by Michael Lombardi
October 14, 02009
QUOTE: “Striving for excellence motivates you; striving for perfection is demoralizing.” -- Harriet Braiker
Good morning from Los Angeles. A few items from around the league…
The Chargers are 2-2, but judging from all the noise coming from their building, you would think they’re 0-4. Tuesday on NFL Network, Jason La Canfora mentioned that Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman might be available for trade, and our own Brad Biggs followed up with his own story detailing the lack of relationship between general manager A.J. Smith and Tom Condon, Merriman’s agent.
Merriman is not the same player he was before his injury. He doesn’t have the burst or power he had previously, although they might come as he regains strength in his lower body. It’s almost comical that he tried to play on the knee last year without getting surgery in the offseason. By not having the operation after the 2007 season, Merriman set back his progress at the most critical time in his career -- his contract year.
The hard part in trading Merriman is that the Chargers’ defense needs exactly what he’s supposed to provide: a great pass rush. The fundamental question any team would ask before talking trade would be: Why is he good for us when he’s not good for you? The Chargers will say they don’t want to sign him next year, so they’re willing to take a draft pick this year for him, which is complete bull. The Chargers need a pass rush so badly right now, next year might as well be 100 years away. All they’re thinking about is the present day and how to fix their defense.
Merriman’s name value is high among fans, but his tape evaluation value is not very high among NFL teams, so a trade is not likely to happen. But the Chargers must do something in the next six days to help their team. They’ve been active in the past around the trade deadline and I suspect they’ll be active once again. I wonder, had they known Richard Seymour was available for a 2010 first-round pick would they have made that trade? Seymour would have helped the Chargers much more than he’s helping the Raiders.
The ‘Skins and ‘Love you Bro’...
Our man Matt “I Love Me Some Texans” Bowen wrote Tuesday about the Redskins’ potential interest in Jon “Love You Bro” Gruden as the eventual replacement for current coach Jim Zorn. In many ways, this makes complete sense because Bruce Allen, the former general manager of the Bucs and a close friend of Gruden, has a very good relationship with Redskins owner Daniel Snyder. Snyder grew up loving the Redskins since Bruce’s late father George took them to the Super Bowl in the 1972 season.
This is complete speculation on my part, but I’m confident that Allen has told Snyder numerous times that Gruden is the right man for this job. Allen has relationships with many former ‘Skins players who have Snyder’s ear, so he’s undoubtedly heard this from others as well. Gruden would clearly upgrade the Redskins’ offense, and he would also upgrade the talent level on the offense. He would also be in another situation without a quarterback, but this time I believe he would select one very early in the draft.
Where would this put Vinny Cerrato, the current GM? That’s a tough one to answer because Gruden and Allen are very close -- in fact, they watch tape together during the week as Gruden prepares for his ESPN game assignment. If Gruden gets the ‘Skins job, it will be because of Allen, so one would assume that Allen would have a role on the team.
The challenge in Washington is much like the challenge in Oakland. The next coach must recognize that there’s a flaw in the culture and bring players into the locker room who can assist him in making changes. I was told by a former player that the locker room is not conducive to winning. There’s not sense of team, just a bunch of players who view themselves as independent contractors. Clinton Portis is the self-appointed leader, but his idea of leadership is far from building team unity. Portis is the “owner’s best friend,” and when the owner has a direct pipeline into the locker room, this makes team building impossible.
Playing in Washington now is much like playing in Oakland — an involved owner who over-values talent and couldn’t care less about team building. Gruden was successful changing that culture in Oakland. If he’s selected in Washington, I’m sure he can do the same.
There was a saying we would frequently use in Oakland: “The jungle is never dangerous if you know the trails.” Gruden knows those trails very well.
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