Washington Redskins interim coach Terry Robiskie won’t move his desk without asking owner Dan Snyder, but he harbors a dramatically different vision for the franchise.
Training camp would move from Redskin Park if Robiskie had his way. There would be no preseason game overseas. The rebuilding process would take place through the draft, not through the pursuit of high-profile free agents. And fans and media would revive the unconditional “love” that defined the foot-stomping pride of RFK Stadium.
Such opinions are part of Robiskie’s forthcoming style, which had him theorize, upon taking the interim job, that he would ask Mr. Snyder before moving his own desk. Yesterday, during perhaps Robiskie’s final news conference as the club intensifies its search for a permanent coach, those opinions starkly contrasted with Mr. Snyder’s preferences.
Robiskie and Mr. Snyder have met only briefly since Sunday’s 20-3 victory over the Arizona Cardinals, which closed Washington’s ultrahyped $100 million season with a disappointing 8-8 record. But Robiskie considers himself coach until the Redskins replace him which could take some time because the club seems determined to court unattainable big-name coaches for now.
“Until they come get me from my office and say, ‘Get out. It’s not your office,’ I’m not exploring [other opportunities],” Robiskie said. “I’m the head coach.”
He is unfazed by being the town’s second most scrutinized lame duck.
“I knew that situation when I took it,” Robiskie said. “So it’s not like I’m nervous, or I’m waiting to see [what happens]… . I knew I had three weeks to prove I could do it or I couldn’t do it, and I knew that during the course of those three weeks there would be conversations with a lot of other coaches.”
Mr. Snyder continues to show interest in prospective coaches like Bill Parcells and Steve Spurrier, but team sources say the search is settling more realistically on second-tier college coaches. Former UCLA coach Terry Donahue is on the early list, as is Stanford coach Tyronne Willingham. Also, there is reported interest in South Carolina coach Lou Holtz and Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer.
Robiskie’s chances for keeping the job lie in a rash of candidates turning down Mr. Snyder a possible scenario, considering Mr. Snyder’s dubious reputation in NFL circles. But Robiskie doesn’t mind being a last-resort candidate.
“I wish they all turn [the job] down,” Robiskie said with a laugh. “I doesn’t bother me at all. I don’t care if he interviews 20 of them. In fact, tell me who they are. I’ll call them, ask them to turn it down.”
Hosting training camp at Redskin Park last summer was an instant source of controversy, while the NFL-first decision to charge admission which allowed opposing scouts and personnel directors to watch fueled the debate. Robiskie rejected the idea that camp at home put the team at a strategic disadvantage, but he favored moving the sessions away and making them more of a “boot camp.”
“I want to go somewhere out in the desert, where it’s dark and gloomy and dirty, so when you leave, the guys feel like you’ve left a war,” Robiskie said. “Then you can look behind you and see who’s with you.”
On the subject of a preseason game overseas, something Mr. Snyder has pursued aggressively, Robiskie pointed to past experiences in Tokyo and London and said, “those are tough trips.”
“It’s a good thing for the league,” he said. “It’s a tough thing for a team.”
In terms of revamping the team, Robiskie said he would look to the draft. Last offseason, Mr. Snyder brought in free-agent stars such as Deion Sanders, Bruce Smith and Jeff George, but the team showed huge deficiencies in low-profile roles such as special teams.
“When you jump up and sign the ‘big-name’ free agents, unless you make a very strong push, a diligent effort through the draft, to get some … as I call them, ‘madmen,’ to play special teams, I think you hurt yourself,” Robiskie said.
And in lamenting the Redskins’ lost “love,” Robiskie said fans and media need to return to the attitude that characterized the pre-Snyder era.
“There was a lot of negative in the air [this season] from the beginning,” Robiskie said. “I want to ask that everybody the fans, the media, everything go back to the love that has always been given to the Washington Redskins. Go back to the Bobby Mitchell and Vince Lombardi days. Go back to the Sonny Jurgenson days, when there was nothing but love.”