- Gentlemen, start your drones: Judge’s ruling opens door for commercial use
- Soldier who hid, bragged about not saluting flag to be punished — in secret
- ‘Maverick’ of the seas: ‘Top Gun’ school for U.S. ship officers to launch
- Putin declares Sochi Paralympics open amid Ukrainian protest
- ‘In Jesus name, we pray’ sparks ire at Ohio council meeting
- Navy’s first laser weapon ready for prime time; drone killer to deploy this summer
- Billionaire backer: Rick Santorum ‘needs to be heard’ in 2016
- Obamacare fallout: 49 percent pessimistic; 45 percent ‘scared’
- DHS accused of holding U.S. citizen at airport, using emails to pry into her sex life
- Seattle socialist: Minimum-wage discussion skewed by ‘right-wing’ GAO analysis
HARRIS: Redskins need to look at VCU and Shaka Smart as a template in their search
A friend suggested, perhaps jokingly and perhaps not, that someone ought to start a rumor about the Redskins considering Shaka Smart to be their next coach.
Smart is the highly successful men’s basketball coach at Virginia Commonwealth University, who has thrust the Rams into the national spotlight with his combination of a frenetic defensive style and high energy and enthusiasm. His players go hard, all the time. They’re as fired up as he is and it shows.
He may not know an interception from a touchdown, a fumble from a sack or a wildcat formation from a blitz. But the mere suggestion of Smart to the Redskins, yes in jest, raises a question: What is more important as the Redskins seek a replacement for Mike Shanahan, a tactician or a motivator?
Both are important, no question. You have to be able to scheme. You have to figure anyone who spends a professional lifetime in the game, who rises to the level of consideration for a job like this, knows football. Shanahan, Texas’ Gary Kubiak, Detroit’s Jim Schwartz and any of the others dismissed during or after the 2013 regular season know football.
Assuming the talent level is there - the genius of Bill Belichick and John Fox is enhanced by having Tom Brady and Peyton Manning at quarterback - knowing the game doesn’t rank as high on the list of desired qualities as being able to motivate. Being able to make your best players and your worst players perform at whatever their highest level is, every game, is the only way to success.
The Redskins need to do what VCU did in 2009: find their Shaka Smart. They need to find a guy who knows the game and can get his players to play the game. It doesn’t matter if it is a young coach with no track record of being in charge (like Smart when VCU chose him) or a veteran coach like Bill Cowher with a long track record.
It doesn’t matter if he’s rewritten the playbook. If you aren’t convinced he can motivate, move on.
Motivation shouldn’t be that big of an issue on the professional level, no question about that. Professional athletes have the opportunity to earn mind-boggling money, to earn contracts that can set them up for life before they turn 30. That should be motivation enough.
But pro athletes of today can be an odd sort. The money teams invest in them elevate them to a status they didn’t have in years gone by. Think a player would have won a power struggle with Vince Lombardi back in the day? Now, a disgruntled star is going to win that battle almost every time. Managing personalities and egos, often very large in young millionaires, has become part of the job description. My way or the highway doesn’t sell like it did before.
Smart has it a little easier than his professional colleagues. He is the king of the VCU program, no questions asked. If he desires, he can do the my way or the highway thing. A good professional example may be one working around here - the Capitals’ Adam Oates.
Oates knows hockey. He had a Hall of Fame career as a player with several teams, including the Caps. He’s a very bright guy. If he’s a fire and brimstone sort, he sure doesn’t show it in public. That doesn’t mean he can’t motivate.
His biggest accomplishment in his season-plus running the show isn’t the Caps’ strong power play or penalty kill. Where Oates has earned his stripes thus far is in pulling the right levers to turn Alex Ovechkin back into the most exciting player in hockey.
After a couple of downs seasons compared to what he did early in his career, Ovechkin earned his third MVP award last season. As the calendar turns, Ovechkin is the only player in the league with 30 goals this season. No one else has more than 24.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Washington Times sports editor Mike Harris has more than 30 years experience in the business as a reporter, columnist and manager. He’s covered a wide variety of events including two Olympics, horse racing, auto racing, professional and college sports. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow the section on Twitter @WashTimesSports.
- HARRIS: Blown game leaves Caps missing the point
- HARRIS: Dust off the snow as Nats spring training heats up
- HARRIS: Caps have work to do to keep playoff streak alive
- Caps' Canadian contingent cheers for country over Carlson
- HARRIS: Will Alex Ovechkin sulk or soar after Olympic failure?
Latest Blog Entries
- Gio Gonzalez living a dream by throwing bullpen sessions to ex-Yankee Jorge Posada
- Meet Connor Carrick, the youngster who played his way onto the Caps' final roster
- Go Aggies: Nationals notes and lineups for Sept. 14
- RG3: There is no conflict with Redskins coach Mike Shanahan
- Sunday Nats-Dodgers lineups and some thoughts from reliever Craig Stammen
Taxpayers must pay the freight for over-budget train projects
- Kim Jong-un calls for execution of 33 Christians
- Rand Paul wins 2014 CPAC straw poll, Ted Cruz finishes a distant second
- Bill Clinton cashes in on struggling nonprofit hospital
- Paul takes veiled shot at Cruz, says GOP must focus on growth
- Bill Clinton poses for photo with Bunny Ranch prostitutes
- VIDEO: Emily Miller on Fox Business "The Independents" special "The Gun Show"
- Obama engages in Ukraine diplomacy from Fla. resort as Russia digs in
- Stolen European passports on Malaysian Airlines Boeing 777
- Gates: Obama strategy won't stop Putin
- CPAC 2014 straw poll results
Pope Francis meets his 'mini-me'
Celebrity deaths in 2014
Winter storm hits states — again