The starting running back for the Washington Redskins, Alfred Morris, has become the focus of attention, a "media darling", if you will.
This attention is well-deserved and it is this author's hope that such attention does not diminish Morris' production on the field.
In 2010, Redskins owner Dan Snyder opened his famously generous checkbook to hire "yet another" big-name head coach, Mike Shanahan.
When this was announced, Redskins fans the world over had one thought in common, "Here we go again."
It was tough in the early going, no doubt. Shanahan had to clean up the horrific mess the Washington Redskins had become. I am fairly certain that one caveat of accepting such a daunting task, was that Snyder, quite honestly, "Just butt out and let your coach do his job."
I envision a scene similar to the one in the movie "The Replacements" where head coach Jimmy McGinty (played by Gene Hackman), upon being offered the coaching job of the fictional Washington Sentinels, tell the owner, "I want total control of my team, I want to recruit whoever I want, NO INTERFERENCE!."
Mike Shanahan over the past two and a half seasons, has re-built the Redskins. He got rid of players with attitude problems (see: Albert Haynesworth) and players with poor work ethic (see: Donovan McNabb) and players that are just plain lousy (see: John Beck).
He has re-introduced to the Redskins the "build from within" system that works so well for top-tier teams in the National Football League (Patriots, Steelers). Shrewd drafting, careful free-agent spending, and apparently, very good scouting.
This scouting and drafting of his is paying off in his third season as head coach in Washington. This past April, he drafted quarterback Robert Griffin III. He made some waves drafting quarterback Kirk Cousins in the fourth round, which personally, I never understood what the media's problem with that was, seemed like a wise choice to me.
In any event, Shanny's late-round draftees went un-noticed, typically. Hidden among those late rounders was running back Alfred Morris, a sturdy, one-cut workhorse runner from Florida Atlantic. "Eh, whatever. You have to pick SOMEONE." -- nearly every media source, reporting on the Redskins' sixth-rounder.
Morris started out fourth on the depth chart, a long shot to even make the practice squad, let alone the active roster. Then came the preseason.
While fellow rookie Robert Griffin III was receiving tons of (well deserved) accolades, Morris pushed his way up the depth chart, leading the team in rushing during the first three weeks of the preseason. Against the Colts in week three, Morris made the most of his extended audition, putting up 107 yards on just 14 carries.
I saw something special in this young man.
The "Alfred Morris Bandwagon" had plenty of good seats available when I hopped on. I remember prior to the Week 1 game against New Orleans thinking, "Please let him be for real. Prove me right, Alfred!"
With 96 yards off 28 carries, plus two rushing touchdowns, Alfred Morris arrived in grand fashion. When I watch Morris run, his style, toughness and determination brings to mind the proud, storied history of "bruiser backs" who have donned the Burgundy and Gold.
Larry Brown. John Riggins. Earnest Byner. Terry Allen. Stephen Davis. Clinton Portis.
Maybe even a touch of Ricky Ervins and Reggie Brooks, just not as fast.
Week 2 against the Rams, Morris ran for nearly the same amount of yards, despite having almost half as many carries as he did in week one. Sixteen carries, 89 yards.
As the weeks wore on, Morris became Robert Griffin III's "rushing buddy". RG3's ability to run, sprint and dodge defenders has given defensive coordinators nightmares, no doubt. When those coaches wake from their RG3 nightmares, the Alfred Morris nightmares begin.
Will Griffin throw it? Is Griffin going to run? Is it a hand-off to Alfred Morris?
Now, after the first half of the 2012 season has concluded, Morris is a household name, right alongside Griffin III. Because he is such a skilled, dangerous, reliable runner, defenses have to plan for him.
After half of a season, Morris has rushed 151 times for 717 yards, an average of 4.7 per carry. He will easily top 1,200 yards, as that's me being conservative.
Mike Shanahan, I tip my cap to you. Morris was an extraordinary find, a gem. Hopefully he will continue to thrive. I believe he will. Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin III are growing together, becoming greater together.
The Redskins' offense is finally fun to watch again. The scoreboard operators at FedEx Field are working harder than ever. The pieces are falling into place nicely.
Now, the Redskins need an all-world wide receiver.