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.
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