SNIDER: It takes a tough coach to survive Redskins Park

Rick Snider
December 31, 2019 - 12:47 pm
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The Herculean task of rebuilding the Washington Redskins falls on a tough guy. Good – they need one.

We’ve seen tough guys come to Washington before and leave with lesser reputations. Marty Schottenheimer was a tough guy in 2001 as owner Dan Snyder’s first hire. He didn’t last a year. Mike Shanahan swore he was the steel of the franchise only to crumble after three losing seasons in four years.

Now it’s reportedly Ron Rivera’s turn. A winning coach who reached a Super Bowl only to run out of steam in Carolina after nine seasons. Rivera was probably the best coach the Redskins could get and that’s not a backhanded compliment.

Rivera is known for gaining optimal results. The exciting part is how much the defense can improve under him. This shouldn’t be a 3-13 defense that allowed 30 or more points in eight of 16 games. There’s far too much talent for that. Add Chase Young to the line with the second overall pick and it should be a hungry crew no matter whether they move to a 4-3 front. Teams play 4-3 and 3-4 nearly equally anymore so it’s just a label.

However, improving the offense will be tougher. It’s not as talented, has a young quarterback and receivers, and lacks a tight end. If the top draft pick is Young, the next chance for draft help is the third round. Rivera probably keeps offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell if for nothing else because Carolina play caller Norv Turner will never return to Washington where he was head coach from 1994-2000.

If Rivera’s smart, he’ll keep special teams coach Nate Kaczor, who did a terrific job. It’s the one unit that excelled.

Whether the Redskins need a tough guy after “Club Jay” Gruden is debatable. Schottenheimer was brutal in training camp with twice-daily full pads and the only Oklahoma Drill I’ve ever seen in the pros. Yet, they started 0-5 before finishing 8-8. Biggest mistake ever by Snyder was firing Schottenheimer. Conversely, Jim Zorn was the softest coach ever and started 6-2 before finishing 8-8.

Snyder has alternated the approach with every hire. After inheriting Turner (soft), he wanted to hire Jim Haslett (hard) before denied permission by Pittsburgh so Snyder took Schottenheimer (hard). Steve Spurrier (soft), Joe Gibbs (hard), Zorn (soft), Shanahan (hard) and Gruden (soft) followed. The other interesting trend is all of the hard-rated ones were former NFL head coaches, the soft ones weren’t.

Will a tough guy succeed in Washington. Well, Michael Corleone told his brash nephew Vincent in Godfather: Part III: “Tough guy? I don't need tough guys. I need more lawyers.”

But, Corleone soon relents and says, “Maybe you should come with me for a few weeks. See what happens. See if you learn. Then, we'll talk about your future.”

Sounds like it was written for Redskins Park.

Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter: @Snide_Remarks.

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