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Sportstalk980's BRAM WEINSTEIN joins us for an exclusive discussion about what it’s like to be a lifelong fan of the Redskins covering them as a reporter, as well his candid thoughts on where on where the team stands as the 2005 season approaches.


IHEARTSKINS: How do you balance the fact that you are clearly a fan of the Redskins with your role as a reporter?

BRAM W.: It was hard at first—it was actually very hard, and I kind of ended up revisiting that last year. I had gotten too used to putting that all aside. Truth be told, I want them to win, I make no secret of that. I would prefer if they won—it’s easier that way for me. I think it would be a much more fun ride for me if they were winning, because when they’re playing, I’ve got my fist under the table too, because I want them to win. When you get to know them, though, and after you cover them for a while, it becomes more of a job. And to be honest, I’ve never been the type of person that was unrealistic about them. I was lucky to grow up around here when they were great, but I was never unrealistic. So when they were having lean years with Norv [Turner], I never felt like I was drinking the Kool Aid about then initially, so I think I was prepared going in that I didn’t have some sort of expectation that “this is going to be great every year.”

I think, having covered sports, that you know easily it can turn one way or the other, and having watched them, and how they run things, and having covered other things in the past, you can kind of see where their mistakes are. I guess that for me, putting aside the fan part of it was hard at first. It was more a surreal kind of thing for me to be doing what I actually always wanted to be doing, so it was kind of odd trying to get used to that, more than it was the Redskins and “wow, they’re going to win the Super Bowl.” This last year was kind of tough though, with Gibbs. There isn’t anybody around here who doesn’t appreciate what he did, what he means and what he is. So that was a little difficult. And I think that was very evident in everybody’s reporting last year. I mean, this guy was treated with kid gloves, there was absolutely no doubt about it.

ES: Was there a moment you can remember, when you first started doing this, that you had to ask a question that you knew was going to be controversial—or even damaging—if you got a story, and had to reconcile no longer being a fan but a reporter? Can you trace that to one particular moment?

BRAM W.: No, not really. The first year for me was the Deion [sanders] year (2000), and it was such an extraordinary explosion that it became really easy to put that all aside. To a certain degree—and I don’t really mean to put it this way—but that wasn’t the Redskins to me. I guess that was a great break-in year for me, because my first year was the year they were coming off the playoffs, and they signed all these hired guns. This wasn’t the Redskins I grew up with. I was used to seeing the same guys every year—more working-class style players—play for this team, not these hired guns, these expensive parts from other teams. So it was actually easier to go up to some of those guys and talk about whatever may have been ailing the team, based on the fact that, to a certain degree, subconsciously I never really considered them Redskins in the first place.

ES: If you could maybe put a percentage on it ... how close do you think that reporters, even those that are at the Park every day, get to the actual story behind what goes on? The Redskins have made a point of the “unfiltered” thing, and there’s been a lot of criticism of people in the media for running with half-truths or misinformation—can you ever really know exactly what the truth is?

BRAM W.: I think you know for the most part. But to be 100% certain? That’s pretty rare. If someone retires, you’ll find out why. If someone is cut, you’ll probably find out why. If someone is signed, you will find out why. But there are a lot of things that go on in the season that become conjecture. We have been around it long enough, and have watched it long enough—at least the people who I’ve been with that have covered it long enough—that we think we have a pretty good gauge. But unless someone tells you, you don’t really know.

And this stuff is so subjective anyway .. . I mean, why did the team lose? You could pick a million reasons why, out of any one particular game, [so] we’re looking more for overriding factors. Like last year, it became readily apparent that their offense was antiquated, and it didn’t take much to get to that—it didn’t take many quotes to get to that. And it would only take a couple of people to actually confirm it for you to get to that. So I guess the answer, in short, is probably “no,” because we’re talking about sports, and we’re talking about chemistry, and we’re talking about a lot of people. We’re not talking about a tennis player who just didn’t have his serve that day and it’s pretty easy to figure out why he lost. There’s so many reasons that go into why a team may win or lose.

I’m sure you’re going to ask about this season at some point ... I look at their off season this year and think it’s been nothing short of a disaster, and it doesn’t bode well in my mind for what’s coming up here. That doesn’t mean that they’re going to go out and be 5-11 ... it just means that my perception of what is happening right now doesn’t look good. It doesn’t mean that it’s going to be the actual reality, or the actual truth. These guys still have the opportunity to win every time that they play. We’re still trying to find those truths, and I guess that’s our goal. But I like to think that we’re pretty close.

What the Redskins main complaints are is when they get something reported that they don’t believe was accurate. However, to be perfectly honest, they are not overly helpful with the media. In fact, they can be a little standoffish with us to a very large degree. And so getting to that truth with this particular team I have found harder than other things I’ve covered in the past. I’m not particularly sure why, because a lot of us that are there have been there a long time, so they’ve gotten to know us, but I don’t think Mr. Snyder has appreciated the personal coverage of him. And I guess from that perspective I can understand where they are extremely apprehensive with us.

ES: I am absolutely going to come back to your take on why [their off season] has been a “disaster” because all the little alarm bells just went off ... but first, we had a lot of questions about sports reporting as opposed to sports editorializing, and how those lines have kind of been blurred ...

BRAM W.: They’re blurred huge in my particular case, and I’ll be the first to admit it.

ES: How do you reconcile the two? I’m not sure that everybody knows the difference—including even some in the media—between straight reporting and editorializing any more. What’s your take on that?

BRAM W.: To be honest with you, when I’m at Redskins Park, and when I’m at the games, I am trying to just be a straight reporter. I’m going to ask questions that I need to ask, but I’m going to report things as is. If you hear a report I do the next day, it’s going to be about something specific that either happened in the game, or that I believe was the turning point, or it’s going to be about whatever the news of the day is. And I’m going to try my best to not put my opinion into it, because that’s not my role at that point in time. When I come back here and I’m doing a show, it’s almost as if suddenly I’m a columnist, and now I’m asked to give my opinion about the entire thing. And there is a major difference, because it’s just my opinion.

When you read a columnist in the Washington Post, it’s just their opinion—unless they’re writing a news-style column, but most of them are not in that particular case, it’s typically an article that’s written by the reporter. I think there is a big difference, but I think that people can tell the difference between opinion and fact—or at least perceived fact—in a particular case. That line is very, very blurred for me, only based on that my job is somewhat unique compared to what the other people do who cover this team. I’m not only asked to report on daily events, and get sound bytes about injuries and things of that nature, I’m also supposed to give a bottom line to it—at least from our station’s perspective. I’m expected to be the expert that’s in the locker room, and I’m expected to take the things that have occurred and come to some conclusions about them. So I guess for me, there’s a major blurred line ... and I can understand where that would even come as being confusing to some of our listeners—whether I’m talking about something that’s fact or something that’s conjecture on my part. Most of the reporters there, though, that I’m there with on a daily basis, their job, like mine at the moment, is to report on the facts and leave the opinions to be made by the opinion-makers, and that often times is not them.

BLADE: As a lifetime Redskins fan, does seeing things behind the scenes as a beat reporter ever leave you feeling jaded or burned out, and if so, what gets you out of bed every morning to go to work?

BRAM W.: It’s a hard job—I don’t want to say it’s not. It’s not what people think it is. I want to put that out there. But even in what’s happened over the past five years, I would love to have seen a playoff team—it would have been really fun to be a part of that. It would be a different kind of ride, and I think I probably would have appreciated what’s gone on the past five years a lot differently if I just had one playoff game to make it all worth it. I’m not jaded by it, though, I pinch myself every day. Every time this time of years rolls around I realize how fortunate I am. I don’t feel like I was owed this, I feel like I got very lucky and was at the right place at the right time. I feel like I do a good job at this, and that I was qualified to do it in the first place, but it doesn’t mean I was going to get it. And that fact that I’m doing it, to me, is very surreal, and there isn’t a day that goes by that I don’t realize how lucky I am to get to go and do this job on a daily basis, despite the fact that the Redskins certainly aren’t the Redskins I grew up with. Hopefully they will be at some point in time, but they’re not right now ... I think we all see that. But it’s been fun, and I try to have fun with it.

It is a very difficult job—what most people don’t seem to realize is that there’s an extreme amount of competition involved, and an extreme amount of hours involved. I basically don’t have a day off for about six months, minus the bye week—I’ll take a couple of days during the bye week—but once training camp starts, my life as I know it basically ends, and I am Redskins-centric 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As fun as that sounds, to a certain degree it can wear on you. But you know, when you’re in Texas Stadium, and the Redskins are about to play the Cowboys and they’re about to kick off, believe me, I know how fortunate I am to be stranding there and being able to watch it, and being asked my opinion about it. Because there’s a million people that could and would want to do this, but I’m the one lucky enough to be doing it.

ES: I think there’s a perception out there among some fans that “hey, I could do that, anyone can stick a microphone in a guy’s face,” but I think it’s clear you’ve earned your way in there, and that there’s a price to be paid in terms of, well ... having a life at times.

BRAM W.: Yeah ... it’s fun though, you know? And I realize how much fun it is, and how lucky I am. And whenever I have a problem, or I’m worn out by it, or of all the seasons where December rolls around, and they’re just not in the playoff hunt, and it makes that last month very difficult to continue doing your job and having to ask questions of guys who know the season is over, I just have to sit back and realize that I’m covering the team I grew up in love with, and there are a lot of people doing a lot of things that they don’t like doing every day, and as difficult as that may be, it isn’t the worst job in the world. I’m very fortunate to be doing it. I realize that.

JROCKSTER77: Many of us at Extremeskins are of the opinion that the majority of writers and reporters are “anti-Redskins.” You’ll see a few articles and radio discussions that are halfway positive, but most seem to focus on the negative. Do you think negative “sells” and that’s why we seem to see so many negative reports, or do you discount the notion that there is such a thing as a bias?

BRAM W.: Again, this is one that’s tricky. That question almost sounds as if it came from the Redskins themselves. This is their biggest beef with the media contingent. They believe that we are way too negative about them. The problem is, they choose to ignore the positive stuff, and they focus on the negative stuff. I’m sorry, but Sean Taylor being arrested is a news story—it just is. His refusing to call back his coach—that’s a news story. LaVar Arrington complaining about his contract and actually going forward with arbitration—is a news story. The fact that the first-round pick [Carlos Rogers] has a pre-existing stress fracture in his foot—it’s a news story. All of these things are negative. We could choose to ignore them and be propagandists for the Redskins, but I don’t think we’d be doing our job, and I don’t think we’d have any credibility with the public who cares about this team, if there wasn’t some form of tough love involved in it ... and that is, that good or bad, we’re going to talk about this team.

I think, more than anything, what’s unfortunate is that the team hasn’t played all that well. I would like to see what the reporting is if the team was 8-2 at some point in time. I think people would be singing a different tune about the media contingent, because I don’t think anyone would be complaining about an 8-2 team, or be finding things that are actually wrong with it—they’d be finding things that are right. Now that Gibbs has come back, when people bring up negative reporting, I just say to them, “go back to the archives of any paper you want in this area, or get tapes of what was said on this station when he was hired ... that was the most biased reporting I’ve heard in my entire life, and it was so beyond the positive that it was to a point where I was afraid to say anything that might be deemed any bit controversial about his return, only based on the fact that this guy was being treated like a deity coming back here.

So, I guess it’s easy to say that you see more negative stuff about them—I just think that unfortunately, this team has been in a rut to a certain degree, where a lot of negative things have happened to them, and in recent days, a lot of very serious negative things have happened. And I think that people see that, and they think, “this is July, they haven’t lost any games, maybe they shouldn’t be treated with all this negative stuff like how the season’s down the tubes,” or anything of that nature—and I agree with that—but unfortunately there have been some things that have occurred that are news stories, good or bad.

I guess I just disagree with that. I know the people that I work with, and I know what my goals are, and it’s not to go there and find something wrong with that team. I think that unfortunately this team has gotten in its own way, and they have been so standoffish with the media to a certain degree, that they don’t clear up what could be negative issues. The Redskins PR should find a way to be a little bit more proactive with the media, and work to spin things better in their direction, instead of allowing us to find the things that are wrong and then complain about it after the fact.

ES: Let’s get back to what you said before about the team’s off season. Based on what you’ve seen, you don’t think they’re on the right track, or have the pieces in place to be in a playoff race this year? Can you give us a thumbnail sketch of what you think are the worst moves they’ve either made or not made?

BRAM W.: Well, I think the off season has just gone very poorly. I am very glad that they didn’t have another giant spending spree with a bunch of veteran players. I just don’t think that was necessary. I think they did overall pretty well in free agency last year ... I think it goes without saying that the [Mark] Brunell signing did not work out very well for them, but in general ... Cornelius Griffin was a hit; Marcus Washington was a hit; Shawn Springs was a hit—they did very well in those places. I think the jury is still out if Clinton Portis is the right guy for them. It goes without saying, though, that the guy has a tremendous amount of talent. From a personnel standpoint he’s a great player—they just have to figure out how to use him.

This year, I guess I’m glad they didn’t go out and buy a bunch of players again, and they seemingly upgraded their offensive line with the center that they signed [Casey Rabach], but they don’t currently have a middle linebacker right now (that’s working on the assumption that Mike Barrow is not going to be healthy to be a full time player, if he can play at all). They allowed a guy that they described as one of the keys to their defense go via free agency because they didn’t want to pay him what another team paid him. I don’t believe Fred Smoot was the best cornerback on this team, let alone one of the best in the NFL, however, I know this about him: he wanted to be here, he played really hard, he played with injuries and he’s a character person. These are all the things they’ve said they wanted out of a guy, and they haggled with him over a couple million dollars when they do not have an adequate replacement for him as we head toward training camp.

So to suggest that their defense is going to be better than it was last year, or remain the same, that’s just pure blind belief that Gregg Williams is going to be able to take whoever he gets and make them into a star. LaVar Arrington can’t run still and is not cleared to practice. Sean Taylor very well could be in prison once the season starts. Both of those things could clear themselves up, and both of them could be playing and both of them have a world of talent, but neither one of them is a certainty. If we’re talking about those four guys not being on the field on September 11th, I think this defense has an enormous problem.

And then you look at the offense ... they basically let their best receiver go because he just didn’t want to be here, and they took an enormous cap hit just to get rid of him. That doesn’t make any sense to do that. The only way it makes sense is if his toe injury is so bad his career is derailed and they got rid of him before he was essentially worthless.

ES: Do you discount the notion of Gibbs striving for the whole locker room and team chemistry thing—that he had an unhappy guy and was true to his word about how if a player doesn’t want to be here, I don’t want him here? It seems like you’re discounting that ...

BRAM W.: I’m discounting it to a certain degree. Here’s one guy who works his ass off and plays with a broken foot for two years. Catches 90 balls one year and goes to the Pro Bowl the other. It’s January, of course he was unhappy—he didn’t like the way he was used. Clinton Portis didn’t like how he was used last year ... it doesn’t mean you just go trade a guy. You work it out. Ty Law didn’t want to be in New England last year, he came back and played in New England. You just don’t let a guy go and take the kind of cap hit that they took because the guy was unhappy in January. You talk about, you work the thing out. From a financial standpoint, it just didn’t make any sense. It only makes sense to me if basically he cannot revive his career because of the injury ... then it makes sense to me.

ES: Am I mis-remembering it, or didn’t this all come apart shortly after he told the team he was not interested in having the surgery despite their recommendation?

BRAM W.: Yes. But he also didn’t do it the year before. This is an injury that happened in week 2, two years ago, not one year ago. They knew what his condition was, they knew what the doctors had told him. I know why he didn’t have the surgery—because the doctor told him it might not heal correctly and his career would be over. So I understand why he did this.

I mean, this team made decisions this off season that were baffling to me. If Santana Moss works out and has a blow up season, then they did the right thing. If he doesn’t, then there’s a lot of questions to be asked here: why you would limit yourself to be able to replace this particular player just because he didn’t want to be here?

Obviously, they have to fix their offense, and a lot seems to me to be hinging on Patrick Ramsey, who I believe has never gotten a full opportunity here, and I think will be. But the organization, again, went in a direction that suggests to you that they certainly don’t believe that he’s the future at quarterback here, by spending a first round pick on a guy who is eventually going to replace him. I just don’t feel like they’ve put him in a situation where he is bound to succeed. If he does—if he turns into Drew Brees—that’s great, they have a really good problem on their hands [in that] they’ll have a young quarterback that they believe has all the talent in the world, and they’ve got another one who has finally emerged when given the opportunity. But if he doesn’t, who are they going to turn to? The rookie or Mark Brunell? Do you think that there’s confidence on this team that either one of them is going to come in and right their ways this year?

This season, to me, hinges on a lot of ‘ifs and buts.’ Too many bad, negative things occurred; too many losses in personnel, too many injuries that they’re dealing with, and one particular player who has been a giant distraction this off season, who might be their most talented player, but obviously needs to get his head out of his you-know-what before he comes back up here. They just have had so many odd series of events occur to them that I just can’t see it where they come out and they’re a 12-4 team. But then again, like I said to you before, they’ve had these grandiose off seasons before, and signed all these guys, and brought them in and I was drinking the Kool Aid like everybody, like “whoa, look at all this talent they have, they’re going to be great,” and it didn’t work out. Who knows?

ES: It’s ironic that now that they seem to be doing what we wanted them to do in terms of “backing off,” now we’re concerned that they’re not doing enough ...

BRAM W.: I was actually glad that they didn’t go out and sign a million people—I don’t think they needed to. I never thought they needed to. All those years they kept signing all those players, I never felt like they needed to do that. I’ve always felt like they’ve had a lot of talent on this team—or had enough talent—and if they’d ever stuck with, whether it be Marty, or even Spurrier and Marvin to a certain degree, and now certainly with Gibbs and Williams, that if they’d just keep something in place for once that I think everything would work out for them.

I think their biggest problem is from the personnel side. I’m not really sure who the GM is of this team, and I’m not really sure how the decisions are made. I think if there’s anything that [we] should be worried about with the structure of the organization, is that there’s no doubt in my mind that Dan Snyder is the GM of the team. I’m not saying that he shouldn’t be, or that he has no right to be, all I’m saying is I don’t know if he’s qualified to be. I think he would be so much better served going and getting a professional personnel guy who knows how to build teams, pay him the money to be here, work with Gibbs and Williams. Snyder is a phenomenal negotiator, he’s a great marketer, and I really believe this: he would be a terrific NFL owner if he just had the right pieces in place around him. Because he does everything that you’d want him to do—he spends the money, and he does whatever whoever he believes at the time has his ear, he does what they ask him to do. But unfortunately, I think he’s misguided in a lot of his ways, and that’s the problem—I think ultimately the problem with this team.

ES: Bram, when you say that there’s no doubt in your mind that he’s the GM, does that mean literally breaking down film, grading players, deciding who to bring in and not bring in? Because that, in all honesty, seems inconsistent with everything that the team has certainly said ...

BRAM W.: I don’t think he breaks down film—I don’t believe that. I think maybe he has told people that they may want to bring [someone] in, and then he ultimately makes the decision. He obviously is the deal closer, there’s no doubt in my mind about that—about who’s doing the deals here. What concerns me is that Vinny Cerrato is not a team-builder, he’s really a scout. He’s actually pretty good at it. From a draft regard and to a certain degree free agency in the NFL, he’s pretty good at that. What they don’t seemingly have is the one guy who knows how all the pieces fit.

The way I picture it is free agency starts and they write a bunch of names on the wall, and they’re just going blind at the name power of who these people are, and they’re just going and signing them with no regard of whether they would fit into a particular offense, or they would fit with what this team is trying to build, or if this particular player would upset chemistry. It doesn’t seem like they have any kind of willful desire to have an idea of a semblance of a team being built. Instead, it always feels like, “well, that didn’t work, let’s scratch it and start over.” And that’s why I say this year, the one thing that happened this off season that I liked is they didn’t do that again, they didn’t go sign a bunch of guys. I think that they’re going to stick with what they’ve got. They have enough talent to win, the question is putting it together.

SlobberKnockinFootball: What is the craziest thing you've witnessed behind the scenes that a normal, everyday fan wouldn't have the chance to see?

BRAM W.: The craziest thing (laughs)? Man, let me see ... a couple of years ago, they lost to the Giants at home, and the big play was a fumbled punt. Kato Serwanga, who was on the team but was injured for much of that year, was released the week before and signed by the Giants ... and he’s the one who either recovered it or caused it. It was the big turning point in the game, and the Redskins lost. The next day, at Redskins Park, Kato Serwanga walks in, and we’re like, “what are you doing here?” and he’s like, “well, they [Washington] released me last week, the Giants signed me this week, the Redskins pay me this week.” So the Redskins paid him to beat them. That was one of the craziest things I think I’ve ever seen, by far.

ES: Thanks for re-opening an old wound ...

BRAM W.: Crazy. In general though ...

Spurrier not knowing players names in year two, that was pretty crazy. I know we made fun of it to a certain degree, but it was pretty alarming for him to not know that. And I mean, regularly ... not even know who his starters were on defense, just really was pretty startling.

ES: Was this one of those rare instances where what you see is what you get—a guy who just really wasn’t interested in the detail work of the NFL?

BRAM W.: Yeah. It just wasn’t his thing. He wanted to teach offense and work with his quarterbacks. You know, I actually believe that if he had some people around him, that he could have implemented some of the things that he did. He just didn’t have enough strong personalities around him, no one telling him, “look, some of these guys you want—your ex-players—they’re just not good enough for the NFL.” They needed someone strong enough to tell him that, because he was a victim of his own affections for these particular people. Unfortunately, no one was willing to tell him no before it was too late, and then they undermined him because of those decisions. So I think he was in a very difficult position.

But from a preparation standpoint, I was startled at how little he knew about his own team. That, to me, really was the big red flag about him. Maybe that’s just the way he always was, and he always just had the right people around him, at least from the college game, but it was just so startling to be around after being around Marty, and now Gibbs, who are so almost over-prepared, and know everything about everything, and really are in control of what’s gong on ... to be around that particular guy was shocking, really, for us. It was like, “who does know what’s going on, if you don’t?”

(If I don’t ask you this one last question, I won’t get out alive ...)

BUBBA9497: Do you ever wanna smack Czaban and Pollie?

BRAM W.: No ... (laughs) ... no. Those guys are so talented. They take a lot of heat because they’re very rough on the team, but they do a great show. Andy Pollin is like one of my heroes—I mean this guy’s been in sports radio forever, and he’s someone that I look to and try to emulate to a certain degree. And with Steve ... Steve is talented in his own way. Steve knows how to infuriate people. It’s not my style, but he’s really good at it. And they’re friends of mine, beyond co-workers ... so no, I don’t’ want to smack them. There are some times when I’m on with them where they’ll ask questions that they’re trying to get me in trouble with, that I have to try to sidestep and avoid ... but they’re good at what they do, and believe me, we’re happy to have them and they do a great job for us.

ES: Which brings us full circle to the question about the difference between reporting and editorializing and/or entertaining—I think maybe it’s incumbent on fans to understand the difference.

BRAM W.: It is. It really is. I have to do these roles a lot ... now that I have my own show, I’ve fallen into that. It used to be, when I was just covering the team, that I really tried to stay in a reporter mode constantly, because I didn’t want to give off the impression that I was judging them. I wanted to just put out the facts, and it was guys like Steve and Andy that were to make more of the opinions for us. Now that I have my own show, considering I’m in the locker room, I’m expected to give my opinion of what’s going on with this particular team. And I enjoy doing that.

Again, I know I ended up focusing on a lot of negative things, but unfortunately, this tenure here the last five or six years has been a rough go. Anyone who’s honest with themselves realizes that this is a team that’s been in constant change and constant disarray, and it’s impossible to not talk about that, and it’s impossible to not discuss that when you discuss the Redskins, and unfortunately their record reflects it.

But the “entertaining” part of it? I try not to use them as entertainment—I think people are just entertained talking about them because they care about them so much. I mean ... I worked in Nebraska, and their thing with the Cornhuskers is similar to here with the Redskins in that everybody’s into it—it’s the one thing that everybody knows about, that everybody cares about and that, on Saturdays, there isn’t anybody in the malls, there isn’t anybody in the street—everybody’s watching it. It’s the same thing here on Sundays ... and the next day at work, everybody’s talking about the game because everybody watched it. So in their own right, they’re just entertaining based on the fact that everybody knows and cares.

What’s the difference between opinion and news-making? There isn’t much. At least at our station, there really isn’t much. But for myself, I like to believe that when I’m at Redskins Park, when you’re hearing “reports,” that you’re not hearing a biased view, whether it’s positive or negative about them. That you’re hearing whatever the news of the day is. When someone asks my opinion, though, I’m paid to give it, so that’s what I do.

What I’m hoping is that one of these years I’ll have some really good opinions to give, because I would like nothing more than to see them make a playoff run, and be part of that and see what it feels like to be in that locker room the week after they won the division, and are getting ready to play whoever its going to be—I can only imagine what it would be like to be part of something like that.


Thanks again to Bram for his time, and thanks to those who submitted questions. As with every interview, we tried to balance asking questions as submitted with following up on certain aspects of answers, to let the conversation flow and hopefully provide the most compelling, interesting interview possible. We hope you enjoyed the results ...

ExtremeSkins Staff

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he really wants to smack 'em

I just "know" it :D

I think he has been caught up in the DC media anti-homer outlook, not allowing himself to be openly optimistic about anything. when talking about the defense, he ignored the fact of many starters returning from IR, and we did OK without Lavar last year. I also feel toe "toe" had more to do with the Coles trade than most realize. Coles had the injury for 2 years, but Gibbs coached him for only one.

definitely half empty thinking

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Originally posted by Westbrook36

Man, this Bram Weinstein is a pretty negative fellow. If you asked ME those questions, I don't think I could have been that harsh.

At the same time, Om is asking the questions from a homer point of view vice a unbiased reporters POV.

You're kidding right? :rolleyes:

Good read. Thanks Om and others. Bram is definately a little unhappy with things. Sort of a disappointed fan thing. Actually, you almost feel as though you've read some of those comments before. Right here on ES. :)

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One of the highlights of our minicamp coverage was meeting Bram. And he was one of 2 guys (the other was Nunyo Demasio) who approached US and introduced themselves. A great guy, a guy you'd want to drink a beer with, and as far as I can tell, without perceptible ego.

I think those were about as honest a set of answers as you'll ever see from a journalist. I mentioned when I got back that I had a real and new appreciation for how hard the job of a sports journalist really is. They are, by the very nature of their jobs, in an adverserial relationship with the team they cover. I don't buy everything Bram says here - I think something we haven't had in 10 years, and something he's underestimating the value of is continuity, both largely in terms of players but in the coaching staff. Sure we've had coaching staffs for the same period, but there has always been the proverbial ax floating over the staff's head, whether it was Norv, Shottenheimer, or Spurrier (who acted almost ambivalent at times about being here).....and everyone including the players knew it. I think the players believe Joe Gibbs and Gregg Williams are here until they decide they don't want to be here. And they're trying to build a team of guys who want to be here with them. Bram mentions the importance of continuity, and that he likes the team made relatively few personnel changes, but predicts we're worse for that approach - not quite sure how you say both things at the same time?

I don't disagree entirely with Bram's take on the Coles situation, but there is value in showing 'if you don't want to be part of this, we don't want you here' - even when that decision ultimately constitutes a loss of talent for the team (if thats even an accurate assessment). It sends a message, and its that message, a belief in the coaching staff, the plan, the direction of the team, which has been lacking for a long long time. I think Bram underestimates the impact of that here.

I also think Brams the cream of the crop amongst his peers. I heard one of his fellow journalists ask Taylor Jacobs - one of the nicest guys on the team (opinion) 'What makes you think YOU deserve to start - a guy who had only 16 passes last year?' - and I mean it was asked with vicious sarcasm. Is that a fair question? Yeah. Probably. But there are a hundred ways to ask it without trying to embarass the player who's taken the time to answer questions. If I'd been Jacobs I'd have been hard pressed not to say 'thats 16 more than your fat-ass had'. Not to mention, how many times he's thrown to, and how many on-the-field opportunities he gets are (to a certain extent) beyond his control entirely. Of course, Jacobs ignored the tone of the question and answered it. But thats an example of a reporter who takes his job for granted and probably is EXACTLY the kind of guy who's lost sight of the line between fact and opinion. Thats TROLLING for a negative response, plain and simple. And its crappy reporting.

My perception is that Bram isn't one of those type of guys. Really appreciate his taking the time to give us a peek behind the curtain to see what the life of a sports journalist/personality is like. He's a class act and we really appreciated getting to meet him at minicamp.

Thanks Bram! :cheers:

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That was a pretty good interview and the man seems very honest in his answers, but I disagree with his views on the offseason, particularly the Coles thing and us not having enough talent at corner to replace Smoot. I think Harris totally healthy now will have a GOOD season in GW's system.

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Originally posted by bubba9497

he really wants to smack 'em

I just "know" it :D

I think he has been caught up in the DC media anti-homer outlook, not allowing himself to be openly optimistic about anything. when talking about the defense, he ignored the fact of many starters returning from IR, and we did OK without Lavar last year. I also feel toe "toe" had more to do with the Coles trade than most realize. Coles had the injury for 2 years, but Gibbs coached him for only one.

definitely half empty thinking

Yeah, and 90 catches without breaking a 1,000 yards shows not much in the YAC category, bringing to light the "TOE" problem.:cheers:

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Originally by Bram

It’s a hard job—I don’t want to say it’s not. It’s not what people think it is. .........

It is a very difficult job—what most people don’t seem to realize is that there’s an extreme amount of competition involved, and an extreme amount of hours involved.

Until you've been there & done it, you truly can't understand what Bram's saying here.

When you're covering Mini Camp for 3 days, away from your loved ones that you either run out of time to call or simply get caught up in what you're doing that you forget to call (good thing she understood & forgave :) ). Running off of 10 winks of shuteye for the whole weekend. Skipping breakfast (unless you count the Coke machine in the Media Room as a source of breakfast :) Caffine, baby, caffine.) Coming up with a semi inventive way to get an internet connection on Sunday after checking out of the hotel. :laugh: Bonus points to J-Roy on that one.

I guess, what I'm trying to say here in my rambling is that Tarhog & myself got a taste of what Bram & the rest of the media in DC go through. For a threee day period, we were allowed access to Oz & were able to get a peek behind the curtain. To see things, for the way they they are, as fans. I think we both came back, let it all sink in, & have gained a new respect for certain members of the media.

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The interview was informative and he seems to say that "he will believe in the Redskins again when they win!" I still think you must allow Gibbs 3 years to turn this thing around. We all believe we have talented players; we have not had a talented team. Gibbs will gradually change that. You will see it this year with the improved special teams and a better QB effort!

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Originally posted by TK-IV II I

Until you've been there & done it, you truly can't understand what Bram's saying here.

When you're covering Mini Camp for 3 days, away from your loved ones that you either run out of time to call or simply get caught up in what you're doing that you forget to call (good thing she understood & forgave :) ). Running off of 10 winks of shuteye for the whole weekend. Skipping breakfast (unless you count the Coke machine in the Media Room as a source of breakfast :) Caffine, baby, caffine.) Coming up with a semi inventive way to get an internet connection on Sunday after checking out of the hotel. :laugh: Bonus points to J-Roy on that one.

I guess, what I'm trying to say here in my rambling is that Tarhog & myself got a taste of what Bram & the rest of the media in DC go through. For a threee day period, we were allowed access to Oz & were able to get a peek behind the curtain. To see things, for the way they they are, as fans. I think we both came back, let it all sink in, & have gained a new respect for certain members of the media.

Okay! but I hope Lenny p. is not one of them!:laugh:

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I think of particular interest in this is Bram does clearly seem like he really loves the team. What I don't know he realizes is that some of his beliefs and personal demons with what the team is, or is doing, may come from a particularly myopic viewpoint -- one suitable for a fan, but not so great for a reporter.

I've seen it said before and believe the premise is correct that you simply don't let a player go in January because he's unhappy. You don't simply cut ties and go a different direction because a player is unhappy. There is truth to the statement. But, the statement alone isn't the conversation.

This is the fallacy of presenting the wrong or incomplete question, then answering it, then suggesting it fits the conversation. It should be apparent to anyone watching the situation that Coles was not released simply because he expressed displeasure.

Bram is correct that when a valuable player is upset, teams generally try to talk through issues with that player. The Redskins didn't do that to any great degree. Gibbs immediately wrote down Coles' signing bonus and told him to do something with it. Clearly on some level, Gibbs didn't want Coles around either.

It wasn't simply because Coles was unhappy that the team let him go. It was probably because a totally healthy Coles is a guy you can use in special ways and given his refusal to get himself back to that player created a player you could not use the same way as before. Coles had all the heart in the world. A fantastic work ethic.

You build around those qualities. You don't, however, build around a guy who seems incapable of making plays because he can't seem to cut sharply anymore at speed due to the toe. And a refusal to be great again by getting it fixed may have some factor in the team's -- somewhat eager -- willingness to part ways with him.

A coaching staff that squarely blamed receiver play for many of what plagued the offense as the season ended also is a factor here, one would think. Which in part leads me to my biggest concern with what Bram said. Bram seriously doesn't seem to understand what "negative" media coverage is.

Not a single fan of this team has ever complained the Arrington arbitration story was reported -- though, fairly, it was the hammering at it by Nunyo that according to Nunyo caused Lavar to proceed after giving indications he'd let it go. No one complained the Taylor story was written. No one complained about the report that Rogers had a pre-existing stress fracture -- the complaint was he the reports were he had an EXISTING stress fracture which were false.

That is not the negative press fans are concerned with. I presume, but don't know, the team doesn't really concern itself with accurate reporting of issues that aren't necessarily positive, but, are complete and newsworthy.

The negative media is better summed up in Bram's views on the Coles situation. It is OBVIOUS to everyone that it is BAD business for a team to simply let a guy go because he's unhappy. If that is what happened, and the team took a $9 million cap hit because of it, given the correct premise that it is bad business to release an unhappy player simply because he's unhappy, we are left to conclude the team was wrong to do just that.

But, no one has actually bothered to report that. The question was formulated and stories were based on it, and little else. No one has bothered to ask the question as to whether it was more than the unhappiness of Coles that gave the team the reason to release him. No one has checked whether the team was happy with Coles' play on the field, though, it seems pretty obvious the team wasn't from all the comments about what the addition of Moss brings.

Negative reporting is presenting a false or incomplete question as the story, then writing the story, then stepping back and saying you're letting the folks decide. You're not. You're steering the folks. Worse, in the Coles situation, Bram CLEARLY wonders "Why", but he doesn't appear willing to ask it of anyone.

He appears to presume the answer is Coles said he was unhappy and the team let him go. So, as a fan, you can believe, rightly, if that is what you think happened that the team was pretty dumb. As a reporter, you have to ask the "Why" and to this point, no reporter has.

Now, this would be a HARD story, of course. The team isn't going to bad mouth Coles. It would probably simply take the hit as, "Yeah, we're dumb guys and did it that way," than to make an issue of Coles and his play or his toe or whatever else.

But, as the media, there's a certain element of reading between the lines allowed. ALLLLLLLLLL the comments about what the receiving core can do NOW should lead someone to ask or maybe THINK, "Hey, you mean they didn't think the old receivers could do that?"

Then, do you start to alter the story of why Coles was released? Was it just that he was unhappy and the team said goodbye, or, was it more? Was it that he was used as a 5-10 tight end running straight line routes because that's all he could do with his toe, or, did that not play a part.

The media is far too willing to accept false premises as valid without actually digging in to see if they are. It may well be the Redskins are foolish to have traded Coles because it's bad business to let players go simply because they are unhappy. We just have reason to believe there's more to that story than anyone's told and we wonder -- as I'm sure the team wonders -- why more isn't being told :).

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Couple of nits to pick at for Bram here :).

He was asked early in the Q&A to put a percentage on what reporters really can KNOW about what goes on at the Park. To which, Bram said while not 100 percent certain on many things, it is the case they do know how things really are.

Then, on the GM portion of the conversation he says we don't know who the GM of the team really is but there's no doubt in his mind it's Dan Snyder. So, direct quotes from Vinny, Karl Swanson and Joe Gibbs, as well as Dan Snyder, have no apparent impact in his thinking, yet, he still pretends this is an unknown quality?

It seems like if something doesn't jibe with his personal views he simply acts as if they don't exist or don't matter. He said so about Coles and how he discounted the injury situation, because, well, he didn't think it was valid. He infers as much here about the GM where it doesn't matter what he's told, directly, he still believes otherwise.

In all, I think Bram really took the ball and answered these questions pretty honestly and in a straightforward manner. I think given some of what he said he clearly is having a problem keeping the fan out of being a reporter. To his credit, we don't recognize him as quite as nutty as some of the reporters are with this team.

This is really a good interview though as it does reveal the battle between being a fan of the team and a reporter covering it.

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I agree with everyone who says this was a good interview. So what if many of us don't agree with his opinions and choose to view scenarios in a more optimistic light? He called it like he saw it. That was the entire point of this interview.

Great job!!!!!

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Originally posted by Art

Couple of nits to pick at for Bram here :).

He was asked early in the Q&A to put a percentage on what reporters really can KNOW about what goes on at the Park. To which, Bram said while not 100 percent certain on many things, it is the case they do know how things really are.

I tend to agree with you, Art. Bram is putting his own "spin" on things here because (as Art said previously) the questions just aren't pursued. Is that because the media knows the answers? Hardly.

Take Coles. It is well-documented that Coles left Redskins Park in a huff the Monday after the season ended, telling reporters "talk to my agent" about why he was blowing out. It took Nunyo months before an agent finally fed him the story that the team was looking for ways to move Coles out. And the media, Bram included, jumped all over the story. Neglecting to point out that none of them had done any work to follow it despite Coles' clues and that everyone at Redskins Park knew he was on the way out.

If the reporters know nearly 100% of what is going on at the Redskins, why is there such a flurry (Bram included) when some other reporter has a "scoop," no matter how trivial.

Bram is kidding himself. He has no idea what's going on at Redskins Park and neither do the other reporters, for the same reason Art offered earlier: they don't ask the questions, they wait for someone to toss them an "answer."

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Bram’s personal style is disarmingly engaging and humble—he’s very likeable—which tends leads to moments when he says stuff with a real edge to it that has you thinking, “wait, did he really just say that?” There were several points where the temptation was to go totally off script and really dig into some matters, but in the interests of covering as much ground as possible I generally just bit my tongue and plowed on. :)

To his credit, Bram does recognize that the lines between reporter and commentator are blurred in a major way for him ... and I think it shows. I was surprised at times that his answers on specific things—the state of the defense, for instance—focused on fairly limited aspects of the big picture, and they were generally all on the negative side of the ledger. Yes, the team “may” not have a healthy LaVar or free Sean Taylor come opening day. And yes, Smoot and AP are gone. But even if one believes those things are a major concern, seems to me a full and fair look at the defense should also include items like, for example only:

1) the concept of continuity among the majority of starters and coaches who ARE back

2) the return of Daniels and Bowen

3) the late-season emergence last year of guys like Clemmons, Evans and Ryan

4) the addition of pros like Holdman, Allen and Hawkins.

5) the fact that Smoot, while a good guy and team/fan favorite, also didn’t seem like the most natural fit at corner in a Williams’ scheme ... in that though asked to blitz on a regular basis, while he was generally able to GET to the QB all right, proved less than effective physically in actually bringing the guy down. Perhaps Bram not see Fred bounce off QB’s all year? I did. That doesn’t mean I was thrilled to lose him for his cover skills and character, but it certainly did colored my impression of him as an overall “fit” over time for this team, both strategically and financially.

I’m just saying that to simply ignore all of those elements, and many others, in favor of the only “negative” aspects if what’s happened in one are, seemed more a frustrated fan reaction to years of losing than it does objective analysis of the matter going forward. Which is why I’m taking Bram at his word that the lines between reporter and commentator are blurred in a big way at times.

If there was one thing that really surprised me, it was the comments about Dan Snyder “being the GM.” I can understand, based on lingering perceptions—on interpretation of past events I think even his most ardent critics would have to recognize are often woefully misinformed—why some fans and general critics might still discount the Redskins repeated attempts to set the record straight on personnel matters. I understand that perceptions, fair or not, once made are extremely difficult to undo. But I was pretty surprised that someone as close to the team on a daily basis apparently still believes that to be the case TODAY, with the current coaching staff.

That was the reason for the follow question (and a bout of tongue-biting :) ) about exactly what he meant by being the GM in terms of breaking down film, etc. Because if Bram is right about Mr. Snyder’s level involvement in football matters, there is the mother of all cover-ups going on out at Ashburn, and a whole lot of people are blowing a whole lot of smoke up our collective backsides. Just speaking for myself ... I flatly don’t believe that to be the case.

Bottom line, I give Bram huge props for speaking candidly, and opening himself to some pointed criticism he just had to know would be coming ... and just respectfully disagree with a few of his specific stances, at least as they were verbalized here.

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I think its also important to note that Bram's the ONLY true media guy who's had the intestinal fortitude to come here and answer tough questions. Despite invites, all others we've pursued have declined.

That alone is worthy of some credit in my book.

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Noted and agreed. Any comments made about disagreeing with the substance of some of Bram's takes should not be construed as disrespecting the man or his candor and willingness to open himself up to question, or a lack of appreciation.

If more reporters and media types were willing to engage the public in this kind of dialogue, I suspect it would prove ultimately beneficial to both sides. We in the public might come to better appreciate what goes into trying to do a good job in a very tough field, and perhaps they might come to better appreciate that there IS in fact a very large, thriving consumer base out here ready and willing to look a bit deeper than many in the traditional media still seem to think we're capable of or interested in. :)

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I don't agree with much of what he says either - and I wasn't directing that at you Om - was actually just thinking of another 'journalist' in particular who, the second he started taking heat from members here, seemed to lose immediate interest in doing a similar Q&A.

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Just as on this board, you may like an individual personally(based on what interaction we are allowed in this medium) yet still disagree with their views on a host of issues and how they came to the formation of that perspective.

Doesn't mean you don't like or respect them.

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