- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 5, 2001

Contrary to much of conventional thinking, some of Marty Schottenheimer's best moves with the Washington Redskins have come in his first-time role as general manager.
A position-by-position evaluation of Schottenheimer's decisions reveals a number of moves that appear smart, particularly because each choice was made within the framework of fixing the Redskins' precarious salary cap situation.
Schottenheimer parted ways with more than a half-dozen high-profile veterans in his first offseason as coach and director of football operations, and his replacements in most cases, players younger and cheaper largely have succeeded.
Also impressive have been Schottenheimer's pickups among special teams players and veteran reserves. Most of these players had little or no profile in the buyers' market this past offseason, but they came to Washington on minimum-salary deals and have made important contributions.
The Redskins entered last offseason more than $14 million over the salary cap; they will exit this season about $15 million under the 2002 projected cap and will have more room when Darrell Green's retirement becomes official.
Despite all this, Schottenheimer's security as general manager is questioned. Few believe Schottenheimer will lose his job as coach because the Redskins (5-6) followed an 0-5 start with five straight wins, but some think owner Dan Snyder will seek a more proven name to lead the personnel department.
The opinion here is Snyder should not find someone else and not just because doing so would add another style of players to a roster (and more importantly a cap) already bearing too many fingerprints. Simply put, Schottenheimer has done a good job as a general manager. Here is a breakdown of his moves, ordered by importance:
Quarterback: Brad Johnson left as an unrestricted free agent. Schottenheimer erred by keeping Jeff George as the starter, a move that played a big role in the 0-5 start. Plucking Tony Banks after he was released from Dallas during training camp was smart, as was signing Kent Graham as a veteran backup.
Ultimately the Redskins have a starter (Banks) with a better touchdown-to-interception ratio than Johnson in 2000 (8-to-6 compared to 11-to-15) at a fraction of the price. But the decision to stick with George early gets Schottenheimer his lowest grade, and because of the position's importance it weighs down his overall grade. Grade: C.
Wide receiver:
James Thrash left as an unrestricted free agent after rejecting an offer from the Redskins, Schottenheimer since has said. Rod Gardner was drafted in the first round. Gardner has sparkled at times but has dropped far too many balls. Although his upside appears better than Thrash's, he has a long way to go. Grade: B-.
Defensive tackle:
Dana Stubblefield was cut. Schottenheimer installed natural end Kenard Lang and held off on signing another veteran. Lang's performance has been outstanding for much of the year, though in recent weeks he has made fewer big plays. Overall, it was tough but crucial to jettison Stubblefield, who was grossly overpaid. Grade: A-.
Guard:
Tre Johnson and Keith Sims were cut. Ben Coleman and Dave Szott signed as free agents, Coleman on a hefty one-year, $1.1 million deal and Szott at the minimum. The Redskins' interior line has come together, but early on Coleman was out with a sore knee and Szott struggled to overcome scant play in recent seasons. Grade: B.
Cornerback:
Deion Sanders retired. Fred Smoot was drafted in the second round, where he fell due to character questions. Schottenheimer didn't have much say in Sanders' departure, though he gets points for holding his own in the high-profile battle of wills. Selecting Smoot was gutsy and, in retrospect, smart. Grade: A.
Free safety
: Mark Carrier was released, leaving young David Terrell the starter. Although Schottenheimer later added veteran Keith Lyle, Terrell won the job and looks to be a solid starter for years to come. Carrier was overpaid, prone to suspensions and on the downside of his career. Grade: A-.
Middle linebacker:
Derek Smith left as a free agent. Kevin Mitchell re-signed and later Robert Jones (now the weakside starter) joined the club. Mitchell has proved to be solid, tough when injured and a hard worker. And his two-year deal pays him just above the minimum. Grade: A.
Fullback:
Larry Centers was cut in Schottenheimer's most controversial move. Centers caught 149 passes in 1999 and 2000, leading the Redskins both years. Current starter Donnell Bennett has six catches and is, at best, a marginally better blocker than Centers. Saving Schottenheimer's grade is the fact that Centers' presence would have been divisive during the 0-5 start. The charismatic but outspoken player didn't like Schottenheimer from Day 1. Grade: C+.
Special teams
: The 2000 Redskins were no better than average in any aspect. This team has solid contributors in kicker Brett Conway, punter Bryan Barker, kick returner Michael Bates and punt returner Eric Metcalf, as well as several standouts in coverage and returns. Schottenheimer loses points for shuffling Bates and Kevin Lockett on punt returns (a 2.7-yard average) for six weeks. Grade: A-.
Veteran reserves:
Third-down running back Ki-Jana Carter has been sharp. Lockett, Graham, Jones, Lyle and tight end Walter Rasby have been solid. Lineman Matt Campbell and cornerback Donovan Greer, disregarding their current injuries, have been mediocre. Grade: A-.
Draftees/undrafted rookies:
A pair of starters in Gardner and Smoot, and some good undrafted finds in linebacker Antonio Pierce, safety Ifeanyi Ohalete and center David Brandt. Future play of quarterback Sage Rosenfels (fourth round) and wide receiver Darnerien McCants will factor into this category's ultimate grade. Grade: B+.
Overall:
Schottenheimer should have known better with George. He was in a no-win situation with Centers. Going with Lang, Terrell and Mitchell as defensive starters were astute moves. Good work on special teams, among minimum-salary veterans and in the draft. And a nice job averting a salary cap disaster. Grade: B.

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