NFL Nation: Raheem Morris

The Washington Redskins will interview their secondary coach, Raheem Morris, for the vacant defensive coordinator's position Tuesday, a team source said.

Morris had met with the New York Giants on Friday about the same opening, but there could be more attractive candidates for that position, including their former coordinator Steve Spagnuolo. He reportedly remains close to Giants coach Tom Coughlin and members of the front office.

The Redskins have interviewed a number of candidates for the position already: San Diego linebackers coach Joe Barry, San Francisco secondary coach Ed Donatell, longtime coordinator Wade Phillips, former Jets and Browns head coach Eric Mangini, plus a possible mystery person. The Redskins were denied permission to speak with Buffalo defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz. However, multiple reports indicate he won't stick around with the Bills under new coach Rex Ryan.

Morris has been with the Redskins since 2011 after he was fired as Tampa Bay's head coach. It has not always been pretty for his group during this time, whether it was from coaching, personnel or injuries. The pass defense has been bad the past four years, allowing a cumulative 7.32 yards per pass attempt, 31st in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Some of it could be related to a lack of pressure as the Redskins were a combined 20th in sacks per pass attempt (6.7 percent) in this stretch. Still, it's something that will have to be addressed in the interview.

Morris has not been a coordinator in the NFL. He was the Buccaneers' head coach for three years during which they ran a 4-3 front. The Redskins have run a 3-4 front the past five seasons.

Lovie Smith not on hot seat with Bucs

December, 22, 2014
TAMPA, Fla. – It’s the time of year when coaches get fired, which means it’s fair to at least wonder about Lovie Smith.

In his first season as coach of the Buccaneers, Smith is 2-13. That kind of record in recent years has been enough to get Rob Chudzinski and Mike Mularkey fired after only one season.

Could the Bucs sack Smith after only one season?

Every indication I’m getting is that Smith is safe. He has a five-year contract. More importantly, ownership still believes Smith is the right man to turn around the franchise. And the thoughts of ownership are really all that matter.

The Glazer family, which owns the Bucs, isn’t all that involved with day-to-day operations on the football side. But the three Glazer sons that run the team (Bryan, Joel and Ed) are more invested than people realize. They’re paying close attention to everything involving the organization and they care deeply about winning.

They can’t be pleased with Smith’s first season, especially after opening the checkbook and being very aggressive in free agency. But the Glazer brothers are smart enough to realize continuity is a must if this team is going to turn the corner. They went through Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano in a very short time.

If they were to fire Smith, the Glazers would be starting over again. Despite the record, Smith’s team has shown some progress, mostly on defense.

It’s the offense that needs work. The Glazers know that and Smith should know that by now. The offense has gone through the season without a coordinator (after Jeff Tedford’s health issues). Tedford has left for the Canadian Football League and Smith needs to bring in a coordinator with some imagination.

Smith also needs to bring in a quarterback, either through the draft or free agency. He needs to overhaul the offensive line and get more out of a talented group of running backs.

Smith doesn’t appear to be on the way out. But he’s going to have to make some changes on the offensive side of the ball to keep the Glazers happy.
TAMPA, Fla. -- As the losses continue to pile up, it’s fair to wonder if Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith could follow the path of Rob Chudzinski and Mike Mularkey.

Chudzinski lasted only one season in Cleveland and Mularkey was ousted after one year in Jacksonville. Could Smith, whose team is 2-10, face the same fate?

Nothing is out of the question, but I think Smith is safe. Smith was ownership’s hand-picked coach to follow Greg Schiano and was given a five-year contract.

Ownership obviously can’t be delighted with the early results. But I think they are smart enough to look at the big picture, due largely to trial and error in the past. Since firing Jon Gruden after the 2008 season, the Bucs have gone through constant change.

From Raheem Morris to Schiano and now to Smith, the Bucs have kept overhauling their roster but never gave it a chance to stabilize. The Bucs have some good individual talent (Gerald McCoy, Mike Evans and Lavonte David to name a few) to build around. Some complementary players are needed, and that’s what the upcoming offseason is for.

But what the Bucs need more than anything right now is continuity. Smith isn’t like Morris or Schiano, who were unproven in the NFL. Smith won in Chicago, and history is the best indicator of what is to come. Smith needs another offseason to get the roster to where he needs it to be.

Smith hasn’t panicked this season. He’s stayed the course and stuck with his philosophies. I don’t anticipate that changing. Smith is a creature of habit.

And that’s a good thing. The last thing the Bucs need right now is another dramatic change. There’s no question some personnel moves need to be made, but the Bucs need stability.

They need to stick with Smith and let him finish what he has started.

W2W4: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

August, 8, 2014
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers (0-0) and Jacksonville Jaguars (0-0) open the preseason Friday night at Everbank Stadium.

Three things to watch:

1. Tampa Bay’s offensive line: This is the biggest area of question for the Bucs. They overhauled the offensive line in the offseason, but some uncertainty remains. The Bucs will use the preseason games to determine who ends up starting at the two guard spots. Jamon Meredith, Patrick Omameh, Oneil Cousins and rookie Kadeem Edwards are candidates to start. Center Evan Dietrich-Smith, left tackle Anthony Collins and right tackle Demar Dotson are set as starters, but the Bucs need two guards to step up and claim jobs.

2. Josh McCown: The veteran quarterback probably will only play about a quarter, but this is his first action as a member of the Buccaneers. McCown was handed the starting job when he signed as a free agent and he has looked solid throughout training camp. McCown looked sharp for Chicago last season when he was filling in for an injured Jay Cutler. If McCown can be as efficient as he was last season, the Bucs will be in good shape.

3. The return of the Tampa 2 defense: That is the defense that was made famous in Tampa Bay by Tony Dungy and Monte Kiffin back in the 1990s. The Bucs got away from the Tampa 2 when Raheem Morris and Greg Schiano were the head coaches. But Lovie Smith, an assistant on Dungy’s original staff, is a big believer in the Tampa 2 and has brought it back to the Bucs.
1. I've mentioned Washington Redskins outside linebackers coach Brian Baker a number of times and wanted to give you more of a feel for him as a coach, just by listening to him during practice with his players. A few things I noticed: He's constantly teaching and reminding players when what they've done is right or wrong. It's constant. He even chastised one player (wasn't quite sure who) for not having his eyes on him when he was speaking.

2. During pass-rush drills, he reminded the players, “don't let them control your body! Keep your elbows tight!” It's a point of emphasis. At one point, he told rookie Trent Murphy, “Give me one good one 93; I need one good one before we move on!” Murphy gave it to him. Baker worked with players on where their hands should be on the blocker at the snap (obviously not low, but he worked on getting the hands right before the snap, too). Baker: “You can't let him get into your chest. The closer you are the higher you put your hands.”

[+] EnlargeJay Gruden
AP Photo/Nick WassJay Gruden had his coaches concentrating on special teams during the Redskins' minicamp.
3. And, finally, I like that Baker does not have a one-size-fits-all approach to pass rushing. He worked with Brandon Jenkins on his footwork off the snap when positioned at right outside linebacker. It's a little different than on the right side and he wanted to make sure he stayed on the right path from the get-go. But he also told Jenkins, “You can't get it to look like everyone else. You've just got to get it right. Make it work for you.” He also worked with Jenkins on accelerating at the top of the rush -- it's where you win.

4. I don't know what sort of difference one outside linebackers coach can make, but I also know it can't be overlooked. He's a legit coach.

5. Redskins coach Jay Gruden incorporated more of his coaches in special teams drills. It's not as if other coaches in past years did nothing here, but it was noticeable this past week. Secondary coach Raheem Morris worked with the flyers in punt coverage while receivers coach Ike Hilliard showed them how to get off a jam. Baker helped with the tackling drills. Gruden said it enables special teams coach Ben Kotwica to get more out of his allotted 10-15 minutes. There is a definite increased emphasis on special teams, starting from early in the offseason.

6. The Redskins now know they'll face quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick in the season opener against Houston. Not sure it's a big surprise and not sure it really matters. Fitzpatrick was 9-5 as a starter from Nov. 14, 2010 to Oct. 30, 2011 -- that includes the 23-0 shutout of Washington. Since then, Fitzpatrick is 10-23 as a starter. Of course, his first NFL start came against Washington, a 24-9 loss while with Cincinnati in 2005. Fitzpatrick has thrown 106 touchdown passes to 93 interceptions in his career.

7. Three months later DeSean Jackson remains a big topic in Philadelphia. It started, again, with running back LeSean McCoy saying Jackson's release caught everyone's attention. It let them know if you don't buy in, you will be cut. Kelly refuted that notion. “I don't send messages to other players by how I deal with other players,” Kelly told Eagles reporters. “And how LeSean McCoy interprets things … LeSean has a beautiful mind. Sometimes trying to analyze that mind I don't wrap myself around that too much. Or bother myself too much with that. However LeSean interprets things is how LeSean interprets things.” The Eagles do think they have enough speedminus Jackson to still thrive.

8. There was a big to-do over the Patriots having a Jets playbook and that led to a discussion over whether it made a difference. Some who have covered the NFL a long time insist it means nothing; others who have covered it a long time insist it does. With players switching teams all the time, I doubt it's a big secret what's in various playbooks and coaches study so much tape that there shouldn't be many surprises. The bigger issue is when you know another coach's tendencies. I say that because some coaches here in the past felt that part of the success they had against Giants quarterback Eli Manning stemmed from having their playbook. But it also helped that they felt offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride didn't change a whole lot. Tendencies mattered more.

9. One player who must have a strong year for Dallas: cornerback Morris Claiborne. The Cowboys traded up to get him with the sixth overall pick in 2012, but his impact has been poor. Claiborne has picked off two passes, has battled nagging injuries and lost his starting job last year. This is the time of year for player optimism and Claiborne is no different. Everyone is saying the right things about Claiborne, as you would expect. But they like that he's competing. One nugget: Claiborne pulled a rookie corner off the field in order to face receiver Dez Bryant in practice. "Me and him talked about it before we even started up that we want to be the best and we want to go against each other," Claiborne said. "We feel like we both compete at a high level. I get good work when I go against him and it's vice versa. When I'm not up there, he's telling me to come. We're trying to help each other so we can be the best for our team."

10. The Redskins nearly had Antrel Rolle in the 2005 draft, but he went one pick ahead of them at No. 8 to Arizona, so they drafted Carlos Rogers instead. Rolle, a corner when he came out, continues to improve at safety. Giants safeties coach Dave Merritt said of Rolle, “Before, as far as formations, he didn't see formations. He didn't really see the route concepts. Now, the last two years, it's all coming together for him and he's feeling more comfortable. So with Antrel's ability to continue to learn and grow, he hasn't really scratched his ability as a safety yet. Last year was a glimpse of what Antrel could actually become."
The Redskins knew Tanard Jackson would be reinstated soon. What they don’t know is how much help he can provide. For the time being, he’s considered a bonus. If he works out, that’s great. If not, they won’t be harmed.

As long as the Redskins continue to take that approach, they can’t be let down -- as they were two years ago. But it also should not, and will not, alter their plans on draft day. One team source said there's nothing they will or won't do based on Jackson.

While I’ve heard they view Jackson as likely being more productive than a rookie would be, it’s tough to really know that considering how little he has played lately. He has missed two straight seasons and has played in only 10 games since 2010.

So if a safety they like a lot somehow falls to them at No. 34, then the Redskins would and should draft him. Of course, that assumes they like that safety over a handful of other spots they'd like to address. It would be a serious mistake -- and a big leap of faith -- to pass on someone just because Jackson has been reinstated. The previous time they counted on him, it left them with Madieu Williams as the starting free safety.

At least now they have Ryan Clark ahead of him. But they still need more at this position, especially if the young safeties don’t develop.

Jackson was just starting to play really well, albeit in preseason, when the NFL suspended him in 2012. But he was active and all over the field and definitely looked like a player who would help. I remember talking to him about how well he was doing and how he was starting to look like his old self -- pre-shoulder injury, pre-suspensions. But he also was more subdued than I would have expected for a guy rounding into form. A couple of days later I learned why: I had spoken to him before he had been suspended (something that had been in the works for a while).

The Redskins have been able to plan for a little while for Jackson’s reinstatement -- it was not a secret that this was a possibility -- but there are still so many unanswered questions.

What sort of shape is he in? CSN Washington’s Rob Carlin spoke with Jackson about this in the fall. Still, it’s hard on anyone to be away this long and still be in the sort of shape necessary to play in the NFL. How much of the defense has he retained? This isn’t a huge deal because he’ll have plenty of time to learn. The Redskins have added to their defense since Jackson was suspended, but again, there’s plenty of time. It helps that he'll have the same defensive bosses: Jim Haslett and Raheem Morris, the latter of whom also coached Jackson in Tampa Bay.

Can he stay clean this time? Of all these questions, this is the only one Jackson should truly be worried about, given his history.

And one more: Can he still play? Another question that can’t be answered anytime soon. It’s not just about the seasons missed, it’s about the training, being around the game, sitting in meetings and working out in the offseason. Jackson turns 29 in July, so he’s still in his prime, albeit late. But this is a lot to overcome.

The Redskins aren’t expecting much from Jackson. That’s the best approach to take. Anything they get would then be a bonus.
TAMPA, Fla. -- It wasn't quite Greg Schiano's infamous "toes on the line" speech, but new Tampa Bay coach Lovie Smith sent a stern message to his team Friday.

By trading wide receiver Mike Williams to the Buffalo Bills for a sixth-round pick in this year's draft, Smith and general manager Jason Licht essentially declared they're not going to put up with off-field issues.

They're not going overboard the way Schiano did. But the Bucs did what needed to be done. They get rid of Williams and his hefty salary and got a draft pick in return. More importantly, the Bucs got rid of a headache.

That's what Williams had become in recent months. He faced a misdemeanor trespassing charge. He also is facing two lawsuits for alleged damage to a rental property. But the incident that drew the most attention was one in which the Bucs initially said Williams was a victim.

That came when Williams was stabbed in the thigh by his brother. Williams told police the two were just horsing around, but witnesses said there was an argument before the stabbing. Williams' brother was arrested.

I don't know whether Williams really was a victim. But I do know he did a fine job of making himself expendable. Williams had been a productive player and, aside from Vincent Jackson, the Bucs have nothing else at receiver. But they were more than willing to unload Williams the first chance they got.

That sends a message to the entire team. Since his hiring in January, Smith has been hailed as a players' coach. That's the exact opposite of what Schiano was. But you can go too far in the other direction. Just ask former Bucs coach Raheem Morris, who was too close to his players and let them walk all over him.

By releasing a productive player, Smith let his team know that on-field ability isn't the only thing that matters.
Lovie SmithKim Klement/USA TODAY SportsCoach Lovie Smith and the Bucs expect to compete for championships starting this season.
ORLANDO, Fla. -- There is a very good reason why the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have been one of the NFL's most active teams in free agency.

"We thought it would be unfair to ask the fans to be patient with us," general manager Jason Licht said at the NFL owners meetings.

Fire those cannons at Raymond James Stadium and start the parade down Dale Mabry Highway. So far, Licht and coach Lovie Smith, both hired in January, are doing and saying all of the right things. They have signed 11 free agents, highlighted by defensive end Michael Johnson, cornerback Alterraun Verner and quarterback Josh McCown.

"We wanted to go out and sign as many good players as we could this year to help our football team and make it competitive this year, and strive to win a championship this year," Licht said. "Not go with, 'Hey, give us a couple years.' We want to do it as soon as we can. The fans deserve it. I found out in a two-month period that these fans are so passionate in Tampa. So we want players that are just as passionate as the fans."

Those fans should be ecstatic to hear Licht's comments. This is a franchise that hasn't been to the playoffs since the 2007 season, and hasn't won a postseason game since its Super Bowl victory more than a decade ago. The franchise had good intentions in the interim, but the results weren't pretty.

Plans were put in place at various times from the days when Jon Gruden and Bruce Allen tried to win with veterans, to the time when Mark Dominik and Raheem Morris decided to build through the draft, to the days when it looked like Greg Schiano didn't have a plan.

[+] EnlargeAlterraun Verner
Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY SportsLanding cornerback Alterraun Verner was part of an aggressive free-agent push by the Bucs this month.
But you can look at what Licht and Smith are doing and you see a firm plan that has a chance to work -- and work quickly.

"As you saw last year with Kansas City, sometimes a little change is healthy and successful," Bucs co-chairman Joel Glazer said.

The Chiefs indeed are a good example of a team that turned around its fortunes rapidly. Kansas City was dreadful in 2012, but made the playoffs last season.

For any doubters who say McCown, a career backup, doesn't have what it takes to lead a team to the playoffs, let me remind you that Alex Smith was Kansas City's quarterback last season. I don't see a big difference between Smith and McCown.

Yeah, people can talk all they want about how this is a quarterback-driven league and you need a star at the position to be any good. There is some truth to that. But was Russell Wilson really the best quarterback in the NFL last season?

Of course not. Wilson did some very nice things, but there were bigger reasons why the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl. The defense and the running game had a lot to do with their success.

It's pretty obvious Licht and Lovie Smith are following a plan similar to Seattle's. Smith comes with a defensive background, and he inherited some good talent on that side of the ball. Linebacker Lavonte David and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy already are in place, and you could make an argument that a pass-rusher was the only thing Tampa Bay needed to be a dominant defense. That is why the Bucs signed Johnson, who had 11.5 sacks for Cincinnati in 2012.

On offense, the Bucs have overhauled their line. They parted ways with Donald Penn, Davin Joseph and Jeremy Zuttah, and replaced them with Anthony Collins, Oniel Cousins and Evan Dietrich-Smith. The running game should be in good shape, assuming Doug Martin is fully recovered from an injury that cut short last season.

I look at that and I see a team that might be ready to win now. I see a team with a plan that seems to make a lot of sense.

"Jason and Lovie have a plan, and that plan is that they want to win," Glazer said. "That's why we brought them in. We're all in the same boat. We want to win. They have a clear plan to get there, and that's why they were hired. We believe in the plan. We buy into the plan, and we're going to be supportive of the plan."

A few years back, the Glazers were often accused of not spending enough money to bring success. But recently, they have spent big money in free agency. This offseason, the Bucs went on another spending spree.

Licht and Smith frequently are being declared winners in free agency by the national media. They are also winning the news conferences by saying the right things.

Now, if they can go win some games in the fall, their plan could be a masterpiece.

Jay Gruden: Meetings 'overwhelming'

March, 24, 2014
ORLANDO, FL. -- New Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden emerged from another meeting, ready to hustle somewhere else, and sounding a bit drained from the experience. Six straight hours of meetings, he said. It's part of the gig for a head coach; it's also a new experience for him.

"I'm a little brain dead now," Gruden said. "Being a coordinator and being a head coach are totally different, and it's starting to sink in a little bit with all the things you're responsible for on and off the field. It's overwhelming now, but once I take time to go back and read through all my notes, hopefully I'll be better prepared for it."

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AP Photo/Manuel Balce CenetaWashington's Jay Gruden is attending his first owners meetings as an NFL head coach.
But, speaking at the owners meetings here, Gruden also said being around the other head coaches has been fun. It's also a bit daunting as well.

"[Bill] Belichick, Tom Coughlin, these guys have been great coaches for a long time," he said. "Now to be in the same group with them is exciting. I have a lot of work to do."

But it's work that will be a little on hiatus until he leaves Wednesday.

"I always feel like anytime I'm away from the office I'm missing out on doing something," he said. "It's very stressful, but I know we're coming along at the right pace. Our schedule is intact for OTAs... and the draft and all those things are ready to roll. I still feel like I need to be there doing something."

His big surprise thus far? How easy things have gone since he was hired.

"The communication with the staff and [owner] Dan Snyder, so far it's been a smooth process," he said. "We haven't played a game yet, obviously, haven't had a chance to meet all the players yet. But I'm very happy the way things are going."

He also likes having two former head coaches on his staff in defensive coordinator Jim Haslett and secondary coach Raheem Morris.

"Having coaches who have been through it is very, very important," Gruden said. "I lean on them heavily."

The Redskins' players can start offseason workouts April 7, which is two weeks earlier than teams who do not have first-time head coaches. But it's still later than it used to be before the new CBA.

"We'll have plenty of time," Gruden said. "You'd like to have more time, you'd like to be able to meet with them now and go over the playbook. You'd like to go outside and play catch with them if you wanted to. Obviously the rules prohibit that. But we'll have plenty of time to get going mentally and physically. Sometimes it's good to get the player away from the building for some time so he can reflect and get ready on his own. A lot of these guys are self-starters anyway. They'll do a lot of work on their own. I know Robert [Griffin III] is working hard now. He has a bunch of guys in Arizona this week. It's exciting to see them work on their own and when they're here we'll help them along the way."

Free-agent analysis: Adam Hayward

March, 11, 2014
A thumbnail look at newly-signed inside linebacker Adam Hayward:

What he got: Three years, $3 million with a $300,000 bonus.

Quick analysis: Hayward is considered a good leader and solid special teams player, both of which the Redskins needed. He spent seven seasons in Tampa Bay, starting 13 games. He’s 6-foot-1, 240 pounds and runs well. His best time in the 40-yard dash in 2007 (when he was coming out of Portland State) was 4.46 seconds. Having big players who can run is an absolute must on special teams; it’s also one of the reasons Lorenzo Alexander was so good in this area. He’s also considered a good locker room guy. Obviously the Redskins know him well, with Raheem Morris and Bruce Allen both having worked with him in Tampa Bay. You typically do better in free agency when you have a history with a player.

Impact: The Redskins needed to add inside linebackers, but considering Hayward is more of a special teams standout it’s hard to imagine their work here is done. They had been linked to Joe Mays as well; he’s another special teams standout. Tough to see how this bumps anyone off the roster considering they lacked depth. I do wonder what this means for Bryan Kehl, who was supposed to play a similar role. But Hayward, from what I gather, has been a better special teams player. If Keenan Robinson is healthy and Brandon Jenkins becomes better in this area, it would give the Redskins three big players on special teams who can run. They did not have that last season.

Quick takes: Aqib Talib

March, 9, 2014
  • Yes, the Washington Redskins are interested in New England cornerback Aqib Talib, who will be a free agent Tuesday. They were among the teams that contacted him, but this is clearly no surprise. I’m not sure of a Redskins beat reporter who didn’t speculate on this possibility. But they have contacted a number of players, or, more accurately, their agents: (among them based on reports: tackle Anthony Collins; safety Mike Mitchell, who was among the first contacted; and defensive lineman Arthur Jones). All of these make sense and have been speculated about, but they won’t sign them all. Collins, for example, would be a good right tackle, but I’d imagine he’ll get paid as a left tackle.
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    AP Photo/Damian StrohmeyerFree agent Aqib Talib would give the Redskins three cornerbacks capable of starting.
    It doesn’t mean they will sign him, but with the connections between Talib and Redskins secondary coach Raheem Morris, it makes sense the Redskins would be interested. That and the fact that they need another cornerback. The Redskins' third corner last season was David Amerson, who played 67 percent of the defensive snaps.
  • There is a lot to like about Talib. He’s a good cornerback and has transformed his reputation playing in New England. I remember being told when he was in Tampa Bay that he was a guy who wanted to be a leader, but really didn’t know how and that he wasn’t a bad guy but acted improperly. With the Patriots, that leadership side emerged.
  • But this is big: Would that side continue in Washington? Or was it a function of being in an environment such as New England’s? I’m not blaming Morris, because I wasn’t there, but under his leadership as Tampa's head coach Talib had issues. It could simply be because he was young. I don’t know. I do remember the Redskins having issues with Talib before he was drafted. After Morris was fired, numerous reports cited that things were too lax. Morris is not in charge here, but was that why Talib struggled there or was he just young? I'm not smart enough to say, nor do I know Talib at all, other than talking to people and reading reports.
  • That said, it sure seems the combination of a stable environment, a strong head coach and a solid organization helped Talib. He learned what it took to be a successful pro. The Redskins have a first-year head coach and an organization that has much to prove. That does not mean Talib would revert to bad habits, but this difference is worth discussing.
  • Talib has size (6-foot-1), can play physical and move inside and out. Every team needs three cornerbacks capable of starting, and the Redskins would have that. How good some of those cornerbacks are can be debated. But Talib’s ability to play inside and out would be welcomed. The Redskins don’t have a third cornerback you can count on right now. Of course, it’s still just March.
  • The Pro Bowl is a popularity contest, but Talib has made just one (this year). Take that for what it’s worth.
  • But if it’s going to take big money to sign Talib, then you must have buyer beware. For comparison, Sam Shields' Green Bay deal was four years, $39 million; but he’s two years younger than Talib. Brent Grimes re-upped with Miami for four years and $32 million with $16 million guaranteed. He'll be 31 in July and has played in every game in three of the past five seasons, but appeared in a combined 13 games the other two years. Of course, I’d want to see the breakdown of Shields’ contract first, before knowing how to use it as a guide.
  • Another aspect, and this is rather big: Talib’s injury history. He hasn’t played more than 13 games since 2009. It’s tough to justify a big contract for someone with this history. Players don’t become more durable as they get older (he's 28). I don’t think I’d jump out and give him a big deal at the start of free agency (of course, this depends on what sort of deal it is). This one will require discipline on the part of the Redskins. I think we'll learn something about them based on how this unfolds.
The numbers suggested a move could have been made. Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden looked beyond the numbers and decided he wanted to keep defensive coordinator Jim Haslett around.

In fact, Gruden said they will start talking Monday about a contract extension.

The Redskins announced Friday that Haslett will remain as the defensive coordinator, which was expected from the time Gruden was hired. The Redskins’ defense the past four years ranked 21st, 21st, 22nd and 30th in points per game. They were 31st, 13th, 28th, and 18th in yards per game.

“It was a lot of issues, and schematically it wasn’t the issue,” Gruden said. “It was special teams and depth issues. But to see them compete on a weekly basis ... They played well. I know a lot of offensive coaches that have a lot of respect for what coach Haslett brings, and how difficult it is to go against them. I’m one of those guys.”

The Redskins did much better in the second half of the season, ranking 10th in yards per game (25th in points).

Gruden also said he wanted to keep the staff intact to maintain continuity in their system.

“With another year coaching them up I think they’ll be fine,” Gruden said. “I’ve gone against his defense. I know what he’s about, and I know the scheme he plays is very difficult. He’s done great against Dallas, and he did well against Philadelphia the second time around, and in the second half of the year they played well. They were put in a lot of difficult situations.”

Gruden also is allowing Haslett to hire members of the staff, something he was unable to do under Mike Shanahan. And Gruden will not be as involved in the defense as his predecessor.

But he also liked the fact that Haslett is a former head coach (as is secondary coach Raheem Morris), which he said will benefit a first-time head coach like himself.

“I wanted someone with experience,” Gruden said. “I have Raheem also, and I know obviously Jim has great experience, not just the coaching part, but setting up schedules and practice schedules and dealing with players. And just to have another guy to bounce ideas off of. If I have a screwed-up idea, I know he’ll tell me this is not going to work. I need people like that, who will be loyal and work their tail off and come up with good ideas.”

Jay Gruden likes the 3-4 defense

January, 10, 2014
ASHBURN, Va. -- When Mike Shanahan changed the Washington Redskins to a 3-4, he talked about how that scheme would bother him as an offensive coordinator. Four years later, it’s the same reason the team likely will stay in that scheme.

New Redskins coach Jay Gruden said he’d like to stick with that alignment.

“This team is built for a 3-4,” he said. “I hate the 3-4 as an offensive coordinator.”

The thinking always has been that it provides the defense a better way to disguise who will be rushing on a particular down. If they send four pass-rushers, which outside linebacker will rush?

[+] EnlargeJim Haslett
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliWhile it's clear the Redskins will stick with the 3-4 scheme, it's unclear whether Jay Gruden will retain defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.
The Redskins have played a 3-4 for the past four seasons, never ranking above 13th in total yards or 21st in points allowed (in the previous 11 years they had eight top-10 defenses in total yards and three in scoring).

The Redskins have recorded more sacks in this scheme than it did the previous four years in a 4-3 front: 138 to 116. But in each of the past four years opposing quarterbacks posted a rating of at least 87.0. In the previous six years opposing quarterbacks posted a rating of 87.0 or higher only once. Four times they were under 77.1. (For the record, three of the top five defenses against the pass in 2013 used a base 3-4 front).

The 3-4 wasn’t used much until the 1980s thanks to Pittsburgh’s defensive success. The added linebacker provided more athleticism against increasingly speedy running backs. Plus, it was easier to find athletic linebackers than athletic big men for a 4-3.

So it should help against the run. The Redskins have allowed opposing running backs to gain at least 4.0 yards per carry in each of the past four seasons. That happened three times in the previous six years.

But, in the end, the problem never has been about a 3-4 or a 4-3. Other teams switch and improve; New Orleans went from No. 32 in 2012 to No. 2 this season after going to a 3-4. It was always about finding the right players to fit that scheme -- you need linebackers who excel in coverage; as a group the Redskins haven’t had that, for example. It was also revealing that linebacker London Fletcher tweeted Thursday that Raheem Morris should be the next defensive coordinator and not Jim Haslett, the boss of the past four years.

Over the past several years, multiple NFL people I’ve spoken with are mixed on Haslett; he’s too boom or bust for some. But while nobody would say he’s one of the best coordinators, no one would say he’s the worst either. If he became available, he’d draw interest from other teams. While this was Haslett’s group, he did not have the autonomy that previous defensive coordinators here have had, with head coach Mike Shanahan having a big say. Shanahan compiled the staff and, one former coach here said would sometimes overrule the staff’s opinion on prospective players. And the salary-cap issues the past two years prevented needed upgrades (though money doesn’t always equate to successful signings).

Still, Fletcher’s tweet was interesting. One former player said two years ago that an issue defenders had was the ever-changing rules of the defense. It sometimes led to confusion, he said.

Gruden worked for one season with Haslett in the United Football League and respects him. But he has not yet named him as his coordinator. Regardless, it appears the scheme will remain in place. At least that’s the initial goal, though Gruden said it would be evaluated.

“I know when we played against the Redskins it was very difficult to run against them,” Gruden said.

The Redskins held Cincinnati to 93 yards rushing and 3.3 yards per carry in a 2012 loss to the Bengals. Not that it helped much as Cincinnati still scored 38 points and passed for 385 yards.

“There were some issues in the back end, but there is a core foundation in place,” Gruden said. “They were well-coached on defense.”

Jay Gruden undecided on coordinators

January, 9, 2014

ASHBURN, Va. -- Jay Gruden's familiarity with several coaches on the Washington Redskins' staff helped make the job attractive. But, while it's likely that his future coordinators already are in the building, he's still going to interview other coaches for those positions.

The leading candidates to be the coordinators are thought to be Sean McVay (offense) and Jim Haslett (defense). Both are holdovers from the previous regime -- and both have ties to Gruden, having coached with him in the United Football League. Gruden said later Thursday that he greatly respects both. Because Gruden said he will call plays, it would be a surprise if McVay, who turns 28 later this month, wasn't elevated from tight ends coach. Also, Gruden said he wants to stick with a 3-4 defense, which Haslett has coached for four seasons here and two others in Pittsburgh.

But he also wasn't ready to name his coordinators just yet.

“We'll go through the process,” Gruden said. “There are a lot of great coaches out there.”

The Redskins also retained secondary coach Raheem Morris, who worked with Gruden in Tampa Bay for four seasons. But Morris fired Gruden when he took over as head coach in 2009, though it would still be a surprise if he wasn't retained considering he's well-liked by general manager Bruce Allen. Washington also has holdovers in running-backs coach Bobby Turner, offensive-line coach Chris Foerster, defensive-line coach Jacob Burney and assistant special-teams coach Richard Hightower.

“I will interview a lot of coaches,” Gruden said. “I'll look at each coach that has been retained by Bruce [Allen] and interview everybody. I know a lot of coaches here that can coach. There are also good football people across the country looking to work and work for the Redskins. I've had 350 texts from great coaches looking to coach. I don't think finding a great coach and coaching staff will be difficult as it will be finding the right ones.”

It helps the Redskins that only two other teams have filled their coaching vacancies and four others remain.

“The good part about getting our coach now is, his phone is blowing up with people ready to coach who are available now,” Allen said.

Quick Takes: Jay Gruden

January, 9, 2014
  1. The Washington Redskins always had Jay Gruden at or near the top of their list of coaching candidates. General manager Bruce Allen already knew Gruden from working with him in Tampa Bay, as did some Redskins coaches, including secondary coach Raheem Morris and tight ends coach Sean McVay. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett worked one season with Gruden in the United Football League. So there is a familiarity, and he had an “impressive” interview, according to one source.
  2. Gruden
    Gruden was considered one of the hot candidates, maybe even the hot candidate, for the various head coach openings in the league. So once he started interviewing, it stood to reason that someone would sign him soon. In fact, his side expected a deal to be done with a team by Monday. One reason Mike McCoy landed in San Diego last year is because the Chargers had the first interview and wouldn’t let him leave without a deal. This apparently was the guy the Redskins wanted, and it clearly looks as if they went with the full-court press.
  3. Gruden met with Tennessee this week and had been scheduled to meet with Minnesota on Thursday, and Detroit this weekend.
  4. It would make sense for McVay to become Gruden's offensive coordinator. He’s highly thought of; they have worked together, and they share the same agent, Bob LaMonte. That doesn’t always mean anything, but McVay is a smart coach and also would have been a logical candidate to make this jump had the previous staff stayed and, say, Kyle Shanahan had left. It’s easy to see McVay climbing high on the coaching ladder. I don't know who would be the defensive coordinator yet, though I could see Morris being elevated to that role.
  5. I know Jay Gruden’s brother, Jon, is high on Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins. During an interview I had with him before the Nov. 25 game against San Francisco, Jon Gruden brought up his name unprompted. Does that mean his brother is equally high on Cousins? Don’t know. I do know he preferred Andy Dalton over Colin Kaepernick when they both came out of college. But Gruden said that was more because Dalton was much closer to being ready to play immediately. A number of teams liked Kaepernick, but believed he was more of a project.

    What does it mean for Robert Griffin III? One person involved in the process said if Gruden could turn Dalton into a playoff quarterback, what could he do with Griffin? Also, Griffin was a consensus top-two pick, so we're not talking a direct comparison and that Gruden somehow does not like this style of quarterback. Most coaches like quarterbacks who have talent. Griffin remains the most talented one on the Redskins' roster.