Friday, January 17, 2014
Redskins coaching scorecard
By John Keim
In less than a week, new Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden has put together a good portion of his staff. Gruden's staff will include several holdovers, including Sean McVay (promoted from tight ends coach to offensive coordinator), Chris Foerster (offensive line), Jacob Burney (defensive line), Raheem Morris (secondary) and Jim Haslett (defensive coordinator). But they still have hires to make. Here's an updated list:
Head coach: Jay Gruden
Offensive coordinator: Sean McVay
McVay is highly respected by his players and comes across as older than his 27 years. He won't call plays, so he'll be able to ease into this position. Still, it's a lot of responsibility and there will be a transition and learning period. There always is.
Quarterbacks: Vacant (Gruden, a former quarterback, will no doubt work with this position)
Running backs: Vacant (Earnest Byner interviewing Friday)
Wide receivers: Vacant
Tight ends: Vacant (Wes Phillips interviewed for the job Thursday)
Offensive line: Chris Foerster
He has experience in different blocking schemes, though he works best in the zone blocking system. Players have spoken highly of him over the years. His lines the past couple of years have not been the most talented individually, but still had more success than anticipated. We don't know how much the young linemen have developed or if any will be future starters (but keep in mind that Joe Bugel did not develop any young players in his second stint in Washington either. Just some perspective.).
Defensive coordinator: Jim Haslett (has not been officially announced)
Like many, I'm surprised by this move given how the defense has played and the natural inclination to clean house, especially if a staff is unsuccessful. My guess: Haslett is surprised, too, or at least would not have predicted this on the day Mike Shanahan was fired. They improved down the stretch the past two years, but even this year their points per game -- the stat they point to the most -- did not dramatically improve (they were 30th for the season; 25th from Weeks 9-17). They finished 18th in total yards allowed -- 10th in the second half of the season (they faced five top-10 offenses in the first half and two in the second). Excuses can be made that explain some -- certainly not all -- of their deficiencies. The salary cap, head-coach meddling (though certainly there may have been some "suggestions" that worked; we never hear about those). After a while, excuses get old. But clearly the front office felt they were legitimate and perhaps they felt keeping Haslett, a former head coach, would be beneficial to a first-time head coach, one with whom he has a relationship. But it's now time for this defense to finally produce at a greater and more consistent level.
Defensive line: Jacob Burney
He's helped Barry Cofield become a solid nose tackle and the front has been solid against the run; I like how Chris Baker has developed, but Jarvis Jenkins has not done enough in the pass game. Overall, the pass rush needs to improve.
Inside linebackers: Kirk Olivadotti
Had a great reputation when he was here the first time around. This is an excellent hire, but he will be limited to just working with the inside linebackers. He worked with Perry Riley as a rookie and will have another starter to train inside with the loss of London Fletcher.
Outside linebackers: Brian Baker
Don't know a whole lot about him other than he's a veteran coach who has worked with Haslett in the past. He's coached linebackers in three of his 17 NFL seasons, serving as Cleveland's outside linebackers coach last season, but he played linebacker at the University of Maryland. Cleveland's linebackers did not produce as hoped. Dallas did not retain him after the 2012 season when it changed coordinators. His last three seasons have been spent in a 3-4 scheme.
Secondary: Raheem Morris
Energetic and enthusiastic. I'm sure he felt he'd be someone's coordinator by now, but he'll instead enter his third season as Washington's secondary coach. It's not as if the secondary play the past two years would have helped him land a coordinator's job. That's not all on him, however, as there's little doubt they have to upgrade the talent base. And what matters is this: general manager Bruce Allen wanted to keep him around. Fletcher gave him a strong endorsement on Twitter after Gruden was hired.
Special teams: Ben Kotwica
Have heard good things from people who used to work with him. In New York he had to replace a legendary coach in Mike Westhoff. That won't be the case in Washington so those players who remain from last year will be more eager to buy what he's selling.