Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Good for McNabb; Athletic Director hire is critical at Army – Bob Beretta is the right person for the job

I am only going to waste a little bit more time on The Redskins and L’Affaire Shanahan-McNabb and some of your responses to the whole thing today for the simple reason that I have something far more important that I need to get on the record.

I want to say one more time that I REALLY appreciate the number of people who have taken the time to read and listen to exactly what I actually wrote and actually said and comment on it. Some of you agreed; some didn’t but that’s fine—we’re talking opinions here. Yes, I still think Shanahan should be fired and that what he did was despicable. And, now that the real figures on the new McNabb contract have come out, here’s what I think: Dan Snyder basically gave him $3.5 million in hush money to not go public with how he honestly about the whole thing the rest of the season. While I think signing McNabb for two more years is the right way to go—if not McNabb at quarterback then who? I think leaving the whole question of whether the Redskins will actually commit $13 million to McNabb next year up in the air leaves all the same doubts lingering as were lingering a week ago. Getting his name on that contract was nothing more than a PR move by a PR obsessed owner and coach.

McNabb is in a win-win: he gets $3.5 million for doing nothing except not talking and if he and Shanahan continue to feud, he’ll probably be a free agent next year. If not, he’s got big bucks guaranteed. Good for him.

And last on my pal Rick Reilly: If you are a fan of his, that’s just fine. But seriously to the couple of you who think I’d like his job—are you serious? I had more chances to go to work for ESPN than I’ve had chances to over-eat. The Washington Post vs. ESPN? Are you kidding me? As for my books, well, I’m okay with how they’ve done and been received through the years. I’m currently working on my 28th book so I guess a few people have bought them. As one person wrote: ‘Let’s see, ‘Caddy For Life,’ vs. ‘Who’s Your Caddy?’—which would you rather have on your resume?’

I’ll leave it at that.

Now for something that really matters to me. Army is looking for a new athletic director right now. As anyone who has ever read this blog knows I care deeply about both Army and Navy and the people—especially the athletes—who are part of the two schools.

I have watched in horror for most of 15 years now as Army has made one horrific mistake after another. The 0-13 football season a few years back wasn’t an accident. Nor are the eight straight losses—all of them one-sided---to Navy. Army FINALLY got something right two years ago when then-Athletic Director Kevin Anderson hired Rich Ellerson as football coach. Here’s what Anderson did: he put together a search committee that consisted almost wholly of ex-Army football players and coaches. People who knew Army and understood Army. Almost everyone given serious consideration for the job had an Army background—including Ellerson, whose father and uncle went to Army; the latter being captain of the 1962 football team.

Back in 1995, when I was researching ‘A Civil War,’ I was asked my opinion on Army possibly joining Conference-USA. I remember my first reaction when asked because it was while standing on the practice field on a cold November afternoon with then-Athletic Director Al Vanderbush (one of the best men I’ve ever known). When Al brought it up I looked at him and said, “You’re joking right?”

No one at Army was joking. They joined the conference and it was a disaster. Then, when Vanderbush retired, I pleaded with then superintendent Dan Christman (also a wonderful guy) to hire my friend Tom Mickle. Tom was a close friend but I brought him up only because he was one of the brightest people I’ve ever known in college athletics. At my request, Mike Krzyzewski, who knew Mickle well, called on Tom’s behalf. He never got interviewed.

Instead, on the recommendation of a headhunter, Rick Greenspan was hired. That hiring worked out about as well as Custer’s decision to take on the Indians at Little Big Horn. Greenspan—who also destroyed Indiana basketball with his foolish, arrogant hiring of Kelvin Sampson—came in having already decided to fire Bob Sutton, who was struggling because Army simply couldn’t compete in Conference-USA. (To be fair, Sutton had also favored that move but learned quickly it was a mistake) Greenspan had also already decided to hire Todd Berry, who had been his football coach at Illinois State to replace Sutton—which he did one year after getting the job. Two people who were interested in the job back then who Greenspan had no interest in were Jim Tressel and Paul Johnson.

How did THAT move work out? Berry went 5-45, including the fabulous 0-13 (he was fired in midseason but he did the work that led to it) in 2003. After Army had lost to Navy 58-10 to end 2002 and Berry had thrown his players completely under the bus after the game, I pleaded with anyone who would listen—actually I pleaded mostly with people who wouldn’t listen—to get him out of there; that the senior class of 2003 deserved someone who would actually support them, regardless of record. Of course no one listened and Greenspan and I had a shouting match about it.

“Did you really say I should fire Todd after the Navy game?” he asked me.

“Actually no Rick, I said he should resign to show some dignity and YOU should be fired for hiring him.”

Greenspan was glad I cleared THAT up. He had to fire Berry the next season because the losses were SO lopsided. Then he hired Bobby Ross—a great coach who wasn’t the right fit for Army at that point in his career. Ross quit three years later in February leaving Anderson (by then the AD) with no choice but to hire offensive line coach Stan Brock, who was, well, a good offensive line coach. FINALLY after two more awful years, Anderson got it right when he fired Brock at the end of the ’08 season and hired Ellerson.

Here’s my point in all this: Anderson left early in the fall to take the Maryland job. Army MUST get the AD hiring right to continue in the right direction. As usual, the school has gone out and hired a headhunter. WRONG, WRONG, WRONG. Here’s how headhunters work: If you already work at the school, you have no chance to get hired because then they can’t claim, “We FOUND Joe Blow for Army.”

That’s how Greenspan got hired and Army is still climbing out of that hole. This time the choice is easy if the people at Army want to get it right: Senior Associate Athletic Director Bob Beretta. I know I mentioned this briefly a couple months ago but now the interview process is about to begin. Beretta has been at Army for 20 years. As with Ellerson, as with the search committee that hired Ellerson, he GETS Army and loves Army. Anderson is a bright guy; I guarantee you he will tell you it took him at least two years to begin to understand what he was dealing with at West Point. Beretta won’t need a learning curve. He’s already been given great responsibility by Anderson the last couple of years.

Army needs the right AD, one who understands Army RIGHT NOW. It doesn’t need another Rick Greenspan (God Forbid) or even someone who has to come in and figure the place out—even if he’s a good guy. It doesn’t need a headhunter who knows ZIP about the academy telling it who is right for the academy. So this is a public plea to anyone who cares about Army: Write to Superintendent David Huntoon and tell him to go through whatever hoops he has to in order to make the search look ‘national,’ but hire Beretta. This is important.

Army-Navy is like no other rivalry in sports. The two schools should matter to all of us because of their missions. Army has gotten so much wrong in recent years. It needs to get this hire right. And it isn’t even HARD. Make sure the superintendent understands that.


Anonymous said...

I believe that I have read and understood the comments that you made about Coach Shanahan's failure to simply state that he is the coach and has the right and, ultimately, the responsibility to change quarterbacks if he believes that it will help the team in a particular set of circumstances. I also think that it is quite possible that "code words" are at issue, and that the flashback to the bad old days of tagging any player's intellectual capabilities based on those terms would be both reprehensible and detrimental to any team that has personnel decision makers that think that way. I can't quite overlook, however, your response to the criticism by Rick Reilly where you say that he could have called you to get clarification of your commentary. I see nothing in any of the writing that you have done that indicates that you contacted Coach Shanahan to give him the same type of opportunity to clarify his comments. I enjoy reading both of you, but here you are calling Mr. Reilly out on a failure that is equally apparent in your own position piece. If you are looking for the protection that comes with the chance to explain yourself, it seems fair to offer the same to those that you will criticize for the, potentially, underthought statements that we can all pop off at times. Just sayin'.

Tim said...

John - I know you've had enough battles on your plate in the last week or two, but since you haven't seemed to mention Tiger Woods in what feels like weeks, and since Mike and Mike makes your skin crawl, I can imagine what goes thru your head in the am with that interview could be quite entertaining...hopefully, you share. Can you imagine the wonderful 8-10 day stretch that would cap off? Then, you can go back to a happy go lucky Navy, college basketball or anti-bcs rant next week.

Good to know your tidbit on Derek Anderson today -- I don't know what to think about him, but Maryland certainly needed an upgrade from Yow.

Thanks for the blog - enjoy reading, even the disagreeable topics.

Scott said...


I'm not sure why you don't favor conference affiliation for Army (or even Navy for that matter). Air Force had the insight long ago that conference membership was critical for the football program. Just take a look at the schedules this year for all of the academies and it is pretty evident which is the most difficult. I'd submit that helps Air Force in many ways.

The problem is that even though Army has definitely improved on the gridiron, it hasn't been against a Murderer's Row of competition. (Navy's schedule is slightly tougher). I'd hate to see Army get into the habit of seeking "lesser competition" just to get to six wins and a bowl game.

It sounds like you have a good suggestion for AD, and I agree it is a critical position. I'd like to think, however, that Army will still seek ways to become more competitive, either through conference membership or tougher scheduling.

bevo said...

I wrote it previously in the comments and will repeat it again. Bob Beretta would be a great choice for Army. He is the model of professionalism and is Mr. Cadet Athletics.

As to Rick Reilly, he is a hack who will never, ever hold Dan Jenkins' jock. Jenkins threw away better columns than Reilly ever published.

Anonymous said...

I always enjoy your thoughts you post on the internet.

Also you and Mr. Tony are wonderful radio!!

Gunnar said...

Turnover at the three most important posts in College athletics, football coach, basketball coach, athletic director, is the death of athletic programs. Of course you have to fire people for non-performance, but a little patience builds long-term success. Coach K was 4 games over .500 in his first eight head coaching seasons, and never took a team to the NCAA tournament in those years. He has done very well since then.

Anonymous said...


Did you see Jim Vance have a "Junior moment" on last night's 6pm news? Haber was giving a recap of the latest nonsense coming out of Landover when he got to the video of Haynesworth resting on the turf while Vick threw a TD pass. The camera cut to Vance leaning back in his chair and then muttered, "Jesus Christ!"

John from Indiana said...

OK, I have to admit, I'm bored to death with Mike Shanahan, Donovan McNabb, and Army (Although as a person that lives in the shadow of the recently not so Golden Dome, I am mildly interested to see how the Eye Rash handle the Army Option attack at Yankee Stadium). What I am really interested in is knowing just who is getting follow-up visits from a certain "Venerable Scribe." Could we possibly have a sneak peak at who we will be reading about again over Spring Break next April?? My curiosity is just killing me.

Anonymous said...

I would love to see John's column if Army hires Rutgers' Pernetti to be its next AD.

Anonymous said...

"The Washington Post vs. ESPN? Are you kidding me?" Relax, Feinstein--you're not exactly Woodward and Bernstein over there. You write a sports column.

And BTW, I'm sure the irony of your dismissiveness isn't lost on you on the day that your colleague, Wilbon, faced that very decision--and chose ESPN. How many days before you unleash the ad hominems on him?

Anonymous said...

"The Washington Post vs. ESPN?" If you actually need the truth on a story, does anyone go to the Washington Post? Circulation is down and losses are in the millions per quarter for a reason, we don't trust you.

Anonymous said...

John Feinstein, you are a shameless self promoter for your own career and your wife's as well. (Why else would you constantly refer to her as "Mary Carillo" like you are an objective viewer and don't know her?)
You throwing out the race card in this McNabb/Shanahan issue is old, very tired and nothing more than racial sensationalism. Mike Shanahan is an easy target. He wore out his welcome in Denver and is the latest bad decision by Daniel Snyder. You're making him look good with this weak, out dated attack...It's not journalism; but it worked. The entire electronic media is buzzing about you....Now go back to calling talk shows to your rube buddies like Jim Rome and promoting yourself on how many books you can churn out. You have lost any credibility you may have earned with your writing skills.