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More of the same?

As first scooped by Goff earlier in the week, and officially announced by VMF and Chang today, Tom Soehn is set to return as head coach next season (as well as Kasper and Payne). This is the first and perhaps the biggest decision that the team will make this offseason, and although I don't fully agree with it, I'm glad that its happening this week instead of later. The head coach for next season needs to be in place as soon as possible to evaluate the talent on our team and on other teams. The expansion draft is right around the corner!

But this already thwarts my planned theme for the offseason. Because if I were the owner of DC United, and I was looking to move on from a disappointing season and bring my team back to the elite status of the past, I would look no further than the other football team in DC. As painful as it is to say this, the Washington Redskins are the only professional sports team in DC this year with a winning record so far! And there's a lot that the Redskins did this past offseason that I thought could translate into a winning formula for United.

In general, the Redskins took a mediocre team and made it better by departing from their recent history of making wholesale changes each offseason (Hmm... What other team made wholesale changes last year?) To improve, they retained all their current players, but replaced only the coaching staff. The Skins recognized that they had a great pool of talent on their team, but that it was left underutilized. Of course the Skins were forced to make a head coaching change due to the retirement of Joe Gibbs, which doesn't really apply to United, but rather than just promoting Gregg Williams from within, and keeping Al Saunders' playbook, they decided to also replace their defensive and offensive coordinators. And in Gibbs' place, they hired a young, unproven coach in Jim Zorn. This move was criticized at first. But Zorn is now widely recognized as a fantastic hire, with new innovative ideas and a likeability factor that motivates his players to dedicate and improve themselves. The Skins' 6-3 record goes to prove that this strategy can be successful.

So I was hoping for a new head coach. I don't know who the right guy would be though. I've heard the name John Spencer thrown around, and I think he'll definitely be the head coach for SOME team next year, but it's hard to say if he'd be a good fit here. And we wouldn't be able to sign him until after Houston's season was over (probably on November 23) (although the Redskins weren't very quick to hire their new coach either). Like most of you, I'm definitely NOT a fan of Paul Mariner. But still, Spencer and Mariner don't really fit the Zorn profile of being under the radar. So maybe there is some other untapped resource out there who we should have been considering.

Other than replacing the head coach, the Redskins made very few personnel moves. They re-signed their free agents who had made important contributions the past year (Collins, Cartwright), just like United should (Namoff, Simms). They made one big acquisition (Jason Taylor), but it was to fill a position where they had a specific need (defensive line), just like United should (center back). And they actually used their top draft picks instead of trading them away like they've frequently done in the past (applies to both teams).

Lots of similarities between the two teams, but it looks like they're both pursing different strategies. And while it appears the Redskins might now be returning to their bad habits of the past, United is giving another chance to a coaching staff and front office who had one bad year, due partially to elements outside their control. It's probably not fair for me to advocate his dismissal, and his return shouldn't be viewed as a surprise given his 55% approval rating and his 3.11 ADR (you'll learn what that means in my next entry), but I'm just here to argue that Soehn's return might not be the best option for this club.

Either way, we'll find out soon enough. And as VMF and Chang's letter seems to indicate, the team's performance will truly determine Soehn's fate in 2009.