By Rich Tandler
While discussing the third and 21 play call in the Cowboys game, Mike Shanahan took what seemed to be an odd detour back to the past. He related a story from when he was the offensive coordinator for the 49ers in 1994 as they prepared to play in Super Bowl XXIX:
[49ers tight end] Brent Jones said it best, we’re in the Super Bowl getting ready for San Diego and I sat down there with Steve Young and we’re going through all of the scenarios that exist – going through first down situations, second down situations and third downs. Brent Jones came over to me and says ‘it really doesn’t matter what you call. You couldn’t screw up this game. We’re ready to win.’ We went on to score 49 points. I think Brent was right. No matter what, I could not screw up calls in that game.
This seemed to be a random reference to something that happened over 17 years ago. However, Shanahan rarely saying anything without a purpose. So what reason could he have had for pulling out a scrapbook from the 1990’s?
What Shanahan was saying was that the players on really good teams, championship teams, will execute whatever the coaches call and will make it work. He also was saying that while the Redskins may be improved and that they may be on the right path towards becoming a championship team, they are not there yet.
The flip side of the coin here is that players on championship teams rarely are surprised by what the coaches call. They are in sync with thinking of their coordinators and with the head coach. The next time a third and 21 comes up in the fourth quarter, no player on the Redskins defense should be surprised by a call for an all-out blitz. They should know that it is coming and focus on executing it.
There has been a lot written about what DeAngelo Hall thought about the blitz call after the game. What is of greater importance is what he thought about it between the time it was called in the huddle and when the ball was snapped. Hall admitted he did not execute the play well. Was that because there was doubt in his mind that Jim Haslett made the right play call?
Shanahan and the Redskins have assembled some very good, high-character players. That is the easy part. Molding them into a team capable of lifting the Lombardi Trophy is another matter and, as Shanahan likes to say, it’s a process. It is one that is likely to take some time.
(h/t to @LaVar_Arrington, some on-air thoughts of his are borrowed here.)