Dealing with Coaching Changes #StoryTimeWithArmstrong

By Anthony Armstrong

Yesterday morning, the Washington Redskins relieved Jay Gruden of his duties as head coach of the team.  Some players voiced pleasure, and others had thanks and kind words for their former head man. Both are equally correct in the praise or critique.  Quinton Dunbar spoke about the opportunity to move to DB which has paid dividends for him. Since switching from wide receiver to DB, Dunbar has recently signed a 3-year, $5.7 million deal with the team.  Others voiced displeasure about how the team had been run.

As a player on a team that has faced a coaching change during the season, it means you are auditioning every single week.  Whatever the prior head coach thought of you is worth the filler paper they add to gift bags. You have to impress the eventual new coach by your performance on the field and in practice since the heir to the HC throne could already be in the building or watching from afar.

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After I joined Washington in 2009, Jim Zorn was the head coach, but there were rumblings of a change coming.  Having come from the Miami Dolphins that had Bill Parcells written all over it, Redskins Park was wayyyy different.  I recall teammates coming in late to meetings, on their phones during meetings, and basically doing everything opposite of what I had experienced in Miami.  As HaHa Davis would say, “They were acting UNUSUAL!”

A few weeks later, Bruce Allen was hired as general manager and the rumbles grew louder, and Mike Shanahan was the lead dog in the race.  I was just on practice squad at the time with a couple of weeks remaining in the season. I did have an opportunity to leave Washington and go down to Jacksonville.  I would’ve been active for the final week which would mean a bigger paycheck.  

Morocco Brown was my saving grace.  I didn’t know what to do, but he broke it down to me like this.  I could leave and go try and impress a new coaching staff, and make Gene Smith look like a genius.  He had tried to sign me earlier in the year. Door number two meant to stay on board and impress the new guy and have familiarity with the organization.  I chose door number two.

When there is a regime change, you can expect massive change.  New head coaches generally lead to an entirely new coaching staff, and everybody has “their guy.”  It usually stems from a previous relationship with the player, via the draft or being a previous coach.

The best part, everyone is on a clean slate.  Whatever happened in the past doesn’t matter, but you best believe that they will watch the practice tape.  Anyone who stays with the team through the transition will be a resource for the players who stick around. 

If it wasn’t for the decision to stay in DC and work to impress Mike and Kyle Shanahan, there’s no telling how my career would’ve ended up. 


Anthony Armstrong

About Anthony Armstrong

Anthony is a retired NFL Wide Receiver who played 7 years with the Dallas Cowboys, Miami Dolphins & Washington Redskins.