One Voice for the Redskins?
The successful teams in the NFL currently have a coach-centered approach.
That was the theme Redskins’ owner Daniel Snyder expounded two weeks ago when introducing Ron Rivera as the new head coach of the Washington Redskins.
"Ron Rivera knows how to win as a player, as a coach and as the new head coach of the Redskins.
One thing that's very, very important is we're going to have one voice, and only one voice alone, and that's the coach's."
You knew when you heard those words, that Daniel Snyder has done some soul-searching.
If you are as old as I am, you probably thought, “Wow, even Joe Gibbs (1.0 or 2.0) was never given such a key to the organization”.
Gibbs was hired by General Manager Bobby Beathard in 1981.
The Redskins had lines clearly drawn in those days, and the modus operandi was certainly not “we're going to have one voice, and only one voice alone, and that's the coach's."
In fact Beathard had complete control over the draft and free agent signings.
Beathard possessed the power of who came to the Redskins.
On the other side of the coin, it was Gibbs who had control over who remained with the Redskins.
A few times, it leaked out over how Beathard and Gibbs saw certain players differently and disputed over which should remain with the Redskins.
Owner Jack Kent Cooke referring to the three working together for the good of the Redskins, stated that disagreements were healthy, and that he did not want a bunch of 'yes' men employed.
Following the Ron Rivera hiring, there was much dialog regarding a change in Daniel Snyder to a coach-centric approach.
Organizations often over-react as the pendulum of life swings from one extreme to another.
Was Dan Snyder over-reacting and moving from the “Club Jay” (a Chris Russell brand) to possibly making Ron Rivera his Nick Saban Head Coach / CEO?
Honestly, I thought of George Allen in 1971, coming to a franchise that had mostly lost for 25 years.
Redskins president and part-owner Edward Bennett Williams desperate for a winner, provided Allen a coach-centric throne of sorts, functioning as head coach and general manager.
Trading draft picks and acquiring aging veterans, proclaiming “The Future is Now”, Allen in his first off- season, extraordinarily dealt draft picks for Jack Pardee, Maxie Baughan, Myron Pottios, Ron McDole, Verlon Biggs, Jimmie Jones, Diron Talbert, Richie Petibon, Speedy Duncan, Billy Kilmer and Roy Jefferson.
The Redskins instantly were contenders going 9-4-1 in 1971 and 11-3 in 1972 winning the NFC championship, losing to the 17-0 Miami Dolphins, 14-7 in Super Bowl VII.
Allen produced playoff teams in each of his first four seasons and five of his seven seasons in DC, enjoying a winning record each season.
However, Allen was permitted to be the “one voice” for seven years, doing whatever he desired to “win now and worry later” as he quipped.
When Allen’s Redskins were 9-5 in 1977 just missing the playoffs, Williams realized the Redskins would have no draft choices in the first seven rounds of the 1978 draft and no picks in rounds two through five in the 1979 draft.
Allen having mortgaged away future drafts, Williams turned to a 41-year old Bobby Beathard as general manager, to clean up the mess Allen had fashioned.
Allen and Rivera do have some interesting things in common.
Both Allen and Rivera rose to the level of defensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears; Allen under George Halas and Rivera under Lovie Smith.
Allen first became an NFL head coach at age 48 and Rivera at age 49.
Both Allen and Rivera have been named AP NFL Coach of the Year twice.
Each man has also coached his team to one Super Bowl appearance, which neither won.
Certainly both were given the green light by a Redskins owner to be the “one voice”.
Nevertheless that might be where the parallels come to an end.
Rivera certainly understands the need for a team to draft well.
In addition, Monday the Redskins promoted Kyle Smith to Vice President of Player Personnel, declaring Smith will oversee both the college and professional sides of the scouting department.
Yet it is good to see Smith being granted more of a voice as well.
Like Gibbs and Beathard, for there to be success, Rivera and Smith will need to trust each other.
Rivera can do what Smith cannot do.
Likewise, Smith and can do what Rivera cannot do.
Here is hoping that together, they will do great things for years to come.
Ivan Lambert is a lifelong die-hard Washington Redskins fan, raised in Berryville, Virginia. He is married and the father of two fine young men. He is currently a sports correspondent for The Ledger in Lakeland, Florida and can be found on Twitter @IvanLambert18