Instead of Coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan running the show, quarterbacks John Beck and Rex Grossman directed the offense, using last year’s plays and portions of a playbook Beck received from coaches on April 29 — the one day players and coaches were allowed to meet. Without defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, inside linebacker London Fletcher has served as player-coach of his unit.
Players are quick to admit that their efforts are no match for what the team provides, but say the workouts are better than doing nothing at all. The Redskins’ player-led practices, attended by an average of 33 players, introduced rookies to the NFL and helped build team morale, they said.
“You’re getting stuff done, but not as much,” said Beck, who hired a member of his church to videotape last week’s practices so players could review them. “So the thing is, we can not do anything, or we could do something. You can throw routes to anybody, but the guys you’re going to be playing with in the fall is what you want to have.”
Players, coaches and analysts also said that two categories of teams will be scrambling even more than others: those with new coaches, and those with rookie quarterbacks. Eight teams have hired new head coaches since midway through last season. While some were promoted from within, none has had the luxury of a normal offseason to put new offensive or defensive systems in place.
“In the offseason, you can install a system, and there are two parts to it,” said Charley Casserly, former general manager of the Redskins and Houston Texans. “First, the players learn it. And second, you get a chance to learn what might work or not work with those players. There’s a tremendous disadvantage for any team with a new coach or a rookie quarterback.”
Around the league, views about the productivity of workouts led by players have been mixed. New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning told reporters Monday, according to the New York Daily News: “It’s kind of the best we can do under the circumstances. It’s not great work, but it’s better than doing nothing.”
Said Casserly: “Common sense says there’s some value to [the workouts] . . . It’s a check that the players can have for each other to make sure they’re working out.”
Casserly noted that the Joe Gibbs-coached Redskins won Super Bowls in the strike-marred seasons of 1982 and 1987.
“The single most important thing was the players’ unity,” Casserly said. “They stayed together. In ’87, a lot of players from other teams crossed the picket line [to participate in games with replacement players during the strike]. We didn’t have that. Joe Gibbs preached to the team, ‘Stay together. . . . When this is over, the team that comes back in the best shape mentally and physically will have a tremendous advantage.’ ”