Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Jerry Gray situation

There are several scenarios under which the Jerry Gray interview makes sense:

- Gray is the Plan B in case Shanahan really is just using the Redskins to drive up the bid from Dallas.

- Gray was told there was a chance he would be brought back as defensive coordinator under Shanahan, and it would be beneficial to his chances if he were to help the team out with the Rooney Rule. It's not hard to picture an interview that mostly covered defensive matters, and then calling it a head coach interview.

- If it was a pure Rooney Rule job, Gray may have been wise to accept the interview anyway. Any time your name appears in the press linked to a head coach interview, regardless of the odd circumstances, it only burnishes your reputation as someone who is ready for the next level. He interviewed for the Detroit job last offseason and a college head job this year, so he's going to be a head coach somewhere.

- It is at least possible that the front office was prepared to fire Zorn mid-season and allow Sherm Lewis to oversee Stump Mitchell and Sherman Smith in running the offense. Gray may have been interviewed interim head coach. In this scenario, they could have made the point to discuss the possibility of 2010 as well, so they could call it a Rooney-fulfilling interview. It appears that the one time Zorn truly came close to losing his job was early in the season, but the workings of this front office are so opaque that there's no way to rule out that a change was considered more recently.

My hope is that Jerry Gray is really being considered. Here's what I wrote back in October:

Jerry Gray, currently the Redskins secondary coach and a former defensive coordinator when Gregg Williams was in charge witht he Buffalo Bills, interviewed for the Lions job this last offseason, which means that word is out in league circles that he may have the skills to succeed as a head coach. I will admit to not knowing a lot about the man, except that he is constantly referred to as being utterly respected by everyone on the team, from players to coaches to front office.
Because I am almost always in favor of continuity, if he shows he has the management and organizational skills to be a head coach, I hope he’s given the head job and an outside coordinator is brought in for the offense. In fact I’d prefer the offensive guy be brought in at the coordinator level because expectations will naturally be unrealistically for a head coach with an offensive background.
If Gray gets the head job, current linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti can be given a crack at the defensive coordinator role. I am tired of reading about how great he is at finding weaknesses in the opponents’ offense and designing ways to exploit them – let’s give him a chance to showcase that skill. The Redskins have regularly denied other teams permission to interview Olivadotti for other roles, so it’s possible he could be a coordinator for now if he hadn’t been constantly blocked, so it’s almost like we owe him the job.

The ideal scenario then is for Gray to be put in charge, giving Olivadotti a chance at the DC role. Then someone who has been toiling in relative obscurity on another staff gets chosen to run the Redskins offense. Find someone with a West Coast background so the promising young guys have to re-learn as little as possible, get him a competent offensive tackle or two, and see what he can do.

I have nothing against Mike Shanahan - he is a very good coach. But outside the offensive line this team is pretty talented, and roster-wise is in need of incremental improvements rather than a full overhaul. I would rather avoid someone who is expected to be a savior and fly under the radar for a while, then surprise people if we are competitive next year.

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