- The Washington Times - Monday, June 28, 2021

In one of their first interactions, Doug Williams got quite the compliment from new Washington quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. And given that Fitzpatrick knows a lot about the subject, Williams couldn’t help but smile when recalling the meeting all these months later.

He told me he liked my beard,” Williams said with a grin. 

Williams’ beard isn’t nearly the length nor the fullness that Fitzpatrick sports, but the former Super Bowl-winning quarterback rocks a bushy, curly face of hair that’s black with a patch of gray. It suits him well — even if it’s now shorter than when Williams first met Fitzpatrick earlier in the offseason. Williams has trimmed his beard since then.

Williams wasn’t responsible for bringing in Fitzpatrick nor did he give his opinion when Washington was contemplating the signing — given Williams is no longer involved in the team’s personnel department. But speaking at the Navy Army Country Club for Washington’s annual charity golf outing, Williams said Monday he fully supports Fitzpatrick under center for the franchise. 

A year ago, Williams ended up foreshadowing Dwayne Haskins’ turbulent season with the Burgundy and Gold — telling reporters in January 2020 that the only way Haskins could lose his starting job was if the young quarterback gave the coaches a reason to pull the plug. That happened, and then some. 

This year, Williams wasn’t nearly as cautious — saying the pieces are in place to support Fitzpatrick.

“First all of let me say this: Defensively, I think we have a pretty good defense,” Williams said. “What the defense is going to do for us, hopefully, is give the offense the football. It’s going to give us more opportunities. And if Ryan has got more opportunities to work with it, and the way the young guys came on last year …. With the offense that we run, I think we’ll be able to keep the ball and drive the ball and put it in the end zone.” 

Putting the ball in the end zone wasn’t the easiest feat for Washington over the last few seasons. In 2020, the team ranked 25th in points per game with 20.9. That was an improvement over dreadful years in 2019 (16.6, 32nd) and 2018 (17.5, 29th), but the offense still struggled consistently. Washington, in particular, cycled through four quarterbacks and lacked explosive plays. 

Fitzpatrick should help change that. The 38-year-old is coming off two of the best seasons of his career with the Miami Dolphins, and the gunslinger has actually looked to get better with age. “He’s going to be good for the team,” Williams said. 

These days, Williams’ role is a bit different than what had become the norm for his post-playing days. With Williams no longer involved in football-making decisions, the 65-year-old spent last year as the team’s senior director of player development. And this past February, Williams’ job title changed again: Senior advisor to team president Jason Wright. 

Williams said “it’s been a transition for me” in adapting to his new responsibilities. He added last year was particularly hard as the league’s pandemic protocols prevented Williams from interacting with players regularly. These days, Williams works with Wright and is involved with the team’s alumni program. He likes it, he says.

Williams said he hasn’t gotten an urge to try and butt into the football side of things. It helps that he’s also busy with other responsibilities outside of the franchise — like organizing the NFL’s annual coaching summit for minority coaching candidates. 

But Williams said he’s happy to give his opinions when asked. So given the opportunity Monday, Williams said he sees huge improvement along the offensive line — the team jettisoned tackles Morgan Moses and Geron Christian to bring in Charles Leno and Sam Cosmi. He praised coach Ron Rivera for making bold decisions, like opting not to re-sign the team’s all-time sack leader in Ryan Kerrigan.

The difference, of course, was that Williams was giving his insight to reporters, not the franchise’s decision-makers. That’s more than fine with Williams, though. 

“You’ve got to be mature enough to understand what your role is,” Williams said. “Getting down deep in it, that’s Martin Mayhew and Marty Hurney’s job. I’m going to let them do that.” 

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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