The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Phillip Daniels said he was ‘on an island’ when he worked for the Redskins

(Toni L. Sandys / TWP)

In February 2012, the Redskins hired former defensive lineman Phillip Daniels as their director of player development.

“We welcome Phillip back to the Redskins family,” Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen said at the time. “His 15 years of NFL experience will be a great asset for our football team.”

A year later, Daniels was out.

One person with knowledge of the situation said that Daniels wanted to get into coaching, but that he wasn’t going to get that opportunity with the Redskins,” Mike Jones reported at the time.

Daniels recently talked at great length about his one-year tenure with the team. Appearing on the Two Guys and a Goat podcast (around the 41:00 mark), Daniels talked about his pride in the young players he mentored, including Robert Griffin III. He said he still feels like he’s a part of the organization, that young players would come into his office to chat, that some told him it was easier to talk to him than the coaches, that the team employed a good group of admirable players who almost never got into trouble.

But Daniels also made it clear that he could have gotten more satisfaction out of the job. He was asked, for example, what it was like to be a part of the team’s coaching staff.

“First off, you’re not even part of the coaching staff,” Daniels said. “I mean, that’s what that position is supposed to be. They label you as part of the coaching staff, but you’re not. You’re really by yourself. You’re doing it on your own, especially with the Redskins. They really didn’t offer the help that some of the other teams offer, so I had to do a lot of that stuff by myself.”

One of the hosts pointed out that Daniels sounded like he had some regrets, that the position could have been more than it was.

“Yeah, I agree,” Daniels said. “There’s a lot of things that other people in my position on other teams, they got. I just say it like this: I never had a budget or anything like that. I never had that. I couldn’t do things for the guys’ families that I wanted to do. I wanted to help the guys out  in every way possible. There were a lot of ideas I had that could have made things a lot better for the players and their families, and I just couldn’t do that.

“My thing is, I felt like I was on an island most of the time,” Daniels went on. “For instance, I never met with Coach [Mike] Shanahan or Bruce [Allen] the whole time I was there. I was just there, in my office, taking care of business. And they never called a meeting to meet with me and say ‘How are the players doing?’ I never got that meeting. And I used to talk to the development guys on other teams, and they’d tell me that they’d meet with their guys three or four times a week sometimes. Sometimes [coaches would] call a meeting just to say, ‘Let’s check on the guys.’ And I didn’t  get that.

“So I kind of felt like I was left on an island, and a lot of things I wanted to do I couldn’t do,” Daniels said. “But at the same time, I enjoyed my job, I enjoyed doing what I did, helping those guys. For me, I really didn’t care if they gave me the help or not. I knew what I was there for. I knew that the man above wanted me to come in there and mold those guys into what they needed to become and how they needed to be as men. And that’s what I did. So yeah, I didn’t get the perks, and that position could be a whole lot better, and the guy in that position right now is probably going through the same thing I went through. He’s probably not meeting with them all the time, he probably [doesn’t] have a budget or anything like that, so he can take care of the families, take them out to dinner, something like that. But at the same time, they do what they want to do, and I kind of just moved along and tried to do the best I could to help those players become better men.”

Daniels was then asked if this is symbolic of Washington’s on-field struggles in recent years: a perceived shortcoming in something easy that might have larger repercussions.

“I talked to Charley Casserly,” Daniels responded. “He talked to me for a while after I left that job, and he asked me what happened, and how I liked the job and everything. And I kind of told him how I felt. He asked me how times times did I meet with Bruce and those guys, and I told him I never met with them. He pointed out, that kind of puts you on an island. You asked how I felt; I felt like I was on an island. Charley said to me, if there’s one thing I know, it’s that when things are going good outside those lines, it makes things a lot easier when they’re inside those lines. And I said you’re right.

“When everything’s going good at home, when you don’t have to worry about your players outside the lines, when you know they’re taken care of and you’re doing everything you can to take care of them outside the lines, then when they step on that field you know they’re focused, you know they’re ready to play,” Daniels said. “And I can tell you right now from being a player there, I can remember all the players being mad at the guys in that position when I was there. Because it went on before Bruce got there, now. This has been going on for a long time.

“When we got there, I came from Chicago, where the wives, the girlfriends, everybody, they went on trips, they went on cruises, they went to Oprah Winfrey’s show, they did all this stuff,” Daniels said. “They had a budget and everything to do this for them. And when we got to the Redskins, I remember my wife looking at me one day and saying ‘They don’t do nothing for the families here.’ And I was like, ‘You’re right, and it’s kind of sad.’

“[John Jefferson] used to be the guy in the position when I was there, and we used to get mad at JJ and say ‘You don’t do nothing, you just sit on your butt doing nothing.’ We would say that to him, all the time,” Daniels said. “But it wasn’t until I got in that position that I realized that he couldn’t do anything. There was nothing for him to do but try to keep guys out of trouble, put stuff in their lockers to try to get them to understand that they don’t need to do this or that. But that’s it. Other than that, there was basically nothing he could do. And I didn’t realize that until I got in that position, and that’s when it hit me that ok, this has been going on for a long time.”

Host Brian Murphy then told a story Gary Clark had related, about the large number of Redskins alumni who used to show up just to hang out at Redskins Park, and how that no longer happens.

“You’ve got to feel welcome, and that’s the main thing,” Daniels said. “And I think Bruce is trying to do a lot for the alumni. Actually, to tell you the truth, he do a lot more for the alumni than he do for the players on the team. I just feel like you’ve got to feel welcome. Those guys got to feel like they’re wanted. I didn’t see many guys come around the facility. When I was in Chicago, guys came around all the time. They knew a lot of the guys there and they’d come in and just talk, whatever. I’d see them in the locker room every now and then.

“The Redskins: the only person I saw was Joe Theismann,” Daniels said. “He’d come through all the time. But other than him, I didn’t see the other players that much. We had to go out and about to their functions to really see them. And I think Bruce is trying to get the alumni back in there by inviting them to practices, and he do that Homecoming every year. But again, that could be a lot better, because still a lot of guys are not getting invited to that. I had several guys contact me that first year he did it when I was there and say how can we get on the list to be able to come to this. And I said you didn’t know about it? They said no. Then last year, I wasn’t invited, because I wasn’t working for them anymore….

“It could be a whole lot better if they just worked with the guy in the developmental system, worked with him and make sure he’s got everything he needs for the families,” Daniels concluded. “I’m gonna tell you this, a lot of times, when families come to that team — if those wives are unhappy, if those girlfriends are unhappy, it makes a big difference on whether they stay or not when free agency comes around. Because they’re gonna be the first ones to say, if the money’s close, let’s leave. They aren’t saying if the money’s close let’s stay; they’re saying if the money’s close, let’s leave.”