I am also glad that SeanTay will not be suspended at all WooHoo! I heard TO was having some problems with injuries in Dallas, hope its major....just kidding, but not really! The road to the Superbowl will come through FedEx field.....mark my words! Hail to DA SKINS!

Posted by: MoSkins | August 8, 2006 2:09 PM | Report abuse

for all those interested, I noticed Antwaan Randle-El is gracing the cover of the most recent Eastern Motors brochure.

Don't know what that says about Wise's column about Portis being the most popular.

Maybe now that Taylor's legal troubles are in the past (fingers crossed), he can step in and fill Arrington's shoes.

Posted by: At Eastern Motors | August 8, 2006 3:15 PM | Report abuse

So Jason... blog all year or just during training camp. The hordes demand to know!

Posted by: OD | August 8, 2006 3:19 PM | Report abuse

Hello gang, getting ready for the second practice of the day. This morning seemed like the most physical of camp thus far. Not sure if they will pull back in this one, given the rising temps and the fact it's open to the public, but we'll see.
As for the questions, I'll go from last to first.

OB - I am game for whatever. I haven't been given any instructions or told when to stop. I would say shoot an email to my editors (Emilio Garcia-Ruiz and Cindy Boren) - not sure if I can give out their emails here but they may be listed on the website (email me if not).

Eastern Motors - thanks for pointing that out. Will be on the lookout for Randle El. They could probably do some pretty good stuff just with The U guys - Taylor, Moss and Portis. All would be naturals. Sean has more of a funny side than most know.

Lester - not sure if you know much about B-more politics, but the good councilman is clearly based on a certain high ranking public official. They're not even trying to hide it a little. This year is supposed to be about Education, which should provide all kinds of plotlines given the sorry state of B-more public schools.

X-Hogs - I know Joe wrote a book called "Fourth And Life" or something like that. I read it a while back and I would imagine you will enjoy it. He also did another book, I believe, during his NASCAR days which I think is based more on strategies for winning in life and business, etc. Not positive because I haven't read that one.

Okay, gotta run to practice. Thanks for checking in.

Posted by: Jason La Canfora | August 8, 2006 4:30 PM | Report abuse

St. Joe's first book:

His second book:

I have an autographed copy of the first one. Got it at a huge Skins autograph session at Tyson's Corner Mall back in January 1992 right before the team headed off to Minneapolis for the Super Bowl. That Super Bowl run was pretty much my fondest memory of living in DC.

Having not read either, I imagine they are both as scintillating as books by a football coach could be. Which is to say something better than an Oprah Book Club selection, and not quite as good as, say, Hemmingay.

Posted by: P Diddy | August 8, 2006 6:55 PM | Report abuse

Eastern Motors-
Wise must be most popular to wind up in this blog!!!

UNA spreeing in your blog luv it!!!

Posted by: Pink C.C.- | August 9, 2006 12:50 AM | Report abuse

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