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Redskins-Titans: Coaching Connections

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It's basically a sign of the times in the NFL that players change teams so frequently in the era of free agency. Sometimes, it's easy to overlook the fact that the same is true of coaches as well. The connections between the coaching staff of the Redskins and that of their Week 6 opponent, the Tennessee Titans, is a case in point.

Gregg Williams, the Redskins' assistant head coach-defense, spent 11 years in the Houston/Tennessee organization before becoming the head coach of the Buffalo Bills in 2001.

Jerry Gray, in his first season in Washington as coach of the secondary with particular emphasis on cornerbacks, was a defensive assistant coach with the Titans between 1997 and 2000.

Rennie Simmons, who coaches Redskins tight ends, directed the offensive line at Houston in 1996. Joe Bugel held the same job for the Oilers between 1977 and 1980, during which time a certain O.A. Phillips was the head coach. You know him better as "Bum." Even before that, Don Breaux coached Houston running backs in 1972.

In addition, Steve Jackson, the Redskins' third-down coordinator and the coach in charge of safeties, played nine seasons (1991-1999) as a defensive back for the Oilers and subsequently the Titans.

For those four Washington coaches--and in particular for Williams--Sunday's visit by Tennessee is something special. That, of course, is beyond the fact that the Redskins will be fighting for a win that can get them back at the .500 mark at 3-3.

In the midst of the 1994 season, when they went 2-14, the Oilers replaced Jack Pardee (the former Redskin linebacker and the head coach in Washington between 1978 and 1980) with a talented young coach by the name of Jeff Fisher.

Now in his 11th season as the franchise's head coach, Fisher enters Sunday's game at FedExField with an overall record of 102-94.

Williams was Fisher's linebackers coach in 1995-96 and his defensive coordinator for three seasons following that.

Asked about facing Fisher on Sunday, Williams said: "He's a good friend--except for the times we play against each other. We've done this before and we'll be friends after the game. We've been absent of phone calls during this week.

"Usually we talk every week and try to see how the families are doing and the status of the season. He was a good ear for me back when I was in Buffalo. I've done quite a bit of that this year for him, but not this week."

Fisher said earlier this week that he's observed how the defenses scripted by Williams have evolved over the years and that he admires what Williams has been able to do with the Redskins.

"The mark of a good coach is in his ability to adjust," Fisher said. "There have been coordinators over the years who have refused to change. Their concepts, design and schemes became obsolete. Gregg has always been a guy who can adjust, not only from one season to the next but from week to week."

Although the Redskins have struggled defensively in getting off to a 2-3 start, Fisher says that with Williams it's important to take in the big picture.

"What you have to look at is the scheme, the soundness of the scheme," Fisher said. "That's what Gregg puts on the field week after week after week.

"It's literally impossible to shut somebody down week after week after week. There are going to be plays made against any defense in this league."

As far as the Tennessee coaching staff featuring Fisher, Williams and Gray, the best season was 1999, when the Titans went 13-3 in the regular season. That team beat Buffalo (22-16), Indianapolis (19-16) and Jacksonville (33-14) in the postseason before being edged by St. Louis 23-16 in Super Bowl XXXIV.

Certainly it won't be the same atmosphere on Sunday at FedExField. But one of the sub-plots involves the coaching fraternity and how it works. No less than six Redskins coaches will be trying to lift Washington to the .500 mark against a franchise in which they once coached.

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