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Memo to Dan Snyder: Save the Redskins


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Ray Rhodes. Norv Turner.

One serves as proof that firing an NFL head coach after one season is not always the wrong decision; the other being the poster-child for the long-lasting impact the wrong head coach can have on a franchise.

Ray Rhodes’ lone season as head coach of the Green Bay Packers in 1999 produced an 8-8 record. He wasn’t the first coach in NFL history to be fired after one season, nor was he the last. Then-Packer GM Ron Wolf said that Rhodes wasn’t the right man for the job, citing discipline and structure as principle reasons, and fired him. He took some heat for doing so, but stood by it with conviction because in his gut, he knew it was the right thing to do for his team. He knew that keeping the wrong head coach employed for the sake of continuity, public perception or any other manufactured reason would only set his team back another year. He replaced him with Mike Sherman. While Sherman didn’t lead the Packers to a Super Bowl, his run with the team was a success. He recorded winning records each of his first five seasons in Green Bay with an overall record during that span of 53-27; won three consecutive division titles from 2002-04; and was one of just two coaches to take his team to the playoffs each season from 2001-04. He also got Brett Favre’s career back on track, whose play tailed off in 1999 under the guidance of Rhodes’ coaching staff. Favre followed up 1999, in which he threw 22 touchdowns, 23 interceptions and had a passer rating of 74.7, by tossing 141 touchdowns and 85 interceptions over the next five seasons under Sherman. Firing an NFL head coach after one season is generally viewed as a bad thing – a move that isn’t conducive to continuity or long-term success. But Wolf’s decision to fire Rhodes after one season and replace him with Sherman is Example-A that doing so isn’t always the wrong move; that in fact, the wrong one is sometimes doing nothing and not firing the guy who is not the right coach for the job. Wolf didn’t care about how the move was perceived by those outside the Packer organization; he did what he felt was in the best long-term interest of his football team. In this business, the only thing that matters is winning, and Wolf did what he felt gave his team the best chance of accomplishing that.

Jim Zorn seems like a nice guy, and he might eventually end up being a good coach. As it stands, though, the Redskins’ early season success feels like a mirage; that perhaps the brunt of their 4-1 start was due to other teams and defensive coordinators not having the blueprint on Zorn. He had a head-start, but now they have caught up to him and he has proven unable to counter. His offense has been in regression-mode since week 5. They have struggled to score, not just against elite teams like Pittsburgh, Dallas and New York; they haven’t been able to score with any consistency or volume against anyone, including doormats like the Rams, Lions, Browns and Seahawks. If this team continues to sink, it will be squarely on Zorn and his offense. Greg Blache has had to coach large stretches of the season without starters Shawn Springs, Marcus Washington and Jason Taylor; yet he has fielded a top-5 defense week-in-and-week-out. His unit consistently gives this team a chance to win by holding opposing offenses below their season averages in both points and yards. That he’s done it without the presence of a legitimate pass rush from his line all year is even more remarkable. That’s NFL coaching at its finest. The other side of the ball is a different story. They might have issues on the line in terms of pass-blocking, but so do other teams. The Redskins sack rate (passing plays per each sack allowed) is 12.94, or 1 sack allowed per every 12.94 passing plays attempted (passing attempts plus sacks). That’s not very good, but Pittsburgh (11.19), New England (11.35) and Minnesota (11.70) all have worse sack rates than the Redskins, and those teams aren’t exactly the Lions or Bengals. It’s not like Zorn doesn’t have some big-time skill-talent to work with. Clinton Portis is one of the two best backs in football, Santana Moss is one of the most explosive receivers in the league and Chris Cooley is one of the best tight-ends in the NFL, a pro bowler last year. All three are in the prime years of their careers and have pro bowls on their resumes. How many other teams have a pro bowl back, receiver and tight-end on their roster? Dallas is the only one that comes to mind. This team has not scored 30 points in a single game all year and offensively – taking away Moss’ punt return against the Lions in week 8 – has scored a grand total of 93 points in the past seven games. That’s an average of 13.3 per outing. It has been held to 10 or less three times in that span and has scored 20 just once, against Seattle. The sign of good coaching is when a team gets better as the season progresses. The 2008 Redskins have steadily gotten worse and no one in their right mind can point to the defense as a reason why. To add to that point, this team’s offensive identity has become more of a question mark as the season has progressed. Clinton Portis is on pace for a career year in rushing yards, but he’s been held to 70 or fewer in three of the past four games; games against good defenses, when Zorn most needed his MVP to be just that. It has failed to take advantage not only of the skills of its best player, but the opportunities his presence should provide the passing game. Right now, Zorn seems lost, like he has no idea how to attack defenses; it’s been that way for a while and there doesn’t seem like there’s any light at the end of the tunnel. His game plans are unimaginable and the execution of them even worse. Defenses overwhelming his offense, failing to adjust to what defensive coordinators are doing, not taking advantage of the players he has, regression instead of progression, throwing things in disgust after being unable to strategically-counter his opponent…Zorn’s presence on the sideline is in the early stages of taking on the feel that existed when Steve Spurrier was coaching the Redskins, and I’m not sure there is a more disturbing or depressing thought for Redskins fans.

Dan Snyder has repeatedly stated how much he loves the Redskins and how badly he wants to win a Super Bowl for the burgundy and gold. This is a franchise that, historically, is measured by Super Bowls, not playoff appearances. If he wants to meet that standard, every move he makes should be done with that in mind; anything short of that is not acceptable. Keeping Zorn for the sake of continuity or public perception is a noble gesture, but owning an NFL team is not a popularity contest and that decision is not the best one for the Redskins…not if he’s competing for Super Bowls, as he says is the case. Given time, Zorn may or may not prove to be a viable head coach. There’s no proof one way or the other, only hope and faith. But right now, there is a currently-unemployed coach with Super Bowls on his resume and a yellow jacket in Canton in his future that is proven, been there, done that: Bill Cowher. Barring Zorn leading the Redskins to an unforeseen playoff appearance this year, Dan Snyder needs to lean on Ron Wolf’s decision back in 2000 for comfort, take a page out of Jim Fassel’s 2000 playbook by “putting all of his chips on the table,” open up the checkbook and make the move that gives the Redskins their best chance of getting back to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1991-92.

It’s been 17 seasons since the Redskins played in football's biggest game. Seventeen seasons, folks. Children have been born and graduated high school in that time. Isn’t it about time to do something that truly gives this team a chance to change that? Snyder deserves credit for luring Joe Gibbs out of retirement. Gibbs won three Super Bowls in his first tenure with the Redskins, and when he came back, few would have bet against a fourth. That was a move with a Super Bowl in mind. It’s time for another. Only this time, the Super Bowl winning coach Snyder needs to target hasn’t been out of the game for 12 years and won’t be playing catch-up. Cowher won a Super Bowl just three short years ago, retired two years ago and has stayed in touch with the game by serving as a studio analyst for CBS. His record is undeniable and Hall of Fame caliber. He won from the get-go in Pittsburgh – he took over a 7-9 Steelers team, won the AFC Central and posted an 11-5 record (tied for best in the AFC) in his first year – and never stopped. In 15 seasons with Pittsburgh, he posted a regular season record of 149-90-1, a post-season record of 12-9, won 8 division titles, went to the playoffs 10 times, played for the AFC Championship 6 times, played in two Super Bowls and won a Lombardi Trophy. The man just knows how to win. He’s a great leader, his players love playing for him and his teams play with an unmistaken and unshakable identity. There are no questions with a Cowher-coached team. They play the game his way and a lot more often than not, win. It’s a tested and proven championship formula that withstood personnel turnover – free agent and staff losses – and kept producing wins. It’s a smash-mouth, hardnosed brand of football that is ideally suited to the style of ball played in the NFC East. This man would not only thrive in this division, he could own it for years to come. At just 51-years old, Cowher is young enough to give this franchise a 10-year run if he so chooses.

Nothing, and I do mean nothing, should deter Snyder from making this happen – not sentimental or obligatory feelings about keeping Zorn, money, personnel control or Vinny Cerrato’s status with the organization. Snyder has a way of luring coaches to work for him whom others said never would – Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier, Joe Gibbs. His team is one of the most profitable in sports and if he wants the guy, his track record says money will not be an issue. A potential $10 million per year salary may scare other owners, but not Snyder. Personnel control and front office structure could be a sticking point, but if Snyder is smart, he will do what is necessary to seal the deal. If he means what he says – that he will do anything in his power to produce a Super Bowl – this is his chance to put his money and actions where his mouth are and prove it. If that means giving Cowher full control of football decisions, so be it. If that means firing, demoting or relegating Vinny Cerrato to a token position, so be it. If that means he wants to hire a GM or personnel director of his choice, you make this happen at whatever Cowher says the cost will be. If you’re ever going to have a chance to right this franchise – to make it Super Bowl relevant again – with one move, one hire…this is it. Nothing – no amount of money, personnel control, front office concepts or Cerrato’s status – should get in the way of that. Cowher is a man that gives you a chance to compete for and win a Super Bowl the minute he walks through the door. Chances like this don’t come along very often, if ever. It’s the equivalent of being able to sign Peyton Manning or Tom Brady as free agents in the prime of their playing careers. You open up the checkbook and tell him, “Whatever you say, Bill, it’s your team. Yours is the only voice that matters. We’re going where you take us. You set the direction and we all follow.”

Bill Cowher vs. Jim Zorn…Is there even a question as to which man gives you the best chance of winning a Super Bowl? That is your goal, right Dan? If so, the choice is simple. He's out there. Go get him.

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I would only call for Zorn's head if we lose all 4 of our games. Otherwise, Zorn deserves a second year. He will be on the hot seat though.

Though the shocker could occur and Jim Zorn decides he doesn't have what it takes to be head coach and resigns.

Cowher, if he wants to get back into coaching has far better opportunities. He will want full control and bring in his own personnel guy. Cleveland will do that for him. I think Kansas City is ready to get rid of Carl Peterson; so that's another place. If the Panthers were to miss the playoffs and that would really pathetic since they are now 9-3; then Fox could get canned.

Washington will not be a place any coach, other than Jim Fassell would want. Just look at the pathetic coaching search last year and that tells you all you need to know.

I think Cowher keeps on being mentioned everywhere where the team isn't performing is because you see passion when he coaches. He reminds you of Ditka during his Bears coaching years.

We really need Zorn to evolve into that type of coach.

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Zorn is not the problem. I think the team has been well coached. His demeanor is serious, without being grim, and he's got a good relationship with the FO, the players, and the media. He is decisive, evenhanded, and respected. 7-5 is not that bad for a rookie coach working with a team that many had predicted would not perform all that well. We're still contending for a playoff spot.

Zorn has done fairly well to mesh a Gibb's power running game with a West Coast Offense -- it's no easy feat. More to the point, Campbell's progress hasn't been sufficient to elevate the Skins passing game to the same level of threat as Portis and Sellers have done for the running game.

Under Zorn, the running game still commands opponents' respect, usually in the form of eight men in the box (and sometimes even more). I'd note that Zorn and Smith have crafted ways to get the ball to Santana Moss, even though he's usually double-covered and Campbell still telegraphs his desire to pass to Moss. Under Zorn/Smith's schemes, the other WRs and TEs have gotten open, but Campbell is simply having trouble finding them in time. (However, I will grant that the aging offensive line is giving much less time these days.)

Rather than focus on the coaching, more awareness might be focused on the players' decisions, execution, and the role injuries have played in limiting this team's success. I'd note that some 'key" players now being exposed as past their prime. I still feel that much of the team's current woes may stem from the QB not yet exercising enough leadership to help his teammate overcome their challenges and raise their game. By default, Portis has become the team's leader, but his role can easily be limited if the defense is willing to commit enough resources to stymie him. When that happens, the QB has to be the 'game-changer.'

By now, opponents have realized that if they can contain Portis and double-cover Moss -- they'll probably win because Campbell doesn't seem to know how to find another way to beat them.

Zorn's plays seem creative enough. However they can only be translated into success by Campbell's decisions and execution, and the receiving corps executing their roles as well. In my opinion, IT'S THE PLAYERS, not the coach.

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Also, you stated the reason for firing Rhodes was that those guys at the top were displeased with him. Obviously, if Synder and Cerrato does find a problem, they'll fire him. Rhodes wasn't a ROOKIE coach, however. Zorn has no such prior record to look to and hence staying with him is the best option because the team can only handle so many coaching changes. If anything, the early 2000s was full of the one year and done for Redskins coaching and that way of conducting business produced nothing but mediocrity.

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Jesus, Bill Cowher:doh:

I love this......for years we ***** about continuity and developing players in the draft and yet we struggle this season (BTW we're 7-5). And what do you guys want to do.

1. Fire Zorn, a new HC (with a winning ****ing record right now) and bring in a guy who would only want to come here for a ****ing paycheck. You think Cowher would want to come here to win? No, he'd come here for the 10-12 million dollar/yr. check that Snyder would have to offer him.

Isn't that would most of you have ****ed about Snyder doing repeatedly during his tenure?

2. Bring in Matt Cassel- again, we draft a guy in the first round. With a rookie HC and in his 3rd system in 4 years. And you guys want Matt Cassel or Colt Brennan? I guess I can get Brennan b/c what he did in the preseason and that we drafted him. But another FA? Hell, let's just resign Deion Sanders again. Get my point?

If the OP or another person was at the game yesterday and sat through that ****ty game...then I guess I can give you a pass. B/C like you I'm very unhappy about getting my ass frozen and soaked yesterday to see such a piss poor performance. But if you didn't, can you please stop with these asinine threads about Bill Cowher and how he's the godsend of the Redskins.

We already went through that with Gibbs 2.0. And at least Gibbs was part of this franchise and wanted to bring the Skins back to glory.

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Wow - you wasted your time with that post haha. That was one long rant about Bill Cowher.

Sure - give up on Zorn...

Bill Cowher's offense wasn't phenomenal in his first few years. Actually O'ddonell only threw for more than 14 TD's once in his tenure in Pitt, and he has 17 in 95. Also, in Cowher's first year, the team only scored 30 points once...and they had 30 exactly in week 12. 4 times they scored below 10. Skins are avg. 17.33 points a game. The 92 steelers average 18.69 a game. This rebuts your main argument of Zorn's offense beign a problem.

The only thing with Pitt in 92, they pulled out the W's in teh close games, this year, this skins haven't.

So sure, piss away a rookie coach who is bound to have success in the NFL, who is developing a young QB. Piss it away for yet ANOTHER different style to Ef with the players and Campbell's minds. Don't give the team continuity for yet another year.

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Vinny and Dan are the problems. It seems like forever that we drafted a D-lineman. I'm so sick of seeing our NFC rivals build through the draft! The current d-line sucks! Vinny and Company selected 3 offensive players with all our 2nd round picks...not once addressing the annual issue of d-line. Zorn should definitely get another shot.

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