As the Redskins interview a reported throng of prospective head coaches, you could always reminisce about a sunny day in a college press box where you turned around, gazed a row above and spotted Daniel Snyder. He apparently attempted to evaluate a promising quarterback, and even then in 2001 you could have wondered: Does the quarterback know he's here? And if the quarterback knows he's here, what should the quarterback do?
Should the quarterback drift into self-sabotage so as to dissuade Snyder from endorsing him for drafting? Should the quarterback mix in an interception here or there just in case Snyder knows what that means? Should the quarterback spruce up his interception(s) with some sort of fundamental gaffe, such as throwing late and back over the middle, so that somebody might whisper to Snyder that this is not a good sign?
Or - or! - should the quarterback go ahead and excel in subtle but football-meaningful ways, hoping that alone would deter Snyder?
To think that day came a dozen years ago, long before the Washington dysfunction metastasized into a farcical wonder capable of stirring joy out of driving around Washington listening to talk radio. To think it came so soon after that storybook last Wednesday in May 1999, when the NFL owners approved the Snyder purchase by 31-0 even while unaware of how much he would help their franchises. To think it came only 28 months after Snyder said to the fans, "Your most pressing issue is no different than mine. You want to win, we want to win, and we're going to deliver that."
Win and deliver they did, 104 times out of 240 across the next 15 regular seasons, two times out of six when happening upon playoffs. They won 11 times out of 18 in the 1999-2000 season - before the owner even had a chance to take full effect, and once he really got entrenched, wow, they amassed 66 wins - in 160 games across the last 10 seasons. They have been winning and winning and winning, 66 times, inter-spliced with other outcomes.
Now comes a golden chance to hire an eighth head coach in the last 15 years - actually 14 years, seven months and a week - and now a sprawling group of men faces a ticklish predicament similar to that of the college quarterback. There aren't many NFL head coaching jobs. It's bad form to rebuff interest when interest comes, even interest from hell. How best to practice the ancient human art of self-sabotage?
Granted, any of the myriad candidates could say, "I'm not interested unless you change the franchise name." That could work but might wreak uncomfortable media hubbub. So any might say, "I look forward to the inevitable chance to collect gobs of money for sitting around doing nothing after I'm gone before my contract expires," as with Mike Shanahan and $7 million for 2014.
That might be too blatant.
Subtle, semi-subliminal self-sabotage would seem the best strategy for avoiding the prolonged headache of employment in a regime explained in enviable detail in this luminous piece of work from Kent Babb of the Washington Post.
Those in the crosshairs:
Darrell Bevell, Offensive Coordinator, Seattle Seahawks
That conversation already has begun, and for Bevell's sake, we can hope only that it contained a passage along the lines of, "We finished fourth in rushing in the NFL. We have the best defense in the NFL. We had the fourth-fewest number of turnovers in the NFL. We have the best defense in the NFL. Our eagerness and edginess in wishing to perform shows in our ranking as the most penalized unit in the NFL. We have the best defense in the NFL."
Sean McDermott, Defensive Coordinator, Carolina Panthers
"We had 60 sacks this year. We finished second in points allowed, yards allowed. We went to San Francisco and held the 49ers to three field goals. We employed a creative strategy to help defeat Tom Brady at the end. In that light, I think it's totally unfair that I became the first offensive or defensive coordinator fired during Andy Reid's first 12 seasons in Philadelphia. I don't know why Reid fired me. I really don't know why Reid fired me, but Reid fired me. Reid fired me."
Jim Caldwell, Offensive Coordinator, Baltimore Ravens
"The very fact I took Wake Forest to the Aloha Bowl in 1999 - and won! - puts me in the stratosphere within view of Larry Brown taking the 1990s Clippers to the playoffs twice in a row. If you'll recall, I had the best start of any rookie head coach in NFL history in Indianapolis, 14 wins in a row until a GM meddled and screwed it up, whereupon I still reached the Super Bowl, where I lost. Two years after I lost the Super Bowl - yeah, we lost - like many a very good coach, after losing the Super Bowl, the difference between having a gifted quarterback versus having an injured gifted quarterback. Hey (tapping Snyder's arm), you might have some experience with that."
Perry Fewell, Defensive Coordinator, New York Giants
"I've demonstrated my unquestionable skill at five NFL stops, and if you'll remember, I had a stint as an interim head coach in Buffalo. We went 3-4 in a tough situation for a percentage of .429, very similar to your .427 with untold resources in your 15 years here."
Hue Jackson, Special Assistant to the Head Coach, Cincinnati Bengals (endorsed by the Fritz Pollard Alliance, according to the Washington Post):
"I went 8-8 in a difficult situation in one season as head coach in Oakland. Your keen knowledge of coaches who go 8-8 in one season in a difficult situation makes us an ideal marriage."
Art Briles, Head Coach, Baylor University (much-discussed potential candidate):
"Hope you watched the Fiesta Bowl and noticed our offense."