Tom Clements has a long and distinguished track record, including both his playing career and coaching career. There is probably no candidate out there that knows quarterbacks better and understands how to get the most out of them. In terms of giving Robert Griffin III the best chance to succeed and develop, Clements is your guy.
Clements was a 3 year starter at Notre Dame in the early 70’s, including during the Fighting Irish’s National Championship season in 1973. After college he went on to play a long distinguished career in the Canadian Football League as a starting quarterback, winning both the rookie of the year and the league MVP. He did get a shot in 1980 with the Kansas City Chiefs, but he was nothing more than a back-up quarterback for that single season. Afterwards he returned to the CFL where he played another 7 seasons. During his time in the CFL Clements won two Grey Cups and was eventually inducted into the CFL Hall of Fame.
After his CFL days were over, Clements joined Lou Holtz staff at Notre Dame as the quarterback coach in 1992 and coached there till 1995. He then moved on to the NFL ranks, getting his first chance in New Orleans as the QB coach under Mike Ditka, after that he moved on to Kansas City and then Pittsburgh at the same position. He got hired for his first offensive coordinator job in 2004 with the Buffalo Bills, but was let go after the 2005 season when Mike Mularkey resigned. Clements then joined the Packers staff as the quarterback coach, before taking over the offensive coordinator role these past two years.
Clements has been privledged to work with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, but prior to that he had to work with some really poor quarterbacks. Including Kelly Holcomb, J.P. Losman, Tommy Maddox, Kordell Stewart, and Elvis Grbac (among others). Despite a lack of talent with these quarterbacks, Clements got the most out of them. Holcomb completed 67% of his passes and had a 4-4 record in half a year with the Bills. Elvis Grbac had the best season of his career and his lone Pro Bowl appearance during his one year under Clements. Kordell Stewart had his only two seasons over 60% completion percentage and his lone Pro Bowl year under Clements. Even Tommy Maddox, one of the bigger 1st round QB draft busts of the time, had his most two productive seasons under Clements and was a decent starter.
Clements biggest success story though is of course star QB Aaron Rodgers. Rodgers was already drafted when Clements came to Green Bay, but it wasn’t yet clear that he could take the reins from Brett Favre and there was no indication that the Packers were looking to push Favre out. Rodgers though a first round pick, didn’t wow many people his first camp/preseason with the Packers and there were noticeable bad habits. Clements is considered the guy who really helped take Rodgers to the next level, and by 2007 (Rodgers 3rd year and Clements 2nd year with the Packers), Rodgers had made a noticeable jump in his potential and that is when the Packers felt comfortable moving on from Favre. Rodgers quickly became one of the league’s top quarterbacks once he started playing and has kept the Packers offense near the top of the rankings. Maybe Rodgers would have gotten to this point without Clements, but it would be far from certain. Rodgers improved so quickly and drastically under Clements that it is pretty clear that some of the credit should got to his QB coach.
Clements is the guy you want nurturing a young quarterback, and considering how much the Redskins have invested in theirs shooting for the best support makes a lot of sense. This year has been a rough test for the Packers due to the number of injuries. Obviously Aaron Rodgers is the headliner, but the Packers offense has suffered other serious injuries including Randall Cobb, Bryan Bulaga and JerMichael Finley, for most if not all this season. Despite those losses and Aaron Rodgers missing nearly 7 full games, the Packers still rank 12th in points and 4th in yards. That is extremely impressive to keep this team producing and in the mix despite the losses they’ve had, and a lot of that credit has to fall on the offensive coordinator. This team is on their 4th quarterback of the season, yet they still have a chance for a winning record and to make the playoffs.
Another positive with Clements is the fact that he’s watched up-close-and-personal on the best way to build a team during his time in Green Bay (his time in Pittsburgh is also another good learning experience). He can help be a voice of reason on how to build a team and have the needed depth to survive when injuries pile up. Those are mentalities that have been lost on the Redskins organization for some time, and they definitely need to bring back. Even though Clements wouldn’t be the guy in charge of personnel, it is important to have this mind set throughout the organization.
Clements is an older coach, so he really isn’t apt to turn down head coaching jobs if they become available. So if the Redskins decide to go with him he’s a pretty safe bet to say yes.
Clements would obviously be very intrigued to work with quarterbacks RGIII and Kirk Cousins. That is a lot of young quarterback talent that Clements can shape (assuming Cousins is still here). If Clements believes that Griffin can be a top quarterback in the league, he would want that in whatever job he went for. In addition to the level of quarterback play, the Redskins have a nice offensive nucleus that would appeal to Clements. Alfred Morris could be a feature back and help make the development easier for Griffin. Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed represent two very good targets, while Trent Williams would offer top notch blind side protection. From an offensive coaches stand point having those guys is a great start of any sort of rebuild.
This is tough to say, Clements would hardly be the biggest name on the coaching market which is what Dan Snyder has typically opted for. Clements is also older, meaning that the Redskins aren’t looking at a 10-15 year potential option. That being said if Snyder wants his quarterback to succeed Clements is the top guy for the job. Now that doesn’t mean he’s the best man for the entire team, but he does give the Redskins the best chance to develop Griffin quickly and effectively.
In the end I see the age scaring off the Redskins a little bit, especially since this is his first head coaching opportunity. Clements probably won’t be in the first tier of options for the Redskins, but he could be a strong second tier candidate.