Meet Bill Parcells, Bill Walsh, and Joe Gibbs

51-6MwiGHtLGuts and Genius tells the saga of the three heads coaches that truly did dominate the NFL in the 1980’s.  The author walks through the football lives of Bill Parcels (New York Giants), Bill Walsh (San Francisco 49’ers), and Joe Gibbs (Washington Redskins).  Between these coaches, through the 1980’s into the early 90’s, they won 8 Super Bowls and left an indelible print on the NFL.

There are a few key common themes that tie these coaches together besides their winning ways.

First, they were football savants.  While each had their philosophies and systems, especially Walsh with the West Coast Offense, they were also flexible enough to adjust their approach to meet the strengths and weaknesses of their own teams and that of their opponents.  Of the three Walsh probably has the most long-term impact on the game with this short passing game designed to stretch the field horizontally and allow playmakers to get the ball in space and move the ball the down the field.  He also left a much more extensive and successful coaching three than Gibbs or Parcells.

The second theme is leadership.  While each coach had extremely different personalities, they each found ways to connect with and motivate their players to play as a team and achieve more as a unit than they could as a collection of individuals.  They each formed lifelong connections with many of the key players and coaches during their eras.

A third theme is that each started off slow trying to rebuild moribund franchises and had many insecurities and self-doubt.  Even when they were successful, the stress and insecurities almost doubled because the standard was always winning the Super Bowl.  Anything else was almost considered a failure.

Finally, and most disturbing, is the extreme stress and unfathomable hard work it took to accomplish the perfection each chased.  Reading about the extreme stress each felt to win it all, with Gibbs basically living at the football facility to such an extent he missed his sons growing up, and the health, mental, and physical toll football took on these men is profound.

While there is probably nothing profoundly new in this book, it was extremely well written, told in a concise, efficient, and lively prose, and frankly it is hard to put down.  For some reason, at least for this reader, it even provoked emotion and remembrances of the great teams these men led.  And while it goes from one coach to the next from chapter to chapter, that approach worked very well here, and facilitated understanding how these coaches interacted with each other, their teams, and how their journey’s unfolded.

I found this to be a very interesting and worthwhile read.

Guts and Genius: The Story of Three Unlikely Coaches Who Came to Dominate the NFL in the ’80s

The 1980’s Washington Redskins

51cjO8uF3zL__SX329_BO1,204,203,200_This is well done history of the Washington Redskins during their heyday from 1981 to 1992 in which Joe Gibbs lead the team to three Super Bowl victories with three different quarterbacks.

While I am not a Redskins fan I was an admirer of the team during that period of time with its run oriented offense and tough defenses.

There certainly were a cast of colorful charters starting with running back John Riggins and the offensive linemen known as the Hogs, to the Fun Bunch which is what the wide receivers are known as.  The author provides an excellent portrait of how this cast of characters were melded into championship teams.

A few themes emerge about the history of the Redskins at this time.  First is the perseverance of Joe Gibbs. It took some time to start winning and he thought he was going to be fired before he turned the team around.  But turn the team around he did for a decade of success.  He luring John Riggins back out of retirement is an interesting story as you have the straight laced Joe Gibbs cajoling the drinking, carousing, curiosity known as John Riggins.  But Riggins was an integral part of the Redskins success and Gibbs knew it.

The creating of The Hogs – offensive linemen – and the Fun Bunch – wide receivers was also enjoyable to relive.  The Hogs particularly became a marketing sensation as well for the normally unknown offensive line.

There are more stories here as well, from Doug Williams up again, down again ride until his Super Bowl victory, the flair of Joe Theisman, the curmudgeonly Jack Kent Cooke, and the excellence of Darrell Green.

And finally, Joe Jacoby, the left tackle on this team, belongs in the Hall of Fame.

For a Redskins fan wanting to relive the glory days this is a must read.

Hail to the Redskins: Gibbs, the Diesel, the Hogs, and the Glory Days of D.C.’s Football Dynasty



Mike Shanahan’s First Order of Business: Get Rid of Clinton Portis

Clinton Portis is one of the least likable players in the league.  He is a “me first” player who has constantly called out his teammates instead of looking in the mirror himself.  Just a short list from my feeble memory:

  • He criticized Joe Gibbs for playing him too long in a preseason game when he hurt his shoulder.
  • He criticized his offensive line and then got into a war of words with Redskin great Brian Mitchell.
  • He tried to get fullback Mike Sellers benched and then had a confrontation with him in the locker room.
  • He got into an exchange with Jim Zorn when he decided to take himself out of a game last year – without bothering to tell anyone.

And now, a player who reports are is not respected by his teammates because he never practices, has called out Jason Campbell for not being a leader? 

And you are, Mr. Portis?  These actions demonstrate team leadership?

Mike Shanahan’s first order of business should be to rid the team of cancers like Portis who not only shows no team leadership, but is a divisive force on the team.  He sets a poor example for young players, and he’s getting old and washed up and doesn’t seem to really want to play anymore anyway.

Throw on your clownish outfits and head out of town, you clown.

Vinnie Cerrato Out and Bruce Allen In: Has Dan Snyder Learned Anything?

With the announcement that the comically incompetent Vinnie Cerrato is finally out of the picture as the Washington Redskins de facto general manager, the Redskins are now going in a new direction. Or are they?

Bruce Allen has been formally named the General Manager. Dan Snyder has finally hired a football guy to run the football team. And certainly in the near term there will be a lot of changes taking place within the organization, with the first order of business hiring a new head coach.

But the real question is, will Dan Snyder quit his meddling ways and let the football people run the football team while he handles the business side of the operation, which he is brilliant at? I for one will be very interested to see what happens in the long run. I have not heard one good thing about what it’s like to work for Dan Snyder and the Redskins. In fact, all I hear is what an awful meddler he is. My prediction is that Danny boy will find a way to ruin the team again, somehow. He just can’t resist the urge.

Look at what he is has done so far. He gave Marty Schottenheimer one year after Schottenheimer turned the team around with a bare cupboard as far as players were concerned. He fell in love with Steve Spurrier who turned out to be an atrocious pro football coach, trying to turn retread, failed pro quarterbacks from the University of Florida, Danny Wuerfful and Shane Matthews, into pass happy starting quarterbacks. Ditto with the lousy receivers he brought.

He then tried to resurrect Joe Gibbs, who sadly did not seem to have real control of the team or the organization, which turned into a brief flash of promise but ultimately failure.

And worse, after Gibbs retires Snyder and Cerrato hire offensive and defensive coordinators and THEN try to hire a head coach. What self respecting, top notch head coaching candidate is going to come in when he can’t hire his own team of coaches who fit his philosophy? None. So they end up stuck with an obviously over his head Jim Zorn.

I would say that Snyder has lost two years in rebuilding the Redskins into a perennial contender with the Zorn experiment. But in fact he’s lost a decade, through poor hiring, and constantly trying to buy a team by overpaying big name veterans like Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith, Jason Taylor, and Albert Haynesworth to big contracts. All these players did not live up to their contracts, but of course Haynesworth is an unknown. He’s been hurt much of the year.

In this decade the Redskins have had five head coaches. How can any team gain continuity with five head coaches in a ten year span?

What will happen in the long term is anyone’s guess. If Snyder lets Bruce Allen do his job, the Redskins will probably turn itself into a playoff contender within the next three to five years, or even sooner if Allen is shrewd enough. Allen himself has somewhat of a mixed record, being mostly on the business side in Oakland, and being fired in Tampa Bay after he helped build the team into a contender that fell on its face last year.

But continuity is necessary for the Redskins to be successful. I, for one, doubt Snyder will be patient enough to let it happen.

Jason Campbell: Class Act

Jason Campbell: Class Act

Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell is a high character player and a real class act. I have been extremely impressed with his demeanor and attitude over the course of his career with the Redskins, often in less that ideal circumstances. Last night, in what was an embarrassing and unprofessional performance by his teammates in a 45-12 loss to the New York Giants, Jason Campbell was one of the few players to show up for the game.

After getting pounded and pounded and pounded in the first half because his offensive line couldn’t block anyone, Jason Campbell went out of the game with an injury. Jim Zorn was going to pull him out of the game in the second half because of the beating he was taking. But with the season long over for all practical purposes, in a hopeless situation on the scoreboard, injured, and while his teammates on offense quit, especially the offensive line, he insisted on playing in the second half. All he had to look forward to was more of the same, a beating. But he came out to play anyway. And for that my admiration for Campbell soared for being the kind of football player with the heart and character that we can all look up to and respect.

Now don’t get me wrong. I do not think Campbell is a great quarterback or will ever be an elite quarterback in the NFL. His defenders will point out that he is in a different offensive system every year. And that his offensive line has been porous. And the Redskins have had numerous coaching changes over his five year career. That’s all true and certainly has stunted his development. And maybe I’m wrong. Maybe in a different situation he would be an elite quarterback in the NFL today. But that’s not the point of this article and it does not matter to me whether or not he’s a great quarterback. The thing that I highly respect and admire in Jason Campbell is his class and character.

I’ve long been impressed by Campbell’s character. Let’s just take a look at what happened to him in the offseason. The Redskins were publically courting Denver and Jay Cutler trying to get a trade to replace Campbell. Then they tried to move up in the draft to get Mark Sanchez of the University of Southern California who is now with the Jets. Obviously this had to hurt Campbell given all the time and effort he has given the Redskins with little in return. Instead of whining and moaning and calling out management and the coaches, Campbell simply said he couldn’t control these things and just had to work hard to keep getting better and help the team.

Contrast that with the whiney Jay Cutler who got bent out of shape when the Denver Broncos fired Mike Shanahan and contemplated trading him for Matt Cassel. He created a huge rift with new head coach Josh McDaniels and the organization, eventually leading to Cutler being traded to the Chicago Bears, where is has had a miserable season and is an interception machine.

You also never hear Jason Campbell call out his teammates for poor play. This year his offensive line has been horrible. Granted, injuries have had a lot to do with that, but you never hear Campbell complain about them. Nor do you hear him complain about his receivers, who have been a disappointment, with the exception of Santa Moss who is continually plagued by hamstring injuries. Nor have I hard Campbell complain about his coaches. HE just goes out and plays the best he can and keeps the dirty laundry in house.

Contrast that with one of the biggest jerks in the NFL, the Redskins own Clinton Portis (running back). On more than one occasion he has called out his offensive line when he plays poorly and needs someone to blame it on. This year he tried to get fullback Mike Sellers benched and had a confrontation with him. He blamed Joe Gibbs for leaving him in a preseason game where he hurt his shoulder tackling on an interception. The prima donna got into a tussle with Jim Zorn last year when he pulled himself out of game without bothering to inform the coaches of it. He whines when he doesn’t get the ball enough. Great teammate, right? Of course he was a malcontent in Denver too. I have zero respect for Portis.

And then we come to last night. In a hopeless situation, taking a beating, on a team that doesn’t want him, a lame duck coach, and new management, he comes out in the second half and does his best.

That’s what I call a class act.