Washington Redskins: A Different Take on the Team's Shortcomings

Josh McCainSenior Writer IFebruary 1, 2011

HOUSTON - 2008:  Dan Riley of the Houston Texans poses for his 2008 NFL headshot at photo day in Houston, Texas.  (Photo by Getty Images)
Getty Images/Getty Images

In the minds of the Washington Redskins faithful there is one person that deserves the full forces of the fans' fury for this team's ineptitude for the past decade-plus.

That man is owner Daniel Snyder

Sometimes Snyder gets to share the blame with former "yes man" Vinny Cerrato, but in the end Snyder hired him so the blame rests solely with the owner.

However, I've put some thought into what is wrong with the Redskins and blaming the owner just isn't enough.

After all, there have been some pretty bad owners who have had success.

For example Al Davis in Oakland, the Bidwells in Arizona, Malcolm Glazer in Tampa, and the man who is just as bad as Snyder—Jerry Jones.

In spite of three Lombardi trophies, Jones is a terrible owner and had the Minnesota Vikings not lost their minds in the that infamous trade for Hershel Walker, those Super Bowls might not have ever happened.

So there are bad owners who manage to reach the Super Bowl (or at the very least win their division) in spite of the man signing the checks.

So why haven't the Redskins been lucky enough to go on Super Bowl run?

Believe it or not, I've slaved over this question.

I've thought about it, talked to other fans about it, and talked to people with a great knowledge of football in general about it.

The people who know a lot about football like to blame the Skins poor draft history over the past decade, the trading away of picks and giving away money to old veterans.

I hear what they're saying, but really mismanagement like that can't possibly account for all this losing, can it?

Oh it can—who knew?

So there is that, probably the most logical reason, but there have also been guys we've drafted or signed that didn't shine here but have gone elsewhere and done quite well. 

Brandon Lloyd, and Ryan Clark jump to mind. So our scouts can recognize talent, just for some reason some of that talent doesn't shine well here.

In the heyday of the 80s and early 90s, there were four constants with the Washington Redskins.

Three are well known to the fans; RFK stadium, owner Jack Kent Cooke, and head coach Joe Gibbs.

Some of the fans I've talked to have said they believe that FedEx Field is cursed because it was built outside of D.C. (or various other reasons).  I don't buy it though, mostly because I don't believe in curses (and that's saying a lot because I'm also a Red Sox fan).

However the fourth constant with the Redskins was a little known strength and conditioning coach named Dan Riley.

And here is where my own little theory of the Redskins' fall comes in.

Riley began his sports training career at West Point as the strength and training coach for Army football during the 60s and early 70s.

While there, Army's football team participated in a strength training experiment conducted by Dr. Ellington Darden and Arthur Jones.

The experiment was based around a weightlifting program invented by Jones called High Intensity Training, or H.I.T.

The training's premise is that the person lifting does twelve one-set exercises using enough weight to do eight-10 reps with the last rep resulting in complete muscle failure. The idea is that you are intensely working the muscle, but not overworking them, giving them more than enough time to heal and rebuild.

Don Shula was an early adopter of Jones' training in the late 60s and early 70s and during the 1972 season (the only perfect season in the Super Bowl era) H.I.T was the standard in Miami.

Jones' experiment was performed on second and third-string players. The second-string players were the control group and trained in the normal Army fashion.

The third-string players, however, were turned over to Jones and Darden, and after six weeks the third-string players saw an increase of strength by 59 percent where the second-string players (who trained the normal way) saw almost no gains in strength.

Dan Riley became a believer in H.I.T and wrote his own book on the workout that became standard while he was at West Point. Then in 1977 he became the strength and conditioning coach for Penn State.

In his time there teaching the players about H.I.T., the Nittany Lions never had more than four losses in a season and were 3-1 in Bowl games.

Then in 1981, Joe Gibbs became the head coach of the Washington Redskins and interviewed Riley for the job of the Redskins strength and conditioning coach.

Riley was worried that coming to the NFL would mean he'd have little control over the players' workouts and told Gibbs that if he took the job he'd have to have complete control over the players for H.I.T to work.

Gibbs agreed and hired him.

I think the results of the 80s speak for themselves. 

With the exception of that first year under Gibbs, and with Riley as the strength and conditioning coach, the Skins didn't miss the playoffs.

Now, I'm not giving all the credit to Riley, but great coaching mixed with strict training will always yield results.

After Gibbs retired in 1993, Riley was kept on as the strength and conditioning coach.  However, unlike with Gibbs, the new coaches who were brought in didn't afford Riley the strict control over training he needed.

So, in 2001, Riley (the last remnant of the glory days) left for Houston where he's trained All-Pros like Matt Schaub, Andre Johnson, Arian Foster, and Mario Williams.

So maybe when Gibbs came back in 2004 maybe his first call should have been to his former conditioning coach Dan Riley.