Mooching off the West Coast tree

Redskins fans have always had a flair for overreaction to both the good and the bad, but the ever-secretive coaching search of 2008 has sent them off the deep end.

Owner Dan Snyder gave fans yet another reason to overreact this weekend when Washington Post beat reporter (acting more along the lines of a private detective) Jason La Canfora hinted that Snyder may be pursuing former 49ers and Lions coach Steve Mariucci.

Are you serious? Another name in the pile? Is this ever going to end? When is Snyder going to realize that- wait… who?

Steve Mariucci?

I can dig it. More than Jim Fassel, anyway.

The popular choice among fans and players was Gregg Williams, for continuity’s sake.

Williams is out of the mix now, but Mariucci makes a whole heap of sense in a much different way.

Mariucci is a purveyor of the West Coast Offense, much like new offensive coordinator Jim Zorn.La Canfora went on to highlight all the connections between the Redskins and Mariucci in his blog, and it’s mostly speculation, but if it’s continuity you want, then Mariucci is right up your alley.

Conventional wisdom would say that going from Al Saunders’ freakishly complicated offense to a West Coast system would require an overhaul of personnel, but the truth is, the Redskins already have many of the pieces in place.

For those of you who may not understand completely, let me explain the little bit I know about the West Coast offense.

Bill Walsh designed the West Coast offense to make a short passing game an extension of the running game.

Instead of handing off so a running back can run behind five blockers trying to block six defenders, a short pass is thrown to a ball carrier behind two blockers, trying to block three defenders.

It’s a pass-first offense, but not in the way the Colts or Patriots have a pass-first offense.

Just like every other type of NFL offense, once the defense is committed to stopping the short pass/run, you hit em’ with the deep ball.

It gets much more extravagant than that, but there’s a reason I’m a sportswriter and not a football coach.

Still, I know enough about the x’s and o’s of it to know that a West Coast Offense wouldn’t necessarily mean mass roster turnover for the Skins.

Start with the line. Chris Samuels, Casey Rabach and Pete Kendall are all guys who are notorious for getting up the field efficiently and effectively.

As last season wore on, the Redskins’ screens, hitches and other plays that get blockers out in the open became more and more effective.

During the four-game winning streak at the end of the regular season, Clinton Portis became more of threat as a receiver than ever before in his career, finishing with 47 receptions for 389 yards — both career highs.

Factors like the salary cap, age and Joe Gibbs’ departure will probably result in offseason changes to the line, but the players who do return should fit right in.

The receiving core, while still lacking a tall receiver (I feel ya, Roethlisberger) may go largely unchanged should Mooch make his move to D.C.

Santana Moss can probably play in any system as long as he’s healthy, but he’s always been great at turning short passes into big gains, which is one of the purest elements of a West Coast system.

Antwaan Randle El could thrive under Mariucci as well, but traditionally bigger receivers are necessary to turn a West Coast offense into a well-oiled machine.

The thing that should really excite Redskins fans about the prospect of Mooch being the next head coach is the prospect of Jason Campbell being the next Donovan McNabb, Jeff Garcia, Matt Hasselbeck or (dare I say it?) Joe Montana.

Campbell has always stressed publicly that he wants to spread the ball around to as many receivers as possible. Well, if Mariucci is his coach, that’s exactly what he’ll be doing.

Plus, the Redskins already have a core of versatile players. Joe Gibbs always sought after guys who had wide-ranging skill sets. Jack-of-all-trades players like Mike Sellers, Chris Cooley, Mike Pucillo and Lorenzo Alexander will all come in handy when trying to spread the ball around.

From what I’ve read and heard so far, it seems that Mooch would be better received by fans as a head coach than Fassel, although so would a life-size cardboard cutout of Mark Rypien, so I guess that’s not saying much.

Mariucci took the 49ers to the playoffs four of his six seasons in San Francisco, and he still has a overall winning record as a head coach, (72-67) despite a dismal stint in Detroit.

Much like die-hard burgundy-and-golders were willing to overlook Williams’ woes in Buffalo, they should look past Mooch’s struggles in Detroit. (If you think winning in Buffalo or Cincinnati is hard, try working for Matt Millen)

Even so, let’s remember that Mariucci has not been mentioned publicly as a part of the Redskins’ coaching search (though neither was Joe Gibbs in 2004).

It’s all guesswork and rumors up to this point, and to be perfectly honest, La Canfora’s coverage of the coaching search has been less than accurate.

The truth is, even if Mariucci doesn’t get the job, Zorn will probably be running the West Coast Offense.

Now that Williams is out of the picture though, there may only be one available coach who can prevent Redskins fans from going head first off the Woodrow Wilson bridge by the masses, and that’s Mooch.


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