Sunday, June 19, 2005
Just one day after being fired by the Jacksonville Jaguars in early January, Bill Musgrave took his two sons to the beach. Musgrave helped Carter, 5, and Eli, 4, build sand castles, using a miniature dump truck, bulldozer and shovels. They frolicked in the sand and eluded waves in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla.
"It was therapeutic for me to think of something else," Musgrave, who spent two years as the Jaguars' offensive coordinator, recalled recently.
Musgrave's plans changed while at the beach after he received a surprising call from Redskins Coach Joe Gibbs, who asked Musgrave to visit Washington and consider becoming his new quarterbacks coach. "I'm glad I took my cell phone with me," Musgrave said dryly. "I was excited about it."
Musgrave, 37, was so flattered by Gibbs's inquiry that he flew to Washington the next day, and accepted Gibbs's offer -- just three days after being dismissed by Jacksonville -- without pursuing any prospective suitors.
Gibbs is looking to Musgrave, a former NFL quarterback who got his first NFL coaching job at 30, to infuse the Redskins' troubled offense -- which finished last season ranked 30th in the 32-team league -- with new ideas. With the Redskins in the midst of their three-day minicamp this weekend, Musgrave is already making his presence felt.
"He's made some great suggestions that we kind of added to the mix of what we already had," Gibbs said recently.
As quarterbacks coach, Musgrave is no higher than fourth in Washington's offensive coaching hierarchy, behind coordinator Don Breaux; Joe Bugel, the assistant head coach-offense; and Gibbs. His main duty is to improve the performance of Patrick Ramsey, who reclaimed the starting job from Mark Brunell midway through last season. But Musgrave's contrarian philosophies -- and Gibbs's openness to them -- appear to make him as important as any offensive assistant this season. His addition to the coaching staff is evidence that Gibbs will substantially alter his offense.
Musgrave has spent most of his 12 years in the NFL -- six as a player -- working in what is known as the West Coast offense. The system is considered antithetical to Gibbs's ball-control philosophy in which power running sets up downfield passes. In the West Coast system, multiple receivers -- three, four or even five -- are unleashed for short, high-percentage passes. Gibbs uses a one-back system that generally employs extra blockers while sending out only two receivers.
For the sake of pass protection, Gibbs intends to continue limiting the number of receivers. (When Gibbs interviewed Musgrave, he was pleased that the first topic Musgrave broached was pass protection.) Nonetheless, Gibbs is expected to markedly open up his offense, inserting some wrinkles from Musgrave. "Sometimes you need to go outside of your own box," Gibbs said. "If we think something is good, we don't care where it came from. With Bill here, I'm sure there are some things we'll do that are West Coast."
Ramsey added, "I think a good mixture could be very successful -- of the West Coast offense and what we do as far as running the football."
Musgrave, who in Jacksonville oversaw a pass-happy offense, particularly on first downs, said the offensive systems are not as disparate as they seem. For example, although West Coast offenses generally attack defenses with multiple-receiver formations, some plays call for maximum protection. Also, the St. Louis Rams and Kansas City Chiefs use a similarly unconventional offense as the Redskins, with two tight ends (an H-back and pure blocker). The main difference is that the Rams and Chiefs usually employ multiple receivers instead of keeping them in for pass blocking.
"Most offenses in the league have gravitated towards one another," Musgrave said. "And there're a number of teams running very similar plays, just with different languages. I think you've got to fit your plays to your players. If you have a good system, your system should be able to adapt to the strengths of your players."