A confession first off: This was going to be a rip of the Redskins for not hiring Charley Taylor and/or Ken Houston as coaches. In righteous anger, this would be a polemic based on the NFL's demonstrated reluctance to hire blacks for management jobs. Happily, no such anger is necessary today, for very quietly the Redskins have done the right thing.
Houston was asked if he were interested in coaching. Lukewarm at best, he indicated. So nothing happened there. And it turns out the Redskins have made Bobby Mitchell and Charley Taylor important people with the organization. When Joe Gibbs sends a letter to his players today, he will include Mitchell and Taylor in the list of his new staff. That neither Mitchell nor Taylor are officially "coaches" is beside the point.
"It would be stupid to have Charley Taylor and not use him when he was one of the best wide receivers ever," Gibbs said. "And I want to use Bobby Mitchell more than he has been used. I specifically requested that he help me as a liaison between the players, management and the community."
Taylor will continue to work as a scout, as he has since retiring in the summer of '78. Whenever he is in town, he will work with the Redskin receivers on individual technique. This seems an obvious use of talent, but in the two seasons of his retirement Taylor was not asked by Jack Pardee to say a word to any player.
"Where Charley can help us is with his expertise as a receiver," Gibbs said. "I've talked to Dan Henning (the new assistant head coach) and we've agreed that Charley will be involved in all drill work, such as pass routes and catching drills. It will be good for him and for us."
After 10 years in scouting for the Redskins, Bobby Mitchell in 1978 became executive assistant to the president, Edward Bennett Williams. With owner Jack Kent Cooke taking complete control of the organization's operation, Williams is a do-nothing figurehead. Mitchell's influence fell with Williams, and a man once thought to be in line for the general manager's job suddenly was a man with nothing much to do.
"Bobby will work a lot closer with us now," Gibbs said. "And in addition to his work as a liaison, he will do special assignments such as scouting the entire league, looking at players who might become available as free agents or by waivers or trades."
In the pantheon of Redskin heroes, Mitchell and Taylor stand tall. In 10 years as a running back/wide receiver, the last six with the Redskins, Mitchell gained 14,078 yards, the second highest total in NFL history.Nobody caught more passes than Taylor, the elegant wide receiver who in 13 Redskin seasons made 649 catches for 9,130 yards. Between them, Mitchell and Taylor made 12 Pro Bowl appearances.
The NFL Players Association, with Executive Director Ed Garvey the mouthpiece, is on a crusade against NFL management for what it characterizes as institutional racism. In 1978 the NFLPA commissioned a race-discrimination study by a social scientist from Johns Hopkins University, Dr. Jomills Braddock. Braddock's report was damning.
Studying former players who became coaches, Braddock concluded that over the last 20 years that NFL clubs -- if they hired blacks in the same proportion they hired whites -- should have hired 10 black head coaches and 92 black assistant coaches. Those numbers are the statistical probabilities based on players equal in eduction, experience and leadership -- with the only significant difference being race.
Instead of the 10 black head coaches and 92 assistants, the NFL hired no blacks as bosses and only 20 as assistants.
"And it's getting worse, because nowadays more jobs are available," Garvey said. "Look at the Redskins when theyhired Joe Gibbs. Here you had (general manager) Bobby Beathard going all over the country interviewing people for the job. And there wasn't a single black mentioned. Not even Willie Wood, and he is from Washington (now coaching at Toronto in the Canadian Football League). Three other CFL coaches were mentioned, but not Willie Wood.
"I guess," Garvey said, "it's like H. L. Mencken said. It's easier to love mankind than your neighbor.'"
So when the Redskins seemed to pass up the chance to make Ken Houston and Charley Taylor coaches, I made some phone calls.
Ken Houston said:
"The Redskins have shown interest in me as a coach. Charley Taylor called to ask me. I told him I'd get back to him in a week or so. I haven't done it yet. For one thing, I'm not sure I'm done as a player yet. Sure, I retired as a Redskin. But I'm a free agent now and if some team shows me I could help them, I would consider playing again. No, I've got no gripes with the Redskins on this coach thing. They've been fair to me."
Charley Taylor said:
"They talked to me about coaching, but I just felt it wasn't time to do it.
Maybe a year from now, I'll feel differently. For now I want to stay where I am, in scouting. Coaching takes an apprenticeship and this year I'll have more input than in previous years. I'll work with the young players, showing them things. My life is on the uprise now and my whole career is ahead of me. tI'm very happy the way things are going."
Mitchell, the first black to play for the Redskins, said:
"When you're dealing with Bobby Mitchell, you're dealing with a man who has talent for just about anything. It's up to Bobby Mitchell to decide what kind of job he would accept from the Redskins. I decided I wanted to help Bobby Beathard and Joe Gibbs. I want to stay here a while longer. I want to be a general manager someday, but it would take the whole thing to pull me out of here -- because I am doing so much here. I like it now that I will be totally involved with the players. As for the scouting, when it comes to pro evaluations, I will be the key guy. Fifty percent of my time now will be scouting, 50 percent will be administrative. Bobby (Beathard) and Mr. Cooke are trying to please Bobby Mitchell, and I am pleased."