Yesterday there were 17 coaches on the Titans' coaching staff, which included the head coach, coordinators, position coaches, strength and conditioning coaches and quality control coaches. Of those seventeen coaches, the most indispensable in my mind was defensive line coach Jim Washburn and he was the one I least wanted the Titans to lose.
Wash, who is now the Eagles new d-line coach, was also my favorite on the Titans coaching staff. In the years I have been a regular observer at training camp, the d-line was the group I spent the most time with. Part of this was because it was the position group which was most accessible. A larger reason for watching them more often than any other position group was because I really enjoyed watching Washburn coach his guys.
Entertaining, with his unique sayings and not infrequent cursing, to be sure. But that was just part of the enjoyment of watching him up close in August. What mattered more were the results he got starting in September.
We know of Washburn's ability to take players unwanted by anyone else and make them into very productive contributors, and sometimes even stars. Kyle Vanden Bosch was the best example of that. Cast off by the Cardinals, KVB was sitting at home waiting for a call from someone, anyone, when he was picked up by the Titans and became a three-time Pro Bowler for Wash.
Tony Brown was another guy on the scrap heap, a street free agent who was developed by Washburn into a star. Touchdown Tony was the Titans best d-lineman in 2009, and best defender in my opinion, and twice has had his contract extended by the team. Pretty good for a guy that wasn't good enough to play for any other team, and you have to credit Washburn for TB's success.
Jason Babin and Dave Ball are two more examples of rejects who became successful under Washburn. Babin had 12½ sacks and was selected for his first Pro Bowl this year after a journeyman career with four teams in six previous seasons. Ball, now with his third team, had seven sacks last year, which is seven more than he had in his entire time with his previous teams.
Washburn was also able to develop young players, such as Jevon Kearse, who had outstanding physical skills, but no experience. Kearse, a standup linebacker in college, didn't even know how to put his hand down and get into a proper stance when he was drafted by the Titans. The Freak went on to Defensive Rookie of the Year, All-Pro and Pro Bowl honors in his first year as a defensive lineman.
We'll also remember Wash for his ability to identify talent that was unrecognized by others. Jason Jones may have been the best example of that.
Wash is a guy who can't be replaced. Someone will be hired to be the new d-line coach, but things won't be the same.
The impact on some guys won't be quite as great as it will on others. A guy like Tony Brown won't be affected as much as Derrick Morgan. That's my biggest concern, Morgan's development. Sen'Derrick Marks is another young guy who will miss Washburn's coaching.
Jevon Kearse, 1999
Albert Haynesworth, 2007, 2008
Jevon Kearse, 1999, 2000, 2001
Kevin Carter, 2002
Kyle Vanden Bosch, 2005, 2007, 2009
Albert Haynesworth, 2007, 2008
Jason Babin, 2010
Washburn had a sign in the d-line meeting room which showed the amount of money his players had earned. That number was over $100 million, I believe, even before the Redskins spent stupid money on Big Al.
We'll miss Wash and I understand why he left. A three-year contract with a good team like the Eagles offers a lot more security than anything the Titans could offer him. I hope for his sake that he's getting some big money like that he helped his players make.
Extra point: There is one fan who sat every day in training camp in front of the d-line practice area, with a sign which said, "Washburn's Warriors". One day last summer, Washburn called a halt to his group's practice and they walked over to the fan and presented him with a Titans helmet autographed by all of them. Nice.