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.