The former Redskins quarterback and Super Bowl XXII MVP was the general manager of the fledgling Virginia Destroyers of the UFL when he was approached by the Redskins about joining their front office staff. At about the same time, however, the possibility of him returning as the head coach at Grambling, where his teams went 52-18 in six seasons.
Strictly in terms of money, the Redskins job was the superior opportunity. "From a monetary standpoint, the NFL situation would have been a lot better," he told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
But there was more at Grambling than the lure of coaching at his old school again. There are family ties. "My wife graduated from Grambling; my momma and daddy graduated from Grambling. I graduated from Grambling, and I had two brothers that graduated from Grambling," he said.
But there was one family tie in particular that clinched the decision for Williams. His son D. J. will be the starting quarterback for the Tigers. This week Williams named him the starter over sophomore Frank Rivers.
"Frank wasn't out there for spring football, and D.J. was," Williams said. "He just has a better feel for the system, more confidence in it, because he was out there in the spring."
Williams had the resume for the Redskins job, having worked with the Tampa Bay Bucs front office from 2004-2010. But it is easy to see why he would take the opportunity in Grambling to serve as head coach as his son plays quarterback.
Shanahan goes into the 2011 season 15th on the list with 152 career wins. He needs just three more to pass legendary Redskins coach Joe Gibbs, who is 14th with 154 wins in his two stints as the Redskins coach.
If the Redskins get to seven wins, Shanahan will pass Vikings coach Bud Grant and move into 13th place. A 10-win season would give Shanahan 162 for his career and will move Shanahan past former Packers and Seahawks coach Mike Holmgren into 12th.
Bill Belichick currently ranks 11th on the list with 162 and it is safe to assume that he will win enough games this year to stay ahead of Shanahan. In fact, an 11-win season would move Belichick past former mentor Bill Parcells and into the top 10 of all time.
The top 10 certainly is a reachable goal for Shanahan if he coaches the remaining four years on his contract. He will either have to catch Belichick or, more likely, Chuck Knox, who currently is ninth with 186 wins. Shanahan would have to average about nine wins a year for the next four years to pass Knox.
If Shanahan maintains his winning percentage of .585 (about nine wins a year) he would have the third worst winning percentage of the coaches in the top 10. Only Dan Reeves (.535), Shanahan’s former boss when both were with the Broncos, and Chuck Noll (.566) would have lower percentages.
Six of the current top 10 coaches are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and it seems that it is only a matter of time before Parcells gets in. That would leave Reeves, Knox, and Marty Schottenheimer as those on the outside of the Hall looking in.
None of those three coaches has won a Super Bowl while Shanahan has two to his credit. A place in the top 10 in wins and two championships would give Shanahan a very good chance at eventual enshrinement in Canton.
The Redskins released Malcolm Kelly today as they reduced their roster to the league limit of 80 players.
The move was not at all surprising as it was widely expected that the Redskins would give up on the physically talented but often-injured receiver.
Kelly was a second-round pick of the Redskins in 2008. Although he was a productive receiver at Oklahoma, injuries have plagued him throughout his NFL career. Some members of the Redskins’ medical staff recommended that the team take Kelly off of its draft board due to what they saw as a chronic condition in his knee.
But Vinny Cerrato, then the team’s head of personnel, liked Kelly’s 6-4 height and believed that the would provide the team’s receiving corps with some size, an attribute it had lacked for quite some time.
Kelly did beat out fellow ’08 second-rounder Devin Thomas for the starting job coming out of training camp in 2009. He was one of the least-productive starters in the league that year. In 16 games with 10 starts, Kelly caught 25 passes for 347 yards and no touchdowns.
He never got a chance to show anything to new head coach Mike Shanahan. A pulled hamstring severely limited him in training camp and he ended up spending the year on injured reserve. This year he suffered a foot injury about a week into training camp and has not practiced since.
Mike Shanahan said that the team did reach an injury settlement with Kelly, allowing him to release him even though he was injured.
Also released were offensive linemen Xavier Fulton and Corey O'Daniel, quarterback Ben Chappell, kicker Clint Stitser linebacker Eric McBride, defensive backs Dante Barnes and Tyrone Grant and tight end Joe Torchia.
There are three more players that have been released but those moves have not yet been announced.
Kelly’s release leaves just four of the 10 players the Redskins drafted in 2008 on the roster. Only tight end Fred Davis (round 2), safeties Kareem Moore (6) and Chris Horton (7), and linebacker Rob Jackson (7) remain.
There may be fewer than that left when the final roster is set on Saturday. Moore is expected to go on the PUP list, shelving him for at least six weeks while Horton and Jackson are both in close fights for their jobs.
The loss of rookie defensive end Jarvis Jenkins to a knee injury has had ripple effects through the defensive line depth chart. But Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is not too worried about it
“I feel good about the guys we have in there,” Haslett said today. He mentioned Darrion Scott, who played a few snaps on defense towards the end of last year, and Doug Worthington (pictured), who the Steelers drafted in 2010.
It would appear that Kedric Golston, who started most of last year at defensive end, will be the first man off the bench as they rotate defensive linemen to keep them fresh. Although the rotation is partially dictated by the flow of the game, there is a plan in place.
“We have an idea of what they should play from game to game and really for the whole year you have an idea of how many they should play,” said Haslett.
The nose tackle, said Halsett, is the most physically demanding position on the line so that player in that position will be in for fewer snaps. He said that the nose that is in the game the highest percentage of the snaps in the league usually plays just over half of the snaps.
Last year, Maake Kemoeatu was the Redskins’ starting nose tackle for the first 13 games of the season and he played just over 40 percent of the snaps.
What the Jenkins injury means is that with Golston stepping up into a role where he is likely to get more snaps, someone else will move up and get the plays that Golston would have had. That player will go from being inactive most game days or maybe even being on the waiver wire to plain one or two dozen plays a game.
Who will that someone be? Scott has played in 50 NFL games since coming into the league in 2004 but only in six since the start of the 2007 season. Worthington has yet to take an NFL snap.
Haslett was talking as though both of them will be on the team, although we won’t know that until the final cuts on Saturday. Who starts the season in the rotation and who starts in on the active list getting some time on the field could come down to how each of them plays on Thursday.
The Redskins will have to release at least nine players by 4 p.m. on Tuesday to get down to the league maximum roster size of 80.
It is likely that one of the roster reductions will be moving Jarvis Jenkins to injured reserve. He suffered a season-ending knee injury on Thursday night against the Ravens.
The other eight are hard to figure out and it would be a mistake to try to read too much into the team's opinion of a player if he is cut this round as opposed to next Saturday. A team will sometimes release a player in the early cutdown period in hopes of sneaking him through waivers and onto their practice squad. The hope is that the other teams will think that the player is not worth a look if he got released in the early going.
It is really anybody's guess as to who might be released. Offensive linemen Selvish Capers and Corey O'Daniel were the only two healthy players who did not play in either of the team's last two preseason games. Teams generally carry two offensive linemen on the practice squad so the above-noted dynamic could be at work here.
Normally you might not wonder about carrying five quarterbacks into the fourth preseason game but with both John Beck and Rex Grossman expected to play you might look for one of the other quarterbacks, either Matt Gutierrez or Ben Chappell, to get cut loose. Chappell would be eligible for the practice squad.
Beyond that, it's is pointless speculation to try to figure out who might get the visit from The Turk tomorrow. We'll just wait and see.
A year ago, the Redskins had a defensive lineman who was very particular about where he played. Albert Haynesworth was asked to play nose tackle and he didn’t want to do that. He was moved to defensive end but he only wanted to play there in passing situations. During the offseason, this prompted defensive coordinator Jim Haslett to say, “He doesn’t want to do anything!”
Albert, of course, is gone now and the Redskins have a new attitude in place. Barry Cofield, a defensive tackle with the Giants signed to play nose tackle in Washington, may have to learn another role. With rookie defensive end Jarvis Jenkins out for the season with a knee injury, Cofield is likely to be asked to play defensive end in passing situations.
“That’s probably going to be the case,” he said. “I might be an end. It’s going to be a rotation, a fluid situation.”
Cofield doesn’t mind if learning the additional position takes some extra time.
“We’re pros, that’s just what we have to do,” he said. “If it takes some extra work then that’s what it takes. If you have to go home and take your playbook with you, like I’ve done on the past, or if you have to take a DVD home and watch some tape, that’s what our coaches expect and that’s what we expect of ourselves.”
Cofield certainly expects his teammates to have the same attitude. “We’re all interchangeable parts,” he said. “No one is bottled into any particular role. We all try to learn everything.”
As far as learning his primary position at nose tackle, Cofield says “I’m further along than I thought I might have been.”
He believes that his readiness level is at a seven on a scale of one to ten. That’s good but there is more work to do.
“I’m going to watch a lot more tape,” he said. “It’s going to take some extra study. I feel like I’m moving at a good clip. Each day is a little bit better and I feel like by the time the Giants roll into town I’ll be pretty much where I want to be.”
Ah, the Giants. Cofield is looking forward to going against the team he played for during his first five years in the NFL.
“It’s great that the Giants are Week 1 for many reasons,” he said. “I’m definitely excited about that game.
“I’m going to be going off of adrenaline and hopefully after the first play or so I’ll be able to settle down.”
The transaction wires are filling up with news of players being released by NFL teams in anticipation of Tuesday's 4 p.m. deadline to cut from a maximum of 90 to a maximum of 80 players.
We have seen no transactions from the Redskins. And we shouldn't expect to see anything until after four tomorrow.
Mike Shanahan has every intention of keeping every player as long as he can. Actually, the team is currently three players under the limit with 89 players listed and two, safeties Kareem Moore and LaRon Landry, not counting towards the limit because they are on the PUP list.
But don't look for Shanahan to jump the gun and release players early. We still have the 90 guys all the way through our Tuesday practice," he said on Saturday. "That gives us the opportunity to not overwork players, but they will get a lot of reps.”
Given that they are cutting to the number of players they usually start camp with, don't look for many familiar names to be on the cut list tomorrow. Later this afternoon I'll take a look at who might take the hit on the first round of cuts.
The Redskins will not practice today as the Washington area recovers from the effects of Hurricane Irene. They really won’t miss out on much in terms of preparation, however.
Normally, players are off two days after a game. They practiced on Saturday following their Thursday preseason game in Baltimore so today’s session would have been an “extra” practice.
Also consider that they aren’t preparing for this game with nearly the intensity that they would for a regular season game or even last week’s preseason game. This game is more about individual performances and keeping players healthy than it is about schemes and game plans (even though both John Beck and Rex Grossman might play).
There are some players who could use the extra work. Ryan Torain practiced on Saturday for the first time since suffering a broken hand and he is expected to see his first preseason action against the Bucs. Brandon Banks has practice sporadically since the first exhibition game and he was supposed to go back to work today.
And there are about 10 players who will regret the missed opportunity that today’s cancelled practice represents. The roster will be trimmed down to 80 players by 4 p.m. on Tuesday. Players on the bubble need every opportunity they can get to persuade the coaches to let them stick around. The chance to play in the final preseason game could be the difference between getting a shot with another team and not.
Things should be back to a normal schedule tomorrow.
I touched on this in the Talking Points article on CSN but let’s expand on what the Redskins might do with Ryan Torain when he can play.
The Redskins’ leading rusher in 2010 suffered a broken hand in practice on August 3. At the time, Mike Shanahan said that that Torain would be out from seven to 10 days. Even after it was revealed that Torain had undergone surgery to insert screws into the hand, the estimated time that he would be sidelined did not change.
It is now about three and a half weeks later and Torain just returned to practice having missed the first three preseason games. Last year he missed four games with a pulled hamstring (and he also had the bye week to heal). The book developing on Torain is that not only is he injury prone but that when he gets hurt he takes a long time to heal.
The Redskins drafted running backs Roy Helu out of Nebraska and Evan Royster of Penn State in April and they traded for Tim Hightower shortly after the lockout ended. Helu has been the team’s leading rusher in the preseason and Hightower is right behind him.
It appears that Hightower already has taken the starting job from Torain. Making as clear a statement as he generally makes on such matters today, Shanahan said, "If you were betting in Vegas, you're probably betting that direction.”
The good news here for Torain is that Hightower has never carried a heavy load consistently. In his three years in Arizona he averaged just over nine carries in a game. He had 22 carries in one game during his rookie season in 2008 and last year he had 18 carries against the Broncos. Besides those games he has no more than 15 rushing attempts in a game. Hightower has fewer than 10 carries in 25 of his 48 career games.
But the question for Torain is who will get any touches that Hightower doesn’t get. Helu has been very solid during the preseason, averaging 4.9 yards on his 35 carries. On a 51-yard carry against the Colts he displayed rare athletic ability in avoiding going out of bounds and breaking up the sideline for the big gain. It will be hard to keep him off of the field.
In addition, Helu is getting better at blitz pickups, frequently an obstacle to rookies getting playing time. Torain never has mastered pass protection. If Helu proves to be an explosive change of pace runner and you don’t lose anything in pass protection, what reason would there be to give any snaps to Torain.
It is a long season and Torain could well contribute before it’s all over. But it would not be at all surprising to see Torain start the year on the inactive list and remain there until something happens at the running back position.