- The Washington Times - Friday, December 22, 2000

Offensive line coach Russ Grimm has seen 501 players and 34 coaches depart during his 20 seasons with the Washington Redskins. Now the last of the "Hogs" could be exiting, too.

The Redskins are expected to seek a new coach after their season ends Sunday, and the incoming boss will have the right to pick his staff. Grimm survived coaching changes in 1993 and 1994, but he may not be as fortunate next time.

Yet Grimm isn't spending time pondering his two-decade run. Fourth in team seniority behind vice president Bobby Mitchell, trainer Bubba Tyer and equipment manager Jay Brunetti, Grimm has lasted longer than any player-coach in franchise history. His departure certainly would be overshadowed by an incoming coach, but offensive linemen dislike attention anyway.

"I may have to move on and do something else, but I'll worry about that later," Grimm said.

The steady stream of more than 80 firings and resignations over the 17 months since owner Dan Snyder's arrival has stripped away many of Grimm's longtime friends. He sometimes feels the last of his breed a product of the "Redskin Way" that won three Super Bowls but has been abandoned. It was one thing to see his fellow Hogs retire one by one. It's another for longtime support staff to leave, too.

"It's tough at times," Grimm said. "Why things work the way they do, I don't know."

No matter what happens, Grimm has enjoyed plenty of fun times. Few teammates and coaches will forget Grimm's antics as a player from 1981 to 1991. Among other things, Grimm put hair remover cream in running back George Rogers' jockstrap, smeared honey on photographer Nate Fine's stand to attract bees, hung a coach's bike from a flagpole, stole a chocolate cake from the coach's dessert stand and filled cars with popcorn.

Tyer delivered the best payback. After Grimm threw him in the whirlpool, the trainer piled Grimm's clothes on the field during practice, doused them with lighter fluid and burned them. The video of the fire was shown before games for several years.

Grimm coached the tight ends from 1992, when coach Joe Gibbs unexpectedly asked him to become part of the staff, until 1996. That taught Grimm not to worry about his next job, which involved coaching the entire offensive line.

"If I start planning things, something goes wrong," Grimm said. "I retired and didn't know what I wanted to do, and Joe asked me if I wanted to coach. Something always happens."

Grimm said it didn't take long to establish a coach-player relationship with his former teammates.

"It was weird because I was still coaching guys that I played with like Donnie Warren, Terry Orr and Ron Middleton. I said 'You're my responsibility now. We've been friends for a long time, but there's a fine line. If you can't separate that, then we'll have problems. But do what I ask you to do and perform at the level I think you're capable of and we'll have no problems. I'll go out and have a cold beer with you.' "

Nine years after ending a career that earned him a starting guard spot on the NFL's All-1980s team, Grimm is still able to relate to young players. Many of his linemen credit Grimm's experience as a key to developing their blocking skills.

"He's taught me about the game, dealing with things, being an NFL player," said offensive tackle Jon Jansen. "The biggest thing is just to go out and play."

Perhaps the only upside if Grimm departs is that he might move closer to becoming a head coach. Staying with the Redskins means remaining the offensive line coach because owners usually look to coordinators as head coaching prospects.

"I don't think being a coordinator is a necessity," he said. "A head coach has to be able to handle the players. That's his No. 1 job. It's the assistant coaches' job to handle their group. If that coach can't handle those players, then the head coach has to step in."

The head of the famed 5 o'clock drinking club running an entire team? The man who would seal rookies in their dorm rooms by putting pennies in the door jam as "Boss Hog"? At 41, Grimm is in no hurry, but one day he may follow his former line coach Joe Bugel as a head coach elsewhere.

"I'm not a person who wants to race to the top," Grimm said. "If I get there, fine, but I enjoy what I do now."

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