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Gregg Williams article from 2006 & 2007--great stuff

Discussion in 'RAMS - NFL TALK' started by SteveBrown, Jun 21, 2014.

  1. SteveBrown

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    Mar 31, 2014
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    Gregg Williams is in his "redemtpion" year...He will make a big name (bigger) for himself....everything is in place to do it...this article reveals his arrogance, which is what
    kept him under other forces of nature (poetic license, please)

    articles from 2006 & 2007 on the bad G.Wms D of 2006
    Discussion in 'RAMS BOARD' started by zn2, Thursday at 10:01 PM.

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      Coordinator Assumes Old Defensive Crouch

      The Redskins defense built by Gregg Williams, above, struggled greatly this season. With the decline came accusations of arrogance, also heard when Williams was head coach in Buffalo.

      By Les Carpenter
      Washington Post Staff Writer
      Wednesday, January 3, 2007

      As a young man growing up in the Kansas City suburb of Excelsior Springs, Mo., he was always the most important athlete -- the quarterback, the pitcher, the point guard. This mattered to Gregg Williams because each role came with prestige, a trust in his leadership that was implicit even if those outside the game never understood the subtleties of his charge.

      And yet these were the ones he worried about, the ones who saw him hanging around the locker room every day, sized him up in his cleats and dismissed him with the phrase he hated most.

      "Dumb jock."

      The Washington Redskins' assistant head coach for defense, the man who holds the option of being the next head coach when Joe Gibbs leaves, carries the scar left from those two words. He refers to it as "a chip on my shoulder." He says this one night last week as he sits in his corner office at Redskins Park with the blinds pulled down, surrounded by tidy shelves of binders and notebooks. His desktop is impeccable, scrubbed gleaming clean with prim piles of books and papers. If a machine playing game tapes didn't sit on a shelf behind him, you might think he doesn't even use this desk.

      But Williams is organized. He keeps background on every assistant coach in the league, tucking the information into blue folders that hang without moving in his desk drawer. He keeps these, he says, in case he "ever gets stupid" and wants to be a head coach again in the NFL, as he was for three seasons in Buffalo. Not that he does. No way, not now, he says in his clipped western Missouri accent, in which words such as "you" come out as "ya." He is here for Gibbs because he wants to be around Gibbs, because he sees Gibbs as the best person at pulling men together that he has ever known. He wants to learn from this.

      He has a goal: to learn something from every practice he ever coaches. He signs his signature large and neat because he once saw Jim Kelly, the Bills quarterback, do the same thing and asked why. Kelly told him, "If you can't read the name, does that mean the person isn't proud of who they are?"

      Williams is proud of who he is, of the defenses he has made, of the awards he has won that he chooses not to display in his office -- a fact he makes a point of noting. He talks confidently about the speaking engagements he does all over the country, talking about leadership, authority, teamwork -- basically anything the organizers request.

      He doesn't want any of this publicly known because he knows it will probably be misconstrued and add to a growing legacy of a coach too smug, too elitist, who thinks he is three steps ahead of everybody else. But he eventually relents because he isn't some rock-headed lug from Excelsior Springs. He doesn't have to be a football coach, you know. And in some way he wants people to understand that, too.

      Maybe it wouldn't have been an issue had the Redskins defense he maneuvered, twisted and cajoled into the No. 3 overall ranking in 2004 and No. 9 last year not tumbled to 31st this season -- signaling an alarming trend for a man known for his defensive genius: As the team has added players he's chosen, its performance has deteriorated. Another time, this season might have been written off as simply bad luck, a shrug at injuries at key positions or an admission that the Cover-2 defense he and others have used successfully in recent seasons might be cycling into ineffectiveness.

      But a story appeared on ESPN.com in November quoting an anonymous player, believed by many in the Redskins organization to be safety Adam Archuleta -- a player Williams desired in free agency -- attacking Williams for being arrogant and accusing him of destroying a good defense to satisfy his own ego. Essentially it said the kid from Excelsior Springs who never wanted to be the dumb jock had become too smart for his own good.

      How Much Blame?

      The story was widely read around the league. Williams said he was flooded with text messages from players so vehement in their support that he joked they were putting together "hit squads and assassination squads."

      The piece seemed to wound him. More importantly, it led many in the NFL to wonder: How much of this Redskins season might actually be his fault?

      Gregg can be stubborn," said an NFL assistant who asked not to be identified because he considers Williams a friend and admires his coaching. "He believes he's the one who will make guys do things they haven't done before. He will say, 'Adam Archuleta might not be able to play in pass coverage, but he will for me,' or, 'LaVar Arrington can't do these things, but he will do them for me.' "

      One of Williams's great strengths has been his ability to take the base "46" defense of his first NFL mentor, Buddy Ryan, and adapt it to whatever situation arises. For instance, when he was the Tennessee Titans' defensive coordinator in 1999, the season they went to the Super Bowl, his teams used lots of man-to-man coverage on pass plays. The next year, with a defense less suited to such coverages, he used almost no man-to-man. The Titans wound up with the top-ranked pass defense in the NFL that season.

      Three years ago, when he joined the Redskins, he was able to take a pieced-together secondary, maximize a gem in undrafted linebacker Antonio Pierce and put together one of the best defenses in the NFL. "I'll give Williams his credit. A lot of us were surprised by what he got out of them, but there is not a lot of talent there," said one general manager who did not want to be quoted by name because he was speaking about another team. "They kind of did it with smoke and mirrors."

      But Pierce became a free agent two years ago and left for the New York Giants in part, some around the team believe, because Williams thought he was expendable. One coach with knowledge of the situation who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution said he doesn't believe Williams told Redskins owner Daniel Snyder that Pierce was irreplaceable. Had he done so, the coach said, Snyder probably would have matched the Giants' offer.

      "That one's on Gregg. He got what he wanted," the coach said.

      Williams maintains that he stays out of his players' financial affairs. He says he wants to know nothing about contracts and goes out of his way to not pay attention to the numbers. He thinks if he knows much about the contracts, his judgment as a coach might be affected. His job is to teach, he says, not worry about salaries.

      Still, the coach said that Williams did not mind letting Arrington, a linebacker, leave via free agency along with cornerback Walt Harris and safeties Ryan Clark and Omar Stoutmire. The loss of Harris and Clark especially became problematic when Shawn Springs, the team's only true cover cornerback, was injured and couldn't play the season's first five weeks, leaving the team to use players such as Kenny Wright and Mike Rumph.

      The moves failed miserably. Harris, now in San Francisco, tied for third in the league in interceptions this year with eight. Wright had one interception, while Rumph played in seven games and was released last week. Gone, too, was the buffer Clark provided for the moody but gifted safety Sean Taylor, who has not responded well to his friend's departure. At one point during the season, several Redskins players called Clark, now in Pittsburgh, to see if he had any advice on how to reach Taylor.

      Worse were the players Williams wanted in free agency: Archuleta and defensive end Andre Carter. Both were big-name players whose shortcomings had become more pronounced in recent seasons.

      Archuleta was so bad a fit he was yanked from the starting squad in the middle of drills one day in November. Troy Vincent trotted out to replace him and Archuleta barely saw the field in ensuing weeks. And nobody has ever told him why, he said.

      Williams said he had as much say as the rest of the people in the organization over which players the Redskins signed, meaning when a transaction happened it was because everybody agreed it was the right thing to do, not just him. But the perception among many personnel people in the NFL is that Williams was allowed to pick his defensive players and then implored Gibbs to force Vinny Cerrato, the team's vice president of football operations, to get those players.

      Either way, there was a sense in the locker room as this season started the Redskins no longer had the players on defense to keep up. "I think we need to upgrade the talent -- a lot," Springs said.

      The Other Side of the Ball

      When the Redskins hired Al Saunders to run their offense last winter, one NFL assistant said Williams was troubled by the move, not from any dislike for Saunders but because he worried that Saunders's frenetic offense, which often produced touchdowns quickly, would put pressure on Williams's defense. With the pace of the game accelerated, the defense would naturally give up more yards and points and its ranking would suffer.

      "I can't do this," the assistant said Williams told him. The assistant asked that he not be identified by name because he considers both men to be friends.

      When asked about this, Williams said he has a high regard for Saunders going back to Super Bowl XXXIV, when Saunders's Rams beat Williams's Titans. In fact, Williams is convinced he's the reason Saunders is with the Redskins, having gone through his file on the coach while he himself was on several lists for head coaching openings last January. He decided if he were to be offered a job, Saunders would be his first choice for offensive coordinator, a fact he said he mentioned to Gibbs one day.

      A few days later, Gibbs walked into Williams's office and said he had hired Saunders, shocking Williams, who never knew the Redskins were courting him.

      "I hired him because of what you told me about him," Williams remembered Gibbs telling him.

      Williams smiled. "He's here because of me bragging on him to Coach" Gibbs, he said.

      Either way, to outsiders, Saunders's offense has in fact affected the Redskins' defense -- a lot. Cowboys Coach Bill Parcells mentioned as much in a New York Times magazine article in the fall. While watching game tape of the Redskins, he noted how little regard Saunders seemed to have for his defensive coordinator. The NFL assistant who said Williams fretted about the hiring has watched the Redskins this season specifically to see how Williams would deal with the faster pace of the offense. He agreed with Parcells's assessment, adding that it was the biggest reason for Washington's defensive collapse.

      The same league assistant who spoke of Williams's stubbornness has broken down the Redskins' game tapes and said defensive players weren't getting time to rest because Saunders's offense was not putting together sustained drives, as it did in 2005. Either Washington scored fast or the complex system stalled, pushing the offense off the field after three plays. Neither was conducive to defensive dominance, the assistant said.

      "Scoring points in this league is great," the assistant said. "But sometimes you can score too quickly."

      Williams did not want to discuss the subject, saying he would never criticize another coach publicly. "We have a responsibility to play our defense," he said.

      He said he has other beliefs as to why the Redskins' defense didn't work this year. Twice in a 1 1/2 -hour talk, he pointed out that the other teams in the NFC East made big offseason acquisitions that helped their teams become more explosive. And because his team has to face those defenses twice a year, the challenge was greater. The statistics support this, as Philadelphia and Dallas are among the top five offenses in the NFL.

      In fact, seven of Washington's games this year were against the top six offensive teams in the NFL.

      "The trend is more offensive production in the league," Williams said.

      'They Wanted Me to Be Hard'

      Not long after he was named the head coach of the Buffalo Bills in 2001, Williams was told what his mandate would be: The team's administration wanted a disciplinarian who would be tough on players. He already had a reputation for being a taskmaster with the Titans, but in the new job he was supposed to be extra brutal. "They wanted me to be hard," he recalled.

      Williams took to the challenge with gusto. He barked out orders, swore profusely, laid out a list of rules and had everyone awakened at training camp to the blasts of a bullhorn. He made everyone run laps when somebody made a mistake. He snapped that star linebacker Sam Cowart should move from the outside to the inside without complaint because that's what he -- the coach -- wanted him to do. All of it was designed to make him the tough guy.

      "Gregg did everything that was asked of him. He was a team player," said Tom Donahoe, who was the Bills' president at the time and hired Williams.

      On the field, Williams managed to take a 3-13 team his first year to within a win of the playoffs the next season when it finished 8-8. But he also gained a reputation as being arrogant and removed. "He was not like that in Tennessee," said a league general manager who requested anonymity because he and Williams have friends in common. "A lot of people said he changed in Buffalo. He thought he was all that."

      But things also happened in Buffalo, things that happen to a lot of head coaches but nonetheless seem to rattle Williams to this day. Like the time right after he finally moved his family from Nashville a few months after taking the job. They had been in their home for two days when neighbors invited them to a party. Thinking it was the right thing to do, they went. Almost instantly, he recalled, he was besieged by fans who kept him pinned in a corner, burying the new coach of the Bills with questions. To demonstrate this, he got up from his desk at Redskins Park and thrust himself in the corner of his office between the refrigerator and a bookshelf.

      In his hand, he said, he held a can of beer from which he insisted he took no more than about two sips. He stayed for close to three hours, never leaving the corner. Nonetheless, two days later on sports radio, he said, it was reported that he was drunk, embarrassed himself, got into a fight with his wife and fell into a nearby pond.

      It is clear the wound has not healed, even after nearly six years. He had been open, tried to show himself to people and felt burned by the experience. In a way, he went into a public shell and remained there until he was fired after the 2003 season.

      "I'm not [exaggerating] on this story," he said. "If you talk about an edge to me or an arrogance to me, well, I do get my feelings hurt and I do have a sensitive side to me that I protect with an edge.

      "Now that's on the air."

      His face clouded and he leaned forward in his chair. "That story and the ESPN story had a lot of similarities," he said. "And yet I don't know, I don't know the truth of what is said [in the ESPN piece]. I know there is a motive. I know there's an agenda."

      Then he snapped back in his chair with a stoic jerk of his head.

      "I give it no credence," he said.

      'That Underdog Approach'

      The irony about Williams's perceived arrogance is that many players actually love his posture. There is something in his bravado that touches the insecurities they have about their own careers. At any moment, an offensive tackle could roll over on a defensive player's leg, ending football forever. Players often view themselves as mercenaries, throwing their bodies carelessly across the field in a blind pursuit of winning until something either breaks or their damaged joints won't allow them to leap anymore.

      Williams's hollering inspires them. If he walks into a meeting room, freshly pressed, with neat creases in his shirt and pants and promises them that he has a game plan that is guaranteed to bamboozle Sunday's opponent, they're all for it.

      "I like that underdog approach," Springs said. "Gregg is a little 'we're going to get after them' in his approach. I like that."

      "Gregg Williams is a very tough, very verbal coach. When I was there, I respected him a lot," said Pierce, now with the Giants. "He may be killing his players in practice, but he was the first guy patting you on the back after you've made a big play."

      When asked why some players might seem to be turned off by Williams's approach, Bengals defensive tackle Sam Adams -- who played for Williams in Buffalo -- scoffed.

      "Probably because they're soft," he said. "He's an aggressive, hard-charger. He's going to dog you as he sees fit. Some cats can't handle that."

      Or as Falcons safety Lawyer Milloy, who also played for Williams with the Bills, said: "Guys don't need him to bring a pacifier to the game. This is a man's league."

      Hearing these comments seemed to please Williams. He said that Ryan, his mentor, taught him to always be aggressive, to coach with a sneer. "You know what? They're going to look at your attitude and if you don't have an attitude, they won't have an attitude," he remembered Ryan telling him.

      He said his friendship with Pierce is so close he's surprised no one has accused him of tampering because they speak on the phone so often. "Over half the teams around the league have players who have called me about getting back with us and miss the opportunity to be coached the way we coach," Williams said at another point.

      He does not like to talk about jobs other than the one he has, and repeatedly professes his desire to keep working for Gibbs. Asked about why things didn't work in Buffalo, where Williams was fired after going 6-10 in his third season, the man who hired and fired him, Donahoe, said there were mitigating circumstances, namely more than $20 million in unusable salary cap space because of dead contracts that were still being paid out.

      "He gets a mulligan for Buffalo," Donahoe said.

      Last winter, with several head coaching jobs open around the league, Donahoe said he received five calls from teams that had Williams among their top two or three candidates. Donahoe figured a few more might phone again this winter. This season's Redskins defense won't change that, he said. Several other general managers agreed.

      "One year can't make a difference," said Kansas City Chiefs President Carl Peterson, who thinks Williams will be a head coach again. "Sometimes it's all image."

      In his office, Williams looked at a notepad on which he had neatly jotted down ideas for this interview. He shook his head.

      "How about this?" he asked. "What was perceived as discipline, intensity, pettiness, structure, attitude." He spit these words out. "All of a sudden, now that's the reason why our rankings are bad. You can't go from being right to wrong. You can't. You don't go from being a good coach to not knowing anything. So that's just part of the business. I understand that. I totally understand that."

      And he sat there with the blinds pulled down, another evening growing late in the season when everything went wrong. The coach accustomed to having everything figured out had no answers.

      zn2, Thursday at 10:01 PM

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      On Defense, Redskins Look To Force Issue

      By Jason La Canfora
      Washington Post Staff Writer
      Saturday, August 4, 2007


      Whenever a football is wobbling along the ground during a practice drill, even if it's the result of an incomplete pass, Gregg Williams expects one of his defensive players to pounce on it. A dead ball is no impediment to the pursuit of takeaways for the Washington Redskins, not after last season.

      The Redskins set a modern NFL record in 2006 by producing a scant 12 turnovers -- lowest ever in a 16-game season -- which had as much to do with their 5-11 record as anything else. The defense also set a franchise low with 19 sacks, and, while there is no established statistical formula to prove it, the club probably set some sort of mark for fewest big plays from a defense.

      The Redskins did not score a defensive touchdown in 2006, and Williams's unit slipped from its perch in the top 10 to 31st, second worst in the NFL.

      The Redskins have emphasized turnovers during practice throughout Coach Joe Gibbs's second tenure with the team, spending additional time on catching and tip drills for defensive players, running drills aimed at causing fumbles, and harping on the need to both protect and steal the football. Now, they are employing more extreme measures, expecting defensive players to treat even mundane drops, deflections and spikes as a live ball, and an opportunity to gain possession.

      "Anytime the ball is on the ground in practice on an incomplete pass, we want to make them think that's a fumble," said Williams, assistant head coach-defense, "because we've got to get used to scooping and scoring. Anytime the ball is out there at all and we have a chance to take the ball as a defense, we've got to make that a habit. It's not that we weren't doing it last year, but we've got to create better luck for ourselves by the emphasis we place on it."

      In one defensive drill, a ball is tossed in the air, a defender comes down with it and his teammates help create lanes for him to score. Each time a quarterback makes an errant throw in 11-on-11 drills, or a pass gets redirected, one can almost sense the eyes of the entire coaching staff boring into the nearest defender, waiting to unleash a verbal diatribe should he fail to make the interception.

      After reviewing the film of every game during the offseason, the coaches determined that cornerback Carlos Rogers dropped 10 potential interceptions in which he got both hands on the ball. Linebacker Marcus Washington dropped half as many. Had either managed a competent rate of return on those opportunities, perhaps it would have been a different season.

      "You've got to be able to have negative yardage plays -- not only sacks but takeaways, big plays," said Williams, who stood within earshot and peered intently as his linebackers worked through a receiving drill yesterday. "We've got to have big plays on defense to set up our offense. Our offense two years ago was the number one offense operating on a short field. We didn't give them any short fields [in 2006]. We've got to give them some short fields this year, and that's how we identified and set the style of play we're going to play."

      To many players, the uncomfortable realities of last season do not seem possible. Twelve turnovers? All season? A five-game turnover drought? Seven total takeaways in the final 12 games? It was incomprehensible for a defense predicated on attacking the quarterback and swarming the football. Cornerback Shawn Springs took a ribbing all offseason from former Redskins cornerback Walt Harris, who was discarded by Washington then produced as many takeaways -- although two of his forced fumbles were recovered by the other team -- with the 49ers in 2006 as the entire Redskin defense. "We trained together in Arizona and I told him, 'Walt, whatever you're doing, I'm doing,' " Springs said. "I'm going to have a Walt Harris year."

      "It was unfortunate, but it was real," said end Andre Carter, who was signed in 2006 to mount a sustained pass rush but did not come on until late in the season. "It's mind-boggling all the little things that could have given us an opportunity to win those close games we were in. Last year was very disappointing, but hey, 2007 is a new year, a new opportunity, and I'm hungry. I think we're all as hungry as ever."

      Coaches and teammates believe Carter is primed for a breakthrough, finally comfortable in his new surroundings after a long free agent adjustment period. Williams plans to assault the quarterback with more four-man rushes this season, sources said, relieving linemen such as Carter of heavy run-stopping responsibilities at times. He is also committed to sending more defensive backs on the blitz, believing the team has more depth and is healthier in the secondary. Washington, one of the team's top playmakers, will line up on the outside more often as an end and the scheme is designed to free him of blocking ability and blitz on obvious passing downs.

      The system was retooled with Washington, tackle Cornelius Griffin, safety Sean Taylor, new linebacker London Fletcher and Springs in mind. Griffin will be aligned to shoot the gap and pressure the pocket from the interior more with Fletcher, a stout middle linebacker, behind him. Taylor is being deployed more like a center fielder in a zone defense scheme, able to put his heavy hitting and ball-hawking tendencies to use.

      "We're going to get more of a pass rush, you'll see," end Phillip Daniels said. "Gregg is a great coach and he does a lot of things to help us out up front, and this year he's done some things to let us get after it more and help us out. I feel confident of that."

      Ultimately, it will be incumbent upon the players to make it work. After muffing a few early interceptions at the start of training camp, Taylor has been hauling them in routinely in team drills. Rogers said he still believes he has sure hands. He said it's just a matter of better concentration and focusing on making the catch before he worries about storming downfield and scoring a touchdown.

      "It would have been a whole different season if I could have just caught half of the balls I dropped that hit my hands," Rogers said. "This year I need to get in that same position, and just catch the ball."

      zn2, Thursday at 10:44 PM

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      In three years under Gregg Williams, the Washington Redskins' defense was characterized by its numerous personnel packages and intricate schemes. Williams required his players to master responses to the opposing offense's every move, even as they carried out a series of pre-snap movements to conceal where the defensive pressure would be coming from.

      In 2004 and 2005, the Redskins' defenders and their coach were completely in sync and became one of the fiercest units in the NFL. But as the unit's collapse last year revealed, the precision and choreography demanded by Williams could be undermined by a single misstep by one player.

      As the team began a three-day minicamp at Redskins Park yesterday, there was a new buzzword for the defense: simplicity.

      Williams's system has been pared down for 2007, players say, still emphasizing the principles of speed, aggressiveness and discipline but relying more on individual talent than collective obedience. There are fewer schemes for players to memorize and more alignments are designed to accentuate key players' strengths. There will be less of a burden on Williams and his staff to out-scheme the opposing offense every week.

      "We've definitely simplified things," said linebacker Marcus Washington, one of the players who could benefit most from the changes. "And I think that was Gregg looking at us last year, all of us in it together, and nobody likes to be at the bottom, especially when we're used to being at the top.

      "That was Gregg being the sharp mental guy he is, and being smart about it, saying, 'I'm just going to let these guys play. We have some talent here, and when I put them in the right position, I'm going to let them play and sit back.' And that's what we're going to do."

      Williams, who declined to comment for this story, told players this offseason that he plans to get his best players to the point of attack as much as possible and give them more freedom, they said. Williams is using more traditional five- and six-defensive back formations in passing downs. The addition of linebacker London Fletcher and cornerbacks Fred Smoot and David Macklin through free agency, and the selection of safety LaRon Landry with the sixth overall pick in the draft in April is expected to provide a major boost as well.

      "You've got to have the right balance between players and scheme, and you've got to have the right players to make the scheme work," lineman Renaldo Wynn said. "We saw examples of that last year -- without mentioning any names -- when we brought in different guys and they just didn't fit our scheme. If you've got the players and the scheme, it can be successful as you saw our first two years. Now, with Gregg simplifying it makes it even better, and guys can be even more aggressive and not have to think as much."

      The area that bore the brunt of criticism last year -- the defensive line -- was surprisingly the position impacted the least through offseason player acquisitions. Despite a porous interior against the run and an inept pass rush, the Redskins made no significant changes to the roster at tackle or end.

      During season-ending meetings with the linemen, the coaches expressed confidence in them, players said, and told them that they would have more chances to get after the quarterback this season.

      Williams gave the linemen less pass-rushing support from safeties and corners than usual in 2006 -- the lack of talent at those positions was a huge factor in that decision -- and opposing quarterbacks enjoyed too much time to pass the ball. With Fletcher, a stalwart on Williams's defense when both were with the Buffalo Bills, anchoring the interior as middle linebacker now, the Redskins believe they will be more stout against the run. Also, Williams is more willing to overload the line of scrimmage to stop the run, players said. Concerns about the woeful secondary prevented that last year.

      Starting end Phillip Daniels anticipates playing inside much more this season to help against the run. "That gives Gregg the opportunity to put more speed on the field" outside, he said. Tackle Cornelius Griffin, by far the Redskins' most accomplished lineman, is healthy after playing last year with a surgically repaired shoulder and significant knee injury.

      Griffin is being used as what in football parlance is called a three-technique, players said, giving him more opportunities to rush the passer. A three-technique player lines up opposite the outside shoulder of the offensive guard and is charged with disrupting the offensive pocket by attacking the line and getting into the backfield. Tommie Harris played that role for the NFC champion Chicago Bears last season, players said. The Redskins defense will adopt many of the Bears' tactics this year.

      "It's a little more aggressive. There's a little more freedom," Griffin said.

      Williams also has been calling more all-out blitzes and four-man rushes, players said. "Now I know I can feed off a guy like Griffin, because I know now he's going to be trying to penetrate that gap," said defensive end Andre Carter, who struggled in his first season in Washington. "So that'll give me a two-way go and we'll both come out smoking. This year they really want to rely on our talent on the front four itself."

      Marcus Washington, the Redskins' best linebacker since joining the team in 2006, will have an expanded role. He's preparing to play as a rush end, with his hand down, on many passing downs and is expected to be used much less in pass coverage.

      "Putting my hand on the ground, I hadn't done it in awhile," Washington said. "But [defensive line] coach Greg Blache and the rest of the defensive line, they've been helping me through it and it's something I'm excited to do."

      The Redskins expect to have two new starting linebackers, Fletcher and Rocky McIntosh, who the team says has had a superior offseason and finally has a firm grip on the defense after a difficult rookie season. McIntosh, with good speed, will be used to cover tight ends and running backs downfield, players said. Fletcher also excels at pass coverage, which will allow the Redskins to toggle between him and McIntosh, leaving offenses wondering which linebacker will be dropping back on passing plays.

      The biggest change for the defense will be in the defensive backfield, where coaches are hoping for a dramatic improvement.

      Lacking confidence in the unit last season, Williams was not as aggressive rushing the quarterback, players and coaches said, and relied on what's known as a cover-2 zone defense -- with the two safeties playing deep and the cornerbacks conceding yardage to receivers at the line of scrimmage. The Redskins expect to use significantly more man-to-man coverage in 2007 -- with their corners no longer stationed five yards back but jamming receivers at the line. The cover-2 has been relegated to only some passing situations.

      "With the changes we made, teams are going to look at the film of us from last year and try to pick up things, and it's totally different now," said cornerback Carlos Rogers, whose play regressed last year after a solid rookie season. "We're doing a lot of pressing, a lot of things where we can get in on that receiver and Gregg's making things a lot simpler for us. I really like what we're doing, but at the same time we've got to step up, because they could tear our corners up, too, always being out there by yourself."

      The Redskins also are using what is called a cover-1 alignment, with safety Sean Taylor the lone man back, playing the football equivalent of center field. The coaches want to find a way to get Taylor, a natural ballhawk who has just three interceptions the last two years, to the ball more often. Landry, the No. 1 draft pick, has the size and tenacity to play close to the line of scrimmage to rush quarterbacks and help on run defense, similar to how Chicago uses safety Mike Brown.

      The Redskins are using the designation of free safety for Taylor and strong safety for Landry, and the team feels that their athletic ability will allow them to cover as much ground as any safety duo in the league. Taylor's size makes him suited to playing in close to the line as well, which can keep opponents guessing.

      "I would like to put Sean Taylor in a position to go and get the ball," Williams said during rookie camp. "I think LaRon is going to help us do that."

      Reeling Redskins awash in troubles

      November 26, 2006

      By Tom Friend | ESPN The Magazine

      They're irrelevant by Thanksgiving again, and somehow there hasn't been steam coming out of Joe Gibbs' ears. I covered Gibbs in the '80s, the glory '80s, when losses were like death, when he micromanaged, when he used to bring in his struggling players and offer them a bible. One year, the punt team couldn't cover a kick, so he hired a second special teams coach. One year, a player anonymously ripped his methods in the press, so he called a team meeting and ordered the mystery player to raise his hand. Nobody did. He might've been cut

      The Redskins' defense responded in Sunday's 17-13 win over Carolina, flying to the ball more than it had all season. The secondary didn't bite on double moves or pump fakes, the safeties stayed deep, Carlos Rogers was flawless, the defense generated a pass rush on Jake Delhomme without blitzing, and the maligned Sean Taylor ended the last two Carolina drives with a tackle and an interception.

      Whether the anonymous quotes in Friday's column (left) rallied the unit is unclear, although someone in the organization printed them out and passed them around the locker room Saturday morning. At their team meeting Saturday night, Redskins coach Joe Gibbs simply asked the players to keep their grievances in-house.

      "We tackled, we tackled well,'' defensive coordinator Gregg Williams said after the game on Comcast SportsNet, "and I don't care what you call on defense. If you don't tackle well, you're not going to perform very well or you're not going to produce very well...There are some prideful men in that locker room. Getting back to the basics and the fundamentals part of it&our players rose up, and give them the credit."

      Asked if the defense still believes in him, Williams said, "Yeah, they're diehard Redskins, and when you have strong character kind of players and the kind of people we've gone and tried to bring in here, they'll rise up and do those things.''

      Still, Rogers insinuated the anonymous quotes did what the coaches couldn't do all year: rile the defense.

      "My biggest thing is, we're in this together, the coaches and the players, and whatever is said about Gregg, we say it to ourselves as a defense," Rogers said Sunday. "We've got his back, we know he's got our back ... Being 3-7, you're going to get a lot of things written about you and a lot of people want to break a team up further than it was."

      Added safety Shawn Springs: "Yeah, Gregg is arrogant, but so am I. I like the confidence he brings to the team, and I personally felt that whoever said it [anonymously], should've came out and said [who he was]. Now one thing you know about me, if I feel that way, I will go and tell the coach that, because I've developed that type of relationship with Gregg and Coach Gibbs and Steve Jackson ... And some things in there are probably very true. They are true. Some things are true in there. But the thing is, we are still a family."

      That's ancient history now, because Joe Gibbs is 3-7 and, by all accounts, a grandfather figure at Redskin Park. You ask players what they think of him, and they say, "Good dude." If Joe Gibbs was 3-7 in 1987, nobody would've been saying "Good dude" -- they'd have been cursing him for the three-hour practices. Joe, the first time around, would've fixed this by now, but instead he appears to be a burned out coach again, who is allowing his defensive coaching staff to run amok.
      For whatever reason, this stubborn, controlling, innovative Hall of Fame coach has chosen to be more of an observer this season, to be a CEO, to let his millionaire coordinators earn their keep. That's why the team doesn't have his smashmouth mentality anymore, his fingerprints. I asked an Indianapolis Colts defender what he thought of Al Saunders' Redskins offense, and he said, "Gimmicky." I asked a Redskins player what he thought of defensive guru Gregg Williams, and he said, "Arrogant. Thinks he invented the wheel."

      It is a fractured team that, frankly, needs the old Gibbs to intervene. A year ago, when the team was 5-6, he held player meetings, got the pulse of the locker room and rode Clinton Portis and a stout defense to the second round of the playoffs. It was vintage Gibbs; he personally willed them to January. But now, on Thanksgiving weekend of '06, it's apparent last year taxed him way too much. He doesn't call plays anymore. He may or may not have the pulse of the locker room anymore. And he may or may not be fuming about it anymore.

      So that's where we are, trying to understand why the Washington Redskins are the biggest flop, the biggest turkey of the season. You originally could've argued for Miami, or Tampa Bay or Pittsburgh, but not any longer. Miami's gotten hot behind Joey Harrington, and Tampa Bay lost its starting quarterback early, and Pittsburgh's suffering through a predictable post-Super Bowl malaise.

      So, no doubt, that leaves the Redskins. Forbes Magazine keeps saying they are the most valuable NFL franchise, the Yankees of football. Their offensive and defensive coordinators earn approximately $5 million a year combined, their budget is the moon, and owner Dan Snyder's jet -- Redskin One -- is probably already fueling up to greet Nate Clements and Dwight Freeney on the first day of 2007 free agency.

      They are money-driven, but not always money-wise, and the decisions to throw cash at every problem, or free agent, or coach, has created ego and narcissism. It's not necessarily Gibbs' fault, because he didn't draw it up this way or imagine it happening, but the almighty dollar has created too many power trips at Redskin Park, or as one Redskins player said, "Too many chiefs and not enough indians." Naturally, heads, or chiefs, may roll this coming offseason, including Williams' and some of Williams' staff. But that's getting ahead of ourselves, ahead of how this all came about.

      To simplify matters, and to understand this year's 3-7 record, you have to go back to Gibbs' first comeback year of 2004. On offense, he put his old band together, bringing back coaches Don Breaux, Joe Bugel and Rennie Simmons, all good, loyal, stand-up guys who played huge roles in the Super Bowl years. They were all affable workaholics, and humble, too, but when they returned for Gibbs' second stint, they appeared bumbling and overmatched, stuck in 1983. And from what I'm told, no one felt that more than the defensive coordinator, Gregg Williams.

      Williams told people that the offense was almost "high school" that first year. Gibbs, Breaux and Bugel were practically holding caucuses before every play call, continually wasting timeouts, and the defense was forced all year to carry the team. And in all fairness, Williams' group was spectacular. He used about three basic defenses and coverages, blitzed from all angles and asked his players to fly to the ball and play uninhibited. They were the No. 3 defense in the NFL, and a young middle linebacker named Antonio Pierce, an undrafted free agent from Arizona, was the absolute key to the unit. An injury to Michael Barrow forced Williams to move Pierce inside, where he'd never played before, but Pierce was smart, got people lined up, played sideline to sideline and was particularly fierce against the run. It was a pleasant surprise, and with the ball-hawking rookie safety Sean Taylor free to roam the field behind him, it was a physical, championship-type defense.

      Williams, who'd been fired the previous year as the Bills' head coach, had a ton of adulation tossed his way, and his swagger at Redskin Park was unmatched. He liked to tell people that he'd only agreed to take the job if Snyder "didn't stick his nose" into personnel matters, and Snyder -- who wanted to win in the worst way -- had agreed. That gave Williams a feeling of invincibility, and considering the egg that the offense laid that year in comparison, he probably deserved to feel that way.

      But it was a blind confidence, and when Pierce became a free agent after the 2004 season, and talks began to stall, Williams, according to Redskins sources, claimed Pierce was "replaceable." It was the first hint of arrogance under the new Gibbs regime, a sense that Williams felt it was his system, not the players, that dominated offenses. Cornerback Fred Smoot was also a free agent at the time, and again, Williams felt Smoot was expendable, even though losing a starting linebacker and a starting corner would necessitate an extensive defensive overhaul.

      Of course, that made a mess of the draft. Instead of selecting the pass rusher they needed -- Shawne Merriman or Demarcus Ware -- they had to waste their first-round pick on replacing Smoot, and took a shot at Auburn cornerback Carlos Rogers. All their other picks basically went to Denver in a trade to get Auburn quarterback Jason Campbell, and so they had to replace Pierce from within. That meant Lemar Marshall, a career outside linebacker and converted DB, had to move inside for 2005, which was an outright risk.

      But actually, again, Williams overachieved. Marshall played the pass better than Pierce did, although Williams did have to scheme more to stop the occasional bleeding on defense. He went often to Cover 2 defenses, meaning his safeties would play deeper, and his front seven would have to stop the run themselves. In other words, no "eight men in the box" to stop the run. But Tatum Bell and Tiki Barber exposed that run defense early, and the safeties were told they had to step up and stop the run from Cover 2, until the front seven got their act together. The insertion of LaVar Arrington into the run defense (for Warrick Holdman) helped get that solidified, although Arrington was again a clear victim of Williams' ego. Arrington was the highest-paid defender, and prone to freelancing -- he acted like he was bigger than the team -- and Williams was there to humble him. He made him a scapegoat, and wouldn't even talk to him at times, but once Arrington finally shut his mouth and acquiesced, he got to play. Was he an impact player anymore? No. But he helped stop the run, allowing them to play the Cover 2, and the defense went on a late-season tear to help get hobbling quarterback Mark Brunell to the playoffs.

      The Skins finished as the No. 9 defense in the league, and Williams was naturally an absolute god in the minds of fans, and to some degree, Gibbs and Snyder. It's likely he would've been a front-runner for the Rams', Vikings' and Texans' head coaching jobs, but the Redskins tied him up with a ridiculous three-year contract worth a reported $8 million and a promise that if he didn't replace Gibbs as head coach, he'd earn another cool million. Well, that was power, and when it came time to recruit prospective free agents, Williams was heard bragging that he made more money than the head coaches he was recruiting against, that he carried more lumber than some head coaches in the league. Whether it was true or not, he believed it, and the players believed it, and that's how this all started heading downhill.

      The first thing Williams did was wave goodbye to Arrington after the 2005 season, and deservedly so, because Arrington wasn't worth his contract or his griping. But Arrington was still, other than Taylor, the Redskins' most physical player, and he'd been disrespected by Williams publicly. And that's what didn't sit well with the teammates Arrington had left behind. Some players said they felt Williams never took the blame around Redskin Park, just passed it on, and now that he'd just received this jumbo pay hike, he was going to be even more incorrigible. The players felt it. They saw him jettison another cover corner, Walt Harris, who's intercepting passes now in San Francisco, and steady Ryan Clark, who has Troy Polamalu's back in Pittsburgh now, and veteran safety Omar Stoutmire, who's starting in New Orleans. They saw a revolving door. Again.

      So that takes us to now, takes us to a Gregg Williams defense that is ranked last -- last! -- in the NFC. Opposing quarterbacks have a collective 103 passer rating against them, and on third downs, the Redskins give up a first down 43.5 percent of the time. They can't get off the field, and now it's the offensive coaches who have to be wondering if Williams is "high school."

      The problem, according to a notable Redskins player, is a scheme, a staff and a play-calling regimen that is flawed and predictable, and a sense that Williams is on too much of a power trip to adjust.
      "Why are we the 30th defense in the league? I think coaches got arrogant, I think Gregg got arrogant," the player said Tuesday, asking not to be identified. "They thought they figured it all out. They thought, 'We can win with scheme, we don't need players.' Don't be mistaken, this is a player-driven game, and so you need players. Any time in life when somebody thinks they've got it all figured out, it's going to come and get you. It's going to come and get you … the sentiment is a lot of guys are mad because the coaches think it's all about them. They think they're f------ geniuses, thinking they can just let guys go and get away with handling people badly."

      To be specific, Redskins defenders, particularly in the secondary, have regressed, Taylor being the main culprit. Out of the University of Miami, Taylor was arguably the most-talented cover safety to enter the league in years. His first preseason game, he intercepted two passes, returning one for a score. But he's been tinkered with so much now, Redskins players say he no longer plays on instinct.

      A lot of Taylor's woes can be traced a lot to the hiring of Steve Jackson as Redskins safety coach. Jackson came with Williams from Buffalo, where he was a lower-level defensive coach, and Jackson supposedly was hurt when Williams chose DeWayne Walker as his main secondary coach in 2003 and 2004. He wanted the job himself, and when Walker left after the 2005 season, he assumed he'd get it. But Williams' old defensive coordinator in Buffalo, Jerry Gray, had just become available, and Williams hired him. Jackson was ticked.

      So Williams threw him a bone, a bone which has literally torn up the secondary. He made Jackson safeties coach and Gray cornerbacks coach and allowed Jackson to run his own meetings. That means that the Redskins' safeties and corners do not meet together, which is practically unheard of.

      "Talk to any coach in the league, and ask them, 'Have you ever heard of corners and safeties not meeting together?'" the Redskins player says. "They'd say, 'What are you talking about?' That's crazy. But ever since minicamps, OTAs, training camp, we hadn't met as a secondary. On the field, the corners will start making a call or doing something, and the safeties will be, 'What are you talking about? We didn't go over that.' So now the corners are expecting help in certain situations, and the safeties aren't getting there in time. And people got beat in the secondary.

      "Everybody was saying they had to start meeting together. So the last three weeks they have. But 40 percent of the time Steven Jackson's not in the meeting. Because he pouts, because Jerry's running the meeting."

      On the field, Jackson's (and presumably Williams') techniques aren't working, either. The innovators of Cover 2, such as Monte Kiffin and Tony Dungy, want their safeties staying deep, 2 yards inside the numbers and staying squared up. They want them reading the quarterback and breaking downhill on everything.

      But Jackson began teaching Taylor and Co. not to read the quarterback, but to read the receivers' breaks and releases and react accordingly. He wanted them to be aggressive out of Cover 2, to help on the run, even though Cover 2 is not known to be a run-stopping defense. Williams wants to call it a lot because, ideally, if you can stop the run with a Cover 2, you have the best of both worlds, because it's specifically designed to prevent the deep ball. But Jackson kept exhorting Taylor and his early-season safety mate, Adam Archuleta, to be aggressive playing the run out of the Cover 2, and they began to get beat on the play-action pass repeatedly.

      According to the Redskins player, Jackson then began berating his players profanely -- although he tends to go lighter on Taylor -- and they reached bottom in Philadelphia, when Donte' Stallworth beat Taylor deep for an 84-yard touchdown. Witnesses say that at that point, the other defensive coaches became officially peeved at Jackson for making Taylor "play like a robot," and for turning him into a confused, regressing player who now tunes out coaches and teammates.

      "And then Steve Jackson began pouting at practice," the player said. "He pouts at practice. He'll stand by himself and won't coach anybody. This last game in Tampa, we had a player at halftime go up to him and say, 'Are you going to just sit there and pout, or are you gonna f------ coach your guys up?'"

      Williams, in the meantime, has not backed off of calling the Cover 2, perhaps out of stubbornness. And the rest of the league has clearly caught on.

      "Guys are saying teams have figured Gregg out, his M.O.," the Redskins defender said. "They know he's going to play the run with Cover 2. They know he's going to come and blitz [leaving corners on an island] on third down, and none of our blitzes are getting there anymore. We're trying to get too cute, we're trying to reinvent the wheel, instead of understanding what wins football games.

      "Gregg Williams, I don't understand. They're so arrogant around here, they think they can stop the run in Cover 2. When it's an obvious running down, he calls Cover 2. That's a seven-man front. They're going to get 4 yards a carry every time. There might be some games where, hey, we're playing the crap out of the run in Cover 2. Well, that's great. Then, you call it. But when you're getting gashed Cover 2, Cover 2, and they come out in two tight ends, two running backs, and one wide receiver and we're in Cover 2. … And if we don't call Cover 2, we blitz. And you live by the blitz, you die by the blitz."

      There have been myriad scapegoats, too, all players that Williams asked for. Scapegoat No. 1: Andre Carter. He was brought in to rush the passer, but players say Williams calls so many run stunts, he's not being allowed to do what he does best: speed rush.
      "Last year, the D-line started playing well when they straight started rushing the passer," the player said. "They could beat guys one on one and get in a rhythm and tee off. Now, we're trying to get too exotic, so we've got Cornelius Griffin doing exotic stuff, who doesn't rush on third down anymore basically. … All these stunts and games? The D-linemen are just saying, man, just let us go, just let us go."

      Scapegoat No. 2: Archuleta. Bears coach Lovie Smith, Archuleta's former coordinator and mentor in St. Louis, badly wanted him in Chicago, and Archuleta preferred Smith, too. But the Redskins offered the richest deal ever for a safety, and Archuleta accepted it -- according to his agent Gary Wichard -- because Williams promised him he'd blitz him more than Smith, that he'd keep him in the box. Instead, Archuleta's blitzed only a handful of times, and has been benched for Troy Vincent and now Vernon Fox.

      Wichard says that Jackson and Williams haven't spoken to Archuleta since the Redskins' bye four weeks ago, and that rookie Reed Doughty, who's been mostly inactive this year, is getting reps ahead of him in practice this week. That means Archuleta, who signed for a $10 million bonus last spring, is on the scout team, which baffles plenty of NFL executives.

      Scapegoat No. 3: Rogers. He's the cornerback that was left on an island on the go-ahead touchdown Sunday against Tampa Bay's Joey Galloway. Williams blitzed and missed, costing the team the score. Afterward, Williams took public blame for the call, a rarity, but a Redskins player said, "No, he didn't. In meetings, Carlos still heard about it."

      So what you have, according to one Redskins player, is a fractured defense that isn't playing passionately for Williams anymore. After making examples of Pierce, Smoot, Arrington, Harris, Clark, Stoutmire -- and now Carter, Archuleta and Rogers -- the morale appears beyond repair.

      "I think guys are fed up, man," the Redskins player said. "This is what I heard. Guys are talking. They're saying that's why Gregg started losing the team in Buffalo. Because guys got sick of it, sick of getting disrespected. There's a difference between being hard and coaching and disrespecting people all the time and calling people out. He started calling three or four guys out in the team meeting the Saturday night before the Philadelphia game. Just calling certain guys out for certain behavior and this and that. We're talking about 12 hours before the game, and you're calling different guys out for stuff? On- and off-the-field stuff? Just talking mess, going through your rant or whatever. Man, look, guys are getting fed up. And they're saying, a lot of guys in Buffalo, his last year in Buffalo, a lot of guys started popping back to him, popping off to him. Because you can't be a Buddy Ryan anymore in this league. You can't do it.

      "And Gregg Williams says all the time, it's not my money. If Gregg was the one writing the checks, I don't know if he'd handle it that way. But he says it in meetings. He gives us speeches about, 'If you don't know what to do, you're going to be standing next to me on the sideline, I don't give a f---. That's where you're going to be. I need to be able to trust you. Hey, it's not my money. I don't care how much you make, I don't care who you are, I'm not the one writing the check, you need to know your assignments, know what to do.' That's what Gregg says. I wonder how Snyder would feel if he heard that one."

      Snyder, according to sources, knows all about this, and, there is a sense the front office will push to replace Jackson and perhaps even Williams next season. At the same time, Williams still has supporters in the organization, too. They say the players ripping him have axes to grind, that Williams isn't the one whiffing on tackles and botching coverages. They say it's horrendous that one angry, anonymous player won't go on the record with his complaints, and they point out Williams hasn't played with a full roster all season. For instance, Williams has had to operate much of the year without a healthy Shawn Springs, his best corner, and without safety Pierson Prioleau, who was going to start for Archuleta on opening night until he tore his ACL on the opening kickoff. It doesn't help, either, that linebackers Marshall and Holdman aren't tackling well (Marshall's coming off of shoulder surgery), and there are some defensive players who aren't afraid to point the finger at themselves.

      "You can't argue with Gregg Williams because we were No. 3 and No. 9 [in total defense] in previous years, so you can't argue that he's not a good coach," defensive end Phillip Daniels told the Washington Post last week. "The thing for us to do as players is we've got to look at ourselves in the morning to say, 'What can I do to help this team?' Whether it means studying more or anything little, technique and stuff like that, we've got to do it all right for it to work. And right now I don't think all the guys are doing all their technique and studying as hard as they need to study."

      The question has been whether the CEO, Gibbs, will address this, and, apparently, he has decided to become more hands-on again. He has been preoccupied with the offense, concerned that Saunders isn't pounding the ball enough, frustrated by injuries to Portis and receiver Santana Moss and resigned to the fact that strapping Jason Campbell is his future at quarterback. But on Wednesday, he couldn't ignore the team's general malaise any longer. In his regular team meeting, he essentially stomped his feet for the first time since last season, told his players they aren't playing physical enough, that it's time to play more smash-mouth, that everybody would be evaluated from here on out. Whether he was talking about the coaches, too, who knows? Whether he will start from scratch defensively next season, who knows? But with Williams obviously unable to stir the passions of the defense, Gibbs had little choice but to butt in.

      Of course, whether the problems are solved won't be clear until late December. But if they collapse again, what will the Hall of Fame coach do next? Call another meeting and ask the angry, dissenting players to raise their hands? That would be so 1980s of him. That would be a start.
      zn2, Yesterday at 10:47 AM

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  2. Oldgeek

    Jack Snow-Rams history to St Louis
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    Jun 28, 2011
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    Marion, IL
    Interesting articles, kind of tells me not to have Gregg involved in personnel moves. Like any coach he needs talent to make things go and doesn't have the eye for finding it himself. Again another example of a great coordinator that didn't become a great head coach. I like him being here, as I think Fisher is a good balance to him.
  3. Thordaddy

    Binding you with ancient logic
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    Apr 5, 2012
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    Middle Earth
    Who is zn2?
  4. Boffo97

    Still legal in 17 states!
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    Feb 10, 2014
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    Exactly who you'd guess it is.

    Not sure why a whole thread from another board was posted here rather than just the article itself.
  5. SteveBrown

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    Mar 31, 2014
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    Sorry, my fault...thanks for letting me know
  6. Boffo97

    Still legal in 17 states!
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    Feb 10, 2014
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    No worries. We all make mistakes.
  7. Dodgersrf

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    Mar 17, 2014
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    Your only fault was not using red font.:p
  8. Dodgersrf

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    Mar 17, 2014
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    Good read steve. Thanks for sharing.