It may help to have played pro football at the NFL level yourself if you're trying to be a successful NFL coach. If that's the case, count Jerry Gray in.
When the Redskins added Gray to their defensive staff earlier this week, as secondary-cornerbacks coach, they added an experienced NFL figure who had been a blue chip performer at every level as a player.
A native of Lubbock, Tex., Gray is in the Texas High School Hall of Fame. That's quite a distinction, given the dedication to football in those environs.
In 1983 and 1984, he was an All America pick at safety for the Texas Longhorns. The L.A. Rams drafted him in the first round in 1985 as the 21st overall pick and Gray went on to make four Pro Bowls.
When he speaks to Redskins corners and safeties in the coming months, those young players would do well to understand his accomplishments in the game.
One familiar face for Gray figures to be veteran defensive back Pierson Prioleau, who played four seasons in Buffalo before joining the Redskins in 2005.
During his NFL playing days, Gray was an outstanding cornerback for the John Robinson-coached Los Angeles Rams in the late '80s, intercepting eight passes one season (1986) and six in another (1989).
At the 1990 Pro Bowl in Honolulu, Gray picked off a pass and raced 51 yards for a touchdown in a game the NFC won 27-21. He had seven tackles and was named the player of the game.
Besides that, Gray ought to know something about Redskins history, playoff football and RFK Stadium. In his second year in the NFL, he was part of a Los Angeles team that met the Redskins in the playoffs.
The '86 Rams featured Eric Dickerson, who rushed for 1,821 yards and 11 TDs in a 10-6 season, good enough for second place in the NFC West.
In the first round of the playoffs, Los Angeles visited RFK, where Joe Gibbs and the Redskins prevailed 19-7. Jess Atkinson supplied four field goals that day and Kelvin Bryant took in a 14-yard TD pass from Jay Schroeder.
Gray and Rams corner LeRoy Irvin held Art Monk and Gary Clark in check, though. Monk had five catches for just 34 yards, Clark one catch for eight yards.
The Redskins went on to beat Chicago 27-13 the next week at Soldier Field. But then they ran into Lawrence Taylor and the Giants on a cold and windy afternoon at the Meadowlands, where New York pitched a 17-0 shutout.
Gray, Buffalo's defensive coordinator the past five seasons and a man with 18 years of NFL experience, replaces DeWayne Walker, who returns to the college ranks as UCLA's defensive coordinator. Walker was on Pete Carroll's staff at cross-town rival USC in an earlier coaching stop.
The Redskins, by dipping into the AFC to bring on Al Saunders and Gray, may be helping themselves in an especially strategic way--by adding more general knowledge about the other conference.
Certainly, the Redskins need to reverse the problem they have with AFC opponents, to whom they've lost 10 straight.
Saunders and Gray should be able to add new thinking when it comes to games against the AFC in 2006. Houston, Indianapolis, Jacksonville and Tennessee are on Washington's schedule for the coming season.
Gray brings a lot to the burgundy and gold. Here's a stat from his coaching resume that is of the clip-and-save variety: With the Bills in 2004, Gray directed a defense that produced 39 turnovers, tops in the entire NFL.