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Earnest Byner Says Goodbye (Updated)

Just got off the phone with Earnest Byner, one of the best people in the Park, and one of the most positive people I have met in thus business. Byner, the Redskins RB Coach the past 4 seasons, had nothing but good things to say about this organization. They replaced him with Stump Mitchell, former Seattle RB Coach and good friend of head coach Jim Zorn, today.

"It's kind of a relief, actually," Byner said. "At least now you kind of know where you stand and have some direction. It was a good run, a very good run. It was tremendous to work with Mike Sellers, Ladell (Betts), CP (Clinton Portis) and Rock (Cartwright), and I think all of those guys showed that they can produce and it was fun to watch them come along and I'm proud of the work we did here."

EB is all class ...

So I'll see what he won't. The dude got railroaded, again. He doesn't want to talk about this stuff and never has, but I've talked to plenty of people about his situation.

In 2005, everybody else gets a 3 year extension in January when they made the playoffs, except Byner, who helped RB Clinton Portis to the most yardage in franchise history that season. Yet Byner had to wait longer than all the other coaches to get his deal, then only got a 2 year offer.

So his deal was up this January, while everyone else had a year left. The rest of the coaches get another year, at least - giving them two under contract - while he gets a one-year offer. Tampa Bay has an opening and interviews Byner - the Redskins grant permission (he was still under contract until Jan 30 at the time) - and then, the Monday after the Super Bowl, with the Bucs still not yet making a decision, as they had an other candidate to interview, EB pulled out. He caled TB Coach Jon Gruden and told him his heart was in DC - he played for the Skins, was a part of Joe Gibbs 1.0, he loved the area.

The next day Byner went to the office to sign his deal, and, the Redskins tell him he know has to go through "a process," team sources said; they put him on hold until they'd name a new coach and, according to a team official, he never signed that contract. That's only because he was never allowed to, team sources said Byner was eager to sign on board.

All Byner has done is deal with Portis - a high maintenance guy and then some - and develop Mike Sellers, Ladell Betts and Rock Cartwright, all of whom performed at a Pro Bowl level in one capacity or another at one time or another (like Betts as the feature back in the second half of 2006).

So they make this man - well respected as a coach, player and human being in this game - sit around and wait on his job. He goes to work everyday, despite being treated like this, and is classy as ever at Redskins Park the last few weeks, other coaches said.

I asked Byner if the team prevented him from actually got to sign his contract - had he been able to sign he would be owed at least a buy-out portion - and he declined to comment. "I can't get into the details," Byner said. "I can't talk about it."

I told him I thought it was pretty horrible of the Redskins to drag this thing into the middle of Febraury, virtually assuring there are no opportunities on NFL coaching staffs, a week before the combine. If they didn't want him, they could have gotten rid of him before the Senior Bowl. I asked if he had any real options in the NFL.

"Nothing I can really talk about right now," Byner said. "I'm just going to try to relax a little bit and enjoy my family and let my mind rest a little bit. Everything happens for a reason, and it's all going to work out for the best."

Byner has been working on a training and practice DVD for running backs and fullbacks, which should hit the market soon, he said. He's put a lot of time and effort into that venture, he said, and EB was clearly excited about that. (I told him he'd better let us know when the DVD is ready so we can get the word out).

People who know EB well tell me, obviously, this situation has weighed heavily on his mind and his family, too. It's been confused and trying. The man has given his all to this organization on the field and as a coach. Interesting way to say thank you.

Zorn deserves the right to have coaches he knows and likes and that are versed in the West Coast offense, but when the Redskins try to act as if their meandering, bizarre coaching search had no victims and was all done in the name of "continuity," well, remember EB.

Before he got off the phone he wanted to make sure I let you guys know what he thinks of you:

"I really appreciate all the support the fans have given me during my years coaching the running backs here, and during my time as a running back," Byner said. "I've got nothing but respect and love for them."

By Jason La Canfora  |  February 13, 2008; 8:02 PM ET
 
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