Memorial Day is more than the unofficial start of summer. It is the day to remember others deserving of memory — those who served others. Whether they served the nation, or served you in some way, they are alive as long as we remember.
Memorial Day is also the marker for how close we are getting to the start NFL training camps. My blogging friend Rich Handler has been tweeting a helpful countdown calendar.
Here are a few bite-sized stories for light holiday reading. We read these stories so you don't have to.
When the Washington Redskins were relevant
Just in time for Memorial Day, Cold Hard Football Facts did a nice write up of Joe Gibbs 1980s Washington Redskins, The Last Old School Team. They recall the time when football was more smashmouth than today. Gibbs had a more muscular brand of the Air Coryell Downfield Offense than you saw from the old Raiders, or from Norv Turner's Chargers or from Coryell's teams in San Diego or St. Louis.
How old school? The story recalls Joe Thiemann's single bar facemask, Mark Moseley's straight-ahead kicking style, great team nicknames, dependence on the fullback, John Riggins, who the story called the last hurrah of white running backs. (Their words. Not mine.)
The 1983 Redskins were the last team to set a NFL scoring record as a run-first team.
Good times. To read the story, follow the link here.
Turner is not remembered well in these parts. It's no accident, however, that old Jack Kent Cooke hired him to replace Gibbs and that he is the head coach in San Diego. Turner is the leading practitioner of the Downfield Offense. Coryell's system called for a power running back, so the offense always featured a Chuck Muncie, John Riggins, Ernest Byner, or LaDainian Tomlinson. The best decision Turner made, as Redskins coach, was to name unheralded Stephen Davis as his running back.
Building a winner in Washington
The 1990s Redskins was a story of top Draft picks who did not pan out. The story of 2000's Redskins is of habitual poor decisions about building a roster. It left Washington with an uncompetitive, top-heavy roster and a lot of unappreciated try-hard guys. A blogging colleague who covers the New York Giants once wrote me that the 'Skins were never a factor in his seasonal projections. I had no answer.
Everything Jason Reid wrote for today's print edition of The Washington Post about the Washington Wizards applies to the Redskins. (See NBA Playoffs: Wizards could learn much from Celtics, Heat, Thunder and Spurs.)
Reid wrote that, while those teams followed different paths to the NBA Finals, they shared one common trait, championship-minded organizational cultures. It's as if Reid was reading our minds. Hog Heaven has written that the root cause of Washington's losing ways in the Snyder era has been organizational weakness at the top and lack of strategic focus. One follows the other.
Joe Gibbs improved matters in his second run with the team. Washington had two playoff seasons in Gibbs' four-year run. Then, Gibbs left abruptly with the job unfinished and worse, he failed to prepare Daniel Snyder as an executive leader. Snyder and Vinny Cerrato flubbed every critical decision made in 2008 and 2009.
We have questions about how much Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen improved the team's on field performance, but we love their commitment to the Draft and the players they have selected. Shanahan's picks have been beyond talented. They have been team captains and leaders who showed the characteristics Reid says the Wizards need.
"Physically gifted, smart players provide the granite-strong foundations of the Celtics, Heat, Thunder and Spurs. But it’s also the superstars’ roll-up-their-sleeves-and-work determination that has elevated those teams to prize-claiming contention. That’s where the Wizards have historically been most lacking: picking the right people around whom to build."
The Wizards and Redskins have done things in the reverse. The Wizards drafted their young gun, John Wall, two seasons ago and are challenged to surround him with the roll-up-their-sleeves talent that sustains winning. Shanahan believes he has that talent after three seasons of player acquisition. Now he has his young gun in the third version of Robert Griffin.
Why are NFL players suing us?
Sports fans are incredibly possessive of everything about their local pro teams. That includes the team colors, fight song, players and salary cap. Redskins fans were outraged that Roger Goodell steal $36 million of "our" cap money.
The NFL Players' Association sued the NFL for collusion the day after the Redskins and Dallas Cowboys arbitration was dismissed. The players' union sued the entire league; including the four teams (Redskins, Cowboys, Raiders, Saints) they admit in their court filing did not join the owners' collusion to suppress player salaries.
The Redskins, in fact, exceeded the secret $123 million salary cap, by $102.8 million (No. That's not a typo.) says the union. The CBA accounting for Washington's 2010 players' salaries was $225.8 million. So, Washington, following the terms of the 2006 CBA extension, used the no cap year to as intended and was whacked from both sides by owners and players. Life is not fair.
"The 32 teams are defendants in the action right now," said NFL PA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith. "If there’s evidence that is developed later on that would demonstrate that any one of those teams did not abide by the conspiracy, then my guess is those teams will make the appropriate assertions and we’ll see where we end up."
Translation: We are making this up on the fly and we will fix it later when the innocent teams give us stuff to help make our case.
Want more evidence that the collusion suit is a rushed job? The union's petition cites sports column stories as evidence. Yeah right. Sports writers are notoriously superficial when writing about the legal and economic side pro teams.
If you are into the nuts and bolts of the business of pro sports, do what Hog Heaven does — pay attention to Andrew Brandt at the National Football Post, Maury Brown, founder of the Business of Sports Network, and to sports business coverage of Forbes Magazine's online site http://www.forbes.com/sports-leisure/.
Hog Heaven is into this stuff and those are our sources. We know that it bores you because our hits are lower when we post stories in this topic. Or-ga-ni-za-tion-al issues too close to the work issues you escape from when you read about RG3 and Pierre Garcon. One drowns in multisyllable jargon when reading business and legal briefs.
But, these executive calls are critical to building the championship caliber organizational culture that Reid alludes to. We will pay attention to those sources so you won't have to, then we will provide the Cliff Notes version.
We do it compliments of the house because that's the kind of people we are.