From the time Joe Barry was named the Washington Redskins’ defensive coordinator, I’d heard that it was likely that Kirk Olivadotti would be the only defensive assistant returning. And that meant it was far from a lock that secondary coach Raheem Morris would be back.

Indeed, The Washington Post reported that the Atlanta Falcons had been granted permission to speak with Morris, which meshes with what a source said Friday that the Falcons were interested in him and that the Redskins were interested in bringing in a new secondary coach. Once a team grants a coach permission to interview for a similar position elsewhere, it's highly unlikely they'd return to their old team.

Also, one source with knowledge of the situation said Olivadotti was told he’d return this season. The Redskins already had informed line coach Jacob Burney and outside linebackers coach Brian Baker that they would not be back. Both were brought on board by former defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. Olivadotti was as well, but he also was with previous Redskins' defensive staffs -- he's been a part of five other regimes in Washington -- and is not considered tied to a particular coach.

Though Barry was hired in Tampa Bay by Morris in 2009 after Barry's two-year stint as Detroit’s defensive coordinator, that doesn’t mean it was a slam dunk he’d be retained. Morris interviewed for the defensive coordinator position and, after four years in Washington, it’s clear he had gone as far as he could in Washington. The Post reported Morris' position in Atlanta would give him more responsibility than just as a position coach.

Atlanta is officially still without a head coach, with Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn expected to be hired after the Super Bowl.

Update: CBS reporter Jason LaCanfora reported that the Redskins are interested in former Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, who is interviewing in San Francisco on Saturday. But a source close to Fewell said he has not yet been contacted by the Redskins.

Redskins mailbag: Part 1

January, 24, 2015
Jan 24
For Part 1 of the Washington Redskins mailbag, we return to a popular topic: Robert Griffin III. But there's also a variety, from Jay Gruden and Sean McVay to Joe Barry. Enjoy.

John Keim: Doubtful. I don't think they'd get the return on Griffin that would tempt them enough to make such a move. Though Scot McCloughan has final say on the roster, I'm not naive enough to think that others above him wouldn't provide their opinion. Also, McCloughan has said, in essence, it's too early to discard a talent such as Griffin. McCloughan did like Cousins coming out of the draft and other coaches remain high on him. High enough to roll with as a starter? Some might. My guess is this is a somewhat fluid situation. If it were up to the coaches a month ago, they'd trade Griffin. But they'd have to convince McCloughan that this is the best course of action and I'm not sure that'll happen. And I just can't imagine another team giving the Redskins a whole lot for Griffin. As of now, both Griffin and the coaches will have to make it work with one another.

Keim: I think there was a definite learning curve for both. Don't forget, too, that each was in a new position and that added to the growing pains. But it wasn't just during the game, it's during the week when compiling game plans, etc. Gruden is in charge of the offense, but McVay still has to know what his boss likes/wants. Gruden had to communicate better what he wanted from McVay and how he wanted him to relay plays to the quarterback (I still don't get that system). So, yeah, there was a learning period for both.

Keim: I don't know; all I know is that Barry was the defensive coordinator. Even if he called the plays, you can only do so much with really bad talent. I've seen great play calls result in bad gains and bad plays go the other way. Why? Sometimes someone misses a block; sometimes someone makes a great play. As was pointed out to me, Mike McCarthy's one season as offensive coordinator in San Francisco resulted in the 49ers being ranked last in both total yards and points per game. Yet he's been successful. I'm not saying Barry will somehow be McCarthy -- nor am I saying he'll be a great coordinator here; I don't know -- but to simply look at stats is lazy. Also, when you have a defense and team that bad, it's not about play calling. It's a massive organizational failure. Massive. Barry was a part of it because he was the coordinator, but that team's troubles went way above his pay grade.

Keim: Haven't heard enough on that yet, but I know this: Last year was a prove-it deal as well and he did not do what Jay Gruden wanted, which was to make game-changing plays. Again, a lot depends on what Scot McCloughan thinks of Orakpo. I've always liked Orakpo as a player, but also realize his limitations. When camp opens, Orakpo would be a 29-year-old linebacker coming off a third major arm injury. If he were on another team, would you want such a player? At this point with Orakpo it's not really about if he's cost effective, it's about can he make the game-changing plays they need? There is intriguing talent available in the draft at this position.

Keim: The Redskins have gone a bit overboard with the Tampa connections, no doubt. A lot of people will hire someone they've worked with or have connections with -- just like coaches bring in a few players they've had in the past. It helps. But, yes, the Redskins certainly have treated Tampa in the mid-2000s as some sort of mystical period. In reality, the Bucs were 45-51 from 2003-08.

Keim: All I know is what I was told by a source I trust and who hasn't misled me in the past, that Fangio was not told he couldn't bring Ed Donatell aboard. Now, is this something being said after the fact? I don't know. And I know that my colleague in Chicago, Michael Wright, who tweeted about this, trusts his guy. But mine is the same person who told me the Redskins never made a formal offer to Fangio and who has been on top of things in the past. The bottom line is they felt Fangio would go elsewhere and if I'm him, the Bears job would be much more attractive. The Redskins still might lose Raheem Morris - it could be that he has a hard time returning after being passed over for defensive coordinator.  
In the final installment of Experts' take (there will be others throughout the offseason), my experts talk about the Redskins' under-25 talent. These men are well-versed in the NFL: ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, who played in the NFL and served as a scout and then was director of pro personnel for two teams (Washington and Philadelphia); and ESPN NFL and college scout Matt Williamson, a former scout in the NFL. They offer a unique perspective and insight. This series wasn't about finding wild views, it was about providing insight from men who know the game well, from multiple perspectives.

Matt has an article coming out that details the under-25 talent for each team. The Redskins rank poorly. What do you attribute the lack of talent under 25- years-old to?

Louis Riddick: "The draft has never been one of their strong points, organizationally and philosophically. That was the case when I was there and that came down from the very top. They were never patient enough as far as putting a lot of time and effort into the draft, keeping those assets in pocket and not dealing them away for veterans. They had a hard time getting out of that. I know Mike Shanahan tried to be more draft-centric and then it comes down to keeping coaching staffs in place, keeping philosophical beliefs in place so you can get in a groove with the scout staff, working on the same page so you can replenish the O-line or the D-line. When you change staffs and deal draft picks and you don’t believe in them fundamentally, too many things work against them. Now there’s another GM and another guy picking players who has to get in synch so you’ll have some misses, and if those guys don’t work together, you’ll really have some misses. There are a number of reasons why. It’s never one thing, the lack of true philosophy that’s what you have. It’s hard enough to hit on kids [in the draft], let alone when you’re having turmoil and doing that kind of stuff all the time. You can’t have a philosophy when you go from Marty to Spurrier to Gibbs to Zorn to Shanahan. What’s the philosophy? They’re all different and all require different players with different makeups. It’s impossible to even say you have a philosophy. It’s laughable."

Matt Williamson: "That young core is really, really poor. To give you a better idea, I had to pick the top-5 guys in the organization that were 25 or younger, and the five I picked for Washington were Jordan Reed, Robert Griffin III, Trent Murphy, David Amerson and Bashaud Breeland. The last two guys aren’t that good of players -- Amerson really struggled and Breeland had moments and I think he’ll be OK, but when I’m picking other teams there are 10 guys I don’t list that I’d put over most of the Redskins. Obviously the RG3 trade has something to do with that. They just didn’t have as many picks. But a lot of these teams aren’t great teams that have a ton of guys 25 or younger that are promising that are foundation pieces. Gruden more than anybody needs to get RG3 right. The skill guys are good enough, the line needs work. But let’s get Griffin comfortable, that’s the first goal. Let’s make sure it’s not a train wreck, let his ability take over. Goal No. 2 has to be, we need to build that 25 and under group. We need core guys and quantity more than quality. It’s great to get stars, but if it means trading the first-round pick for eight spots later and a second-round pick, that might be what you do.

"The RG3 trade is huge. But I don’t blame them for that move. A lot has happened between now and then. Teams that go in on a quarterback, it’s better than if you’re stuck in [Andy] Dalton land or [Matt] Schaub land. You took a shot. But who are their most recent picks who we’re excited about? A lot of it is the GM. If Scot McCloughan chooses better players, that’s great. But for teams like the Redskins and Browns that don’t have much continuity, it’s hard to be the guy bringing in talent. Tell me what you need and don’t change it on me. The Steelers scouts see a Warren Sapp and say he’s a great player, but he’s not for us but they see Casey Hampton and say we can use him. They know what to look for and have for years. It makes it a lot easier.

"What’s odd is there is no continuity between the GM, coach and quarterback. Most organizations, the GM hired the coach and they draft a quarterback together. None of these guys are each other’s guys. [Owner] Dan Snyder just said I’ll take this one and I’ll take this one. Griffin was drafted by the old group. None of the philosophies mesh or have any roots."

RGIII, Scot McCloughan and Jay Gruden
Scot McCloughan
Robert Griffin III
Redskins defense
The final grade remains a few years away, when there's more proof of what the players Washington drafted could -- and couldn't -- accomplish. After one season, however, the Washington Redskins' 2014 draft class didn't produce enough and that's why ESPN NFL draft analyst Mel Kiper Jr. gave them a lower grade than he had immediately after the draft.

It's hard to disagree with Kiper's new grade after watching the eight-person class this past season. He initially gave them a C-plus. I always felt this class would take a while to make an impact, based on the players they drafted, the positions they played and because there was no first-rounder.

Kiper also took into account quarterback Robert Griffin III's season because his presence is why the Redskins had no first-round pick this past season. That's fine; I tend to look at the players they drafted and grade them accordingly. But if Griffin had played well, his grade would have been higher.

Here's what Kiper wrote about the Redskins' draft in this insider's piece Insider:

"RG III is a big factor in this draft grade, as the Redskins were again without a first-round pick, hopefully for the last time for a while. That Washington is still something of a mess at QB drags this grade down because they didn't pick until No. 47 overall, and it's a mixed bag after that."

Of the eight players Washington drafted, three were cut -- Lache Seastrunk, tight end Ted Bolser and kicker Zach Hocker. Of the other five, two became starters because of injuries to others -- Trent Murphy and Bashaud Breeland.

Murphy needs to be a better pass-rusher to hold onto a starting job; not sure he'll do so. I like Breeland's competitiveness and how he studies, so he has a chance to at least be a solid contributor for a while. It's hard to say on Spencer Long because we really didn't see him after the summer. He has good size and can move, but he looked lost in the preseason. Still, for both he and Morgan Moses, I always viewed them as being a year or two from making any sort of impact. After watching Moses, my opinion hasn't changed -- and I'm not sold he'll become a quality starter. His length helps and he improved, but he needs more work. Receiver Ryan Grant showed this past summer he could run excellent routes. He didn't do anything in games to excite anyone, however. Right now, he looks like a fourth- or fifth receiver at best.

The final grade is a couple years away. And the ultimate grade will be based on not only if the Redskins find starters, but do those players then contribute to winning games? After one season, Kiper's re-grade is appropriate. The big question is: Will it stay that way at this time next season?

Five issues facing Joe Barry

January, 23, 2015
Jan 23
New Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry faces plenty of challenges taking over a defense that ranked 20th in total yards and 29th in points allowed per game. Here are five of them:

[+] EnlargeJoe Barry
Leon Halip/USA TODAY SportsJoe Barry coordinated the Lions defense in 2007 and 2008 when Detroit was last in league in total defense.
Doubt. While a lot of players didn’t know much about Joe Barry (those I talked to did not), they will be able to find his stats online or in any story written about him. Some will talk to friends who played for him. And, like anyone else, they’ll have questions on whether the disaster in Detroit when he was defensive coordinator in 2007-08 was on him or something else. It’s natural. If they don’t trust in him right away, then that doubt will intensify. Players say they know when a guy can coach or when he’s trying to B.S. them, and it’ll be evident early. Based on what I've heard about Barry, my guess is they will like him (not just as a person, but as a coach). But this will take more than just the offseason; they can believe in him but that belief will need to be renewed once the actual games begin. And, will they be excited to play for him? We won't know that for a while.

The other units. Yes, that means special teams and offense. Dallas was supposed to have a horrific defense. However, it was spared by an offense that not only possessed the ball but scored touchdowns. Suddenly, a group without much talent played better than expected. (They helped themselves by creating 31 turnovers.) But the Redskins have turned the ball over a combined 65 times the past two seasons, topped only by the New York Giants. (Washington was 23rd in creating turnovers during this stretch with 45.) Meanwhile, after kickoffs, only Green Bay’s defense faced worse field position on average. Redskins opponents started an average of 74.5 yards from the end zone. Washington’s defense isn’t strong and it’s made worse when the offense turns it over and the special teams gives up yards.

Rebuild. The Redskins’ defense needs an infusion of talent -- that alone will not solve all issues just like you couldn’t blame all the failings of the past solely on the players. If there was a wish list of what they needed, it would include two safeties, a corner, an inside linebacker, a pass-rushing outside linebacker and two defensive linemen. They won’t find all of that in one offseason, but the point is there will be turnover. And when you have turnover, you need a coach who can grind and displays energy as Barry does. What else he has remains to be seen.

Implementing his scheme. The Redskins have used a 3-4 as their base defense the past five years and that’s not expected to change. But Barry will also use elements of his 4-3 past, including from his days using a Tampa 2 in which the middle linebacker covered deep middle. The Redskins have an inside 'backer who can run deep and cover in Keenan Robinson. San Diego used more one-gap technique with its 3-4; the Redskins would use both one- and two-gap. In their base they were mostly a two-gap, which would force the linemen to play more lateral and let linebackers make plays. In a one gap, the linemen’s first step will be upfield. With the change in personnel and a new coach, there's always an adjustment.

Finding coaches. Clearly Barry is talking to potential assistants, but nothing has been made official. He’s had plenty of time to try to assemble a group considering he was the first person Washington interviewed. You don’t interview without an idea of what coaches you’d want on your staff. But, for now, the only thing we know is that line coach Jacob Burney and outside linebackers coach Brian Baker will not return. That leaves Barry needing to find at least two coaches. There’s still no official word on the fate of secondary coach Raheem Morris or inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti. When you make changes at coordinator, you know there will be more changes among the assistants. With a decent number of defensive coordinator changes around the league, it’ll make it tougher to perhaps build a strong defensive coaching staff. The only name I’ve heard attached as a person of interest is linebackers coach Reggie Herring.

Washington Redskins coaching scorecard

January, 22, 2015
Jan 22
Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden said after the season there would be changes and hat’s certainly been the case in 2015. Here are the moves Washington has made so far:

Hired general manager Scot McCloughan. He replaces Bruce Allen, who retains the title of president so it’s not as if he’s lost a lot of power. Allen lost oversight on personnel. McCloughan has a strong record when it comes to the draft, but how quickly can he make an impact? He’ll need to build his own staff to fully make it work, but this is an upgrade.

Hired defensive coordinator Joe Barry. He takes over for Jim Haslett and it would be optimistic to say at this point Barry is an upgrade. He’s considered a strong position coach, but he’s spent two years as a coordinator with bad results in Detroit. Talent was a big issue, but how much? Barry has the necessary energy and is considered a grinder, good attributes for the rebuild that awaits. But how is he during games? We won’t learn that until September.

Parted ways with Jim Haslett. It was mutual, but my strong sense is if Haslett wanted to return he would have. Haslett spent five seasons in Washington, but his best finish in total yards was 13th and in points was 21st.

Fired Brian Baker. The outside linebackers coach was a pass rush specialist in his one season with Washington. But with a new guy comes new staff members so Baker is out. One name to watch? Reggie Herring, who spent last season -- his seventh in the NFL -- with Chicago.

Fired Jacob Burney. The defensive line coach also was told he wouldn’t be retained. He’d spent five years in Washington and while his linemen weren’t strong pass-rushers, the Redskins were solid against the run.

Still deciding. Secondary coach Raheem Morris and inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti. Morris hired Barry as a linebackers coach in Tampa Bay after his failed stint in Detroit and the two worked together before Barry left for the Lions in 2007. So it would be mildly surprising if Morris didn’t return -- I also wonder if it would be tough for him to return given that he was passed over for the coordinator’s job. So this might be as much about what he wants and not the team. There were some assistants who felt that Olivadotti might be the only returnee on defense, but that was just their talk and not yet reality.

Quarterbacks coach. Haven’t heard anything final yet here, but based on conversations at the end of the season I’d be surprised if they didn’t hire someone who was devoted only to the quarterbacks.
This week, the people who know this game better than most will offer their opinions on a daily question. They qualify as experts: ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, who played in the NFL and served as a scout and then was director of pro personnel for two teams (Washington and Philadelphia); and ESPN NFL and college scout Matt Williamson, a former scout in the NFL. Throughout the week, they will answer questions on Scot McCloughan, Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins' defense among other topics. This isn't about finding wild views, it's about providing insight from men who know the game well, from multiple perspectives.

How do you balance a coach who worries that a guy – Robert Griffin III -- will never get it and an executive who says he’s too talented to dismiss this soon?

 Matt Williamson: They can’t get anything for him either. If someone offers a first-round pick I’m sure they would move him. But you’re stuck with him, you’re married to him no matter who the GM is and you’re not starting Colt McCoy or Kirk Cousins. There’s no one else available. Could it be any worse than last year in terms of the tape he put out? He has to be better than that. Ultimately I don’t think it does work. All these things are going against him. He’s in a deep hole to dig out of and if you don’t help him dig out of the hole, both will be gone. But I think he gets one year because of his market value and what they have invested in him. They both have to make a conscientious effort to get better. I don’t know the personalities or how they interact with each other in the building. …They have to simplify things for him and they have to play him. He has to be their guy. Cousins is a backup at best. I said that from Day 1. He’s a hot and cold player with average tools and a turnover machine, which you can’t have as a game manager if that’s your goal. I’m not a fan. McCoy is a safer choice than Cousins. He has less chance of hurting you than Cousins, but he’s a backup on a good day. He’s a limited passer and always will be. A smaller guy. I’m sure he’s a good guy to have around. He makes good decisions and can move the team. If he’s your No. 2 for RG3, he can win a game or two if he’s out for a stretch. But he’s a dime a dozen.

Louis Riddick: Those coaches that have been there will see him and have seen him in situations and circumstances that a GM never will -- even if he’s there every day, unless they have a dual role of coach and GM. So, yeah, it’s easy for a front office person to say he has too much talent and you can’t give up on him yet -- ‘Hey, I had a big grade on him.’ Front offices do that all the time where it’s up to a coach to develop him because 'I couldn’t have been wrong on that guy -- Heisman Trophy, he ran a 4.4.' That’s not to say the coaches also don’t mess up guys or don’t find ways to tap into a guy’s potential. But in that situation in Washington, yeah there has to be a meeting of the minds and everyone has to be in the same direction. We’ve already seen what happened when one faction wants to see a guy succeed and the other says he can’t succeed. It’s a disaster, and it’s been a disaster there. In order for it not to be a disaster a third time, Scot McCloughan and Jay [Gruden] have to be on the same page. Personnel people always have to be careful of hiding behind, ‘Look what he did in the pats and I had a big grade and I think his upside is this.’ That’s all ambiguous, and you’re really not pointing to anything concrete that will bite you if you’re wrong. There’s a lot of gray area and a lot of ways to go, ‘Well, I did say it was potential. I never said it was a guarantee.’ That’s one benefit of being the personnel guy. I understand what Scot’s trying to do. He’s trying to keep hope alive as far as RG3. But you can’t dismiss the fact that two staffs have not been very high on the guy once they’re around him every day in meetings, on the practice field, in meetings at the game site, in pre-game, during the game, after the game. They know more about the kid than the GM ever will.”

From earlier:
Scot McCloughan
Robert Griffin III
Redskins defense

Analyzing Joe Barry's Detroit days

January, 22, 2015
Jan 22
One of the first things I heard from someone who was in Detroit with Joe Barry -- not part of the defensive staff -- was that he did not have a talented group. A lot of coordinators can say the same. So I took a look at the Detroit Lions' defensive starters from that 2008 season just to see what they did before and after Detroit. Within two years, seven of the 11 were out of football. This group, including the backups, combined for zero Pro Bowl appearances during their careers.

[+] EnlargeCory Redding
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesCory Redding, now with the Colts, has arguably climbed higher than any other defensive starter on the 2008 Lions.
It goes deeper. Of the top 26 players on the defensive depth chart, 16 were out of football within two years and only four would go on to become full-time starters for more than one season in the ensuing years -- defensive linemen Cory Redding, Shaun Cody (a backup in '08) and Cliff Avril (a rookie) and linebacker Paris Lenon.

In short, it was a bad group.

Does that excuse everything as far as the rankings? Heck no. And it does not mean Barry will now succeed. I know there's a lack of trust in the Washington Redskins' organization and that's highly understandable. They don't get the benefit of the doubt and I'm not going to make excuses for a defense I didn't watch up close. But what it does mean is that the Detroit Lions' situation was a disaster that extended beyond the coach.

The Lions were last in points allowed and total yards that season. They also were last in yards per play, yards per rush and yards per pass attempt. It was not pretty and I have no clue what will happen here; I know that the Redskins need a talent infusion -- and that was true regardless of whoever became the coordinator.

Here's the list of most common starters for the Lions in 2008:

DE Jared Devries: He spent 11 seasons with Detroit but was done after 2008. Started 32 games in his career.

DT Chartric Darby: Played nine seasons in the NFL and was a full-time starter from 2004-08. But after this season, in which he started 15 times, he played in only two more games in the NFL.

DT Cory Redding: He's currently in his 12th season (playing with the Indianapolis Colts) and spent the first six in Detroit. The Lions made him the highest paid defensive tackle in the league after the 2006 season. He was traded to Seattle in 2009. At least he could play: He's started 70 games since leaving the Lions.

DE DeWayne White: He made 13 starts in four years with Tampa Bay before joining the Lions in 2007 and starting 30 of the 36 games in which he played through 2009. He did not play after the '09 season.

LB Ryan Nece: Spent six years in Tampa Bay before joining the Lions in 2008. He started no games in 2007 with the Bucs, but made 10 starts in '08. He did not play after 2008.

LB Paris Lenon: Last played in 2012 with Denver. Once played in the XFL and NFL Europe. Lenon became a full-time NFL starter with Green Bay in 2005 and joined the Lions a year later. He started every game through 2008 for them, then left for St. Louis. He started 64 games over the next five years with three teams.

LB Ernie Sims: Spent his first four years with Detroit, starting 56 of the 59 games in which he played (all 16 in 2008). He played for three teams from 2010-13 (Philadelphia, Indianapolis, Dallas) and started 39 games in that span -- but only spent one year in a full-time role. He did not play this past season.

CB Brian Kelly: Played his first 10 seasons with Tampa Bay, with 79 starts (but only six in 2006-07). He intercepted an NFL-best eight passes in 2002. But he was out of the NFL after the 2008 season.

CB Leigh Bodden: Started 38 games in his first five seasons with Cleveland before being traded to Detroit before the 2008 season. Played in 2009 and '11, starting a combined 15 games.

S Daniel Bullocks: Played in 31 games with 22 starts in 2006 and '08 combined. Out of the NFL after 2008.

S Kalvin Pearson: Started 12 career games, including 10 in 2008. He appeared in 12 games a year later and never played again.
Not a lot of reason for wake-up calls in the offseason, but I had a couple leftover nuggets so here are three areas of interest Thursday:
  1. Don't know what's going to happen to the rest of the Washington Redskins' defensive assistants. I do know that one fear among the assistants was that most would be gone, save for inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti. However, that is far from official and was just a fear. As of now, only outside linebackers coach Brian Baker has told people that he's not being retained. He told ESPN980 and linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said he also texted him the news.
  2. My Bears colleague, Michael Wright, tweeted Wednesday night that Vic Fangio was told by the Redskins they were keeping Raheem Morris as secondary coach, which might have factored into his decision to accept a similar position in Chicago. Fangio wanted to bring Ed Donatell with him as secondary coach. But a source close to Fangio said it wasn't true that the Redskins told this to him. Keep in mind, too, that the Redskins interviewed Donatell for the head coaching job. Donatell, Fangio and Jay Gruden also share an agent. Morris might return, but, again, even Wednesday there was doubt among some in the organization about him coming back. That's far from definitive, but it's a discussion among some assistants.
  3. New Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry spoke with reporters at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama and addressed his two years in Detroit when the Lions ranked last both seasons in total yards and points per game allowed. “Those two years that I spent there were hard, but I walked out of there a much better coach than I walked in, and in the seven years since then, being able to go work in San Diego for three years in a 3-4 system, a different scheme, and learn that and be around that, life is all about growth.”

Brian Baker out as Redskins assistant

January, 21, 2015
Jan 21
Outside linebackers coach Brian Baker won't return to the Washington Redskins next season as part of Joe Barry's new staff. Baker told ESPN980 via text that he was told he wouldn't return and he has texted his former players, informing them of the news.

Baker served as Washington's outside linebackers coach this past season, focusing hard on the pass rush. The Redskins wanted to get more from their pass rush in 2014 but the results were mixed, partly because of injuries to linebacker Brian Orakpo and then defensive end Jason Hatcher. Those two combined for six sacks, with 5.5 from Hatcher.

Outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan recorded a career-best 13.5 sacks and credited Baker for emphasizing certain aspects of his rush. Kerrigan said he received a text from Baker telling him of the development.

Redskins coach Jay Gruden told reporters at the Senior Bowl on Monday that they would make a decision on the defensive coaches next week. They hired Joe Barry to be their defensive coordinator Tuesday. There's a chance that only inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti will remain from the previous defensive staff. One name to watch for another linebackers coach: Reggie Herring, who has served in that role the past seven seasons for three teams, with experience in both a 3-4 and 4-3.

Kerrigan's career-best season occurred as growth of his game, but also because of the non-stop emphasis of certain drills and fundamentals.

"Even if it's on a Friday practice and things are lighter," Kerrigan said in December, "he'll be like, 'Stay on your track.'"
The move energized Jarret Johnson's career in a way he didn't anticipate. After nine years in the NFL, playing for a perennially-strong defense in Baltimore, Johnson was ingrained in his ways and his thoughts.

He said that changed in San Diego, playing for linebackers coach Joe Barry.

"I thought I was an educated guy and my three years with him, it was like going back to being a rookie again," Johnson said by phone. "I learned a whole different side of football and techniques and ways to play the game. It really gave me a boost in my career and another jolt of energy because he's so intense. ...It was fun to me."

The Washington Redskins hired Barry as their new defensive coordinator Tuesday, replacing the fired Jim Haslett. Barry comes with a good reputation as a linebackers coach, but also with a blot on his resume: defenses that ranked 32nd in both total yards and points in each of his two seasons as Detroit's defensive coordinator in 2007-08. The latter season resulted in an 0-16 mark, though one coach in Detroit from that time called Barry a good coach and refused to blame him for the failures. Still, that mark leaves Redskins fans wondering if this was a wise move.

Those in San Diego believe it will be a good one for Washington.

"This is a great opportunity for a bright, young, energetic football coach. Joe is extremely detailed and organized," San Diego defensive coordinator John Pagano said at the Senior Bowl. "He's demanding on his players, pushing them to excel to their fullest capabilities. The players will love playing for Joe."

Barry has experience in the Tampa-2, 4-3 scheme and the 3-4. Johnson said that led to him using multiple fronts and schemes and blitz patterns.

"He has a ton of energy," said Johnson, who played the past three years in San Diego. "He's a hard-working guy, a late-night guy. He's going to work his ass off. He'll do everything in his power to make sure the players are as prepared as can be. A lot of coaches are super intense and all about football but sometimes that doesn't correlate and they don't get along with players. The best thing is, [Barry] has a good balance of interaction with players. He's everyone's favorite coach as well as being one of the most intense on the staff."

Johnson called Barry one of his best friends in the building, saying that he balances having a demanding personality yet also being approachable.

"I've had a lot of coaches that were super intense and demanding and you didn't get along with him because they were do demanding all they wanted to talk about was football," Johnson said.

From an X's and O's perspective, Johnson said Barry's experience coaching at Southern California in 2010 also helped when game planning to stop zone-read teams (that didn't help as much vs. Washington in 2013: The Redskins had 13 zone-read carries for 94 yards in a 30-24 win. The Chargers allowed 5.71 yards per carry vs. this look in 2013 and 3.87 this past season, according to ESPN Stats & Information).

Johnson said not to judge Barry just by his Detroit days.

"I don't know a lot about that situation," Johnson said. "You can't blame it on one guy. I do know he learned a lot that year.

"I know it's an 0-16 season that people will look at. If they judge off that they'll be sorely mistaken. He's way better than that year. He'll bust his ass and do a great job. You're not getting some sly dude who will take the job and lay down and be happy. He's never satisfied."

Expert's take: Redskins' defense

January, 21, 2015
Jan 21
This week, the people who know this game better than most will offer their opinions on a daily question. They qualify as experts: ESPN analyst Louis Riddick, who played in the NFL and served as a scout and then was director of pro personnel for two teams (Washington and Philadelphia); and ESPN NFL and college scout Matt Williamson, a former scout in the NFL. Throughout the week, they will answer questions on Scot McCloughan, Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins' defense among other topics. This isn't about finding wild views, it's about providing insight from men who know the game well, from multiple perspectives.

The Redskins changed defensive coordinators. What else needs to take place on the defense for it to finally work?

[+] EnlargeTrent Murphy
Alex Brandon/AP PhotoTrent Murphy had 2.5 sacks in his rookie season in 2014.
Louis Riddick: “You won’t get me to say something bad about [Jim] Haslett. He’s one of my favorite people. I know this: They have to decide if they are good with the people they have to continue running the 3-4 or switch back to the 4-3. If they stay in a 3-4 they have to find pass rushers other than Ryan Kerrigan. Brian Orakpo is not the answer. Trent Murphy I’m not sold on. If I’m playing Trent and Ryan and think I have elite level defense you can count me out. That’s not happening. In the secondary you’d better find some safeties because pass rusher, nose tackle and safety in a 3-4 scheme are the priorities. Corner is a priority no matter what but outside pass rusher, nose tackle and safety you’d better have those locked down. Look at any great 3-4 defense and you’d better be strong down the middle. Washington has been gutted in the middle of the field over and over for who knows how long. But you can’t be great without good scouting and good personnel. It’s so interconnected and the more I talk about it the more it solidifies in my head. Right now, being in the media, you want to say this is the problem and it’s that coach. That never is true. It’s never true but we’re in the time of year everyone wants to play the blame game. And what place has it been more well-known where they’re not on the same page than Washington? Every year it’s the same thing. You hear this coach doesn’t want that guy and this coach is rebelling against this front-office guy. So you have no shot at all. They’re the poster child for that stuff. You have no shot unless you get that eliminated.

“Everyone looks good when you have good players. Joe Barry… his defenses in Detroit were gross but look at the personnel, too. I know this: The year before Mike McCarthy was hired in Green Bay his offense in San Francisco was one of the worst in the league in every category [30th in points, 32nd in yards] and Ted Thompson still hired him. If you believe in Joe Barry, even though the record as a coordinator is not good, you go with it.”

Matt Williamson: “Talent is a problem there, no question. When you look at team needs, I look at the offensive line and the back seven on defense, especially the secondary, although maybe their young guys will step up. But they blew way too many coverages and they made it easy on people. I don’t know if that’s a coordinator thing, but it certainly didn’t reflect well on [Haslett] that his players didn’t know where to be snap after snap. I would assume they’ll get that cleaned up. That’s a remarkable rate that they allowed big plays. And when I look at edge rushers in a 3-4, I look at them like wide receivers – is he a Michael Irvin or an Alvin Harper? Trent Murphy will never be an Irvin. He can be at best a solid every-down player without a lot of Pro Bowl potential who maybe one year gets 10 to 12 sacks. But he won’t ever be the guy opposing coordinators are scheming around. But he was safe. If I had to list his positives and negatives he was a low bust percentage. If he’s going against a big-time left tackle he won’t make plays. At [No. 5 in the draft], there won’t be a corner who’s worth it and there isn’t a great safety. There’s not a Sean Taylor so you can never go wrong with a stud pass rusher. You never have too many of those guys. But they might be a great trade down candidate so you can get a defensive back and a right tackle so you can get quantity of the young core guys [on the roster].”

Scot McCloughan's impact
Robert Griffin III
SAN DIEGO -- The Washington Redskins formally announced the hiring of San Diego Chargers linebackers coach Joe Barry as the team’s new defensive coordinator.

“He brings energy. Commitment to being great,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden told The Washington Post. “I like what he’s done in his career -- how he’s progressed as a football coach: going to USC and now he’s in the 3-4 system with San Diego. Really have a great appreciation for what they’ve done in San Diego. They get the most out of their players, have a good scheme. Know that going against them. I know what kind of guy he is and what kind of energy he’s going to bring to the team.”

With San Diego head coach Mike McCoy and the rest of his coaching staff attending the Senior Bowl this week, the Chargers will get a jump on hiring a new linebackers coach this week.

McCoy had this to say about Barry and his new job: “I feel fortunate to have worked with Joe for the past two seasons. He’s an outstanding technician and communicator. He gets the most from his players. They love playing for him. Washington is getting a very good football coach.”

Added Chargers defensive coordinator John Pagano: “This is a great opportunity for a bright, young, energetic football coach. Joe is extremely detailed and organized. He’s demanding on his players, pushing them to excel to their fullest capabilities. The players will love playing for Joe.”

ESPN Redskins reporter John Keim says the team needs to draft players it can develop.

More Redskins thoughts: Joe Barry

January, 21, 2015
Jan 21
Lingering thoughts on new Washington Redskins defensive coordinator Joe Barry:

    • Let me be clear: I agree this is an underwhelming selection for defensive coordinator. When this process started my money would not have been on Joe Barry. I don't know how many teams have interviewed him for this position the last few offseasons, if any. A former general manager said he would not have looked at him simply because of what happened in Detroit. I'm well aware of the stats; I also learned long ago not to judge just off stats -- one way or another.
    • [+] EnlargeJoe Barry
      AP Images/Kevin TerrellJoe Barry, 44, has spent the past four seasons coaching the Chargers' linebackers.
      Either the Redskins are smarter than everyone else or they're only going off connections. I have a feeling I know which way you're leaning on this one. The multiple last-place finishes and double-digit loss seasons hardly inspires confidence. Nor should they.
    • I know what people have told me about Barry and, thus far, it's positive. Some of that is to be expected; some of it is from people speaking anonymously. They can be honest. That doesn't mean this will work -- others say they like him, but there's a difference between liking someone and thinking the guy will be great. I've covered this team far too long to provide that sort of optimism. But to think Barry automatically is bad? Not going there, sorry. By all accounts he's been a good position coach and he's only 44. Guys like that do get second chances eventually. He's getting his now.
    • No, being a good position coach does not guarantee future success as a coordinator.
    • If nothing else, you can't say this is about ticket sales. This is the Costanza approach: Do the opposite of everything you've ever done.
    • Yeah, this is a huge gamble for all involved. Next year at this time we'll either be lauding them or analyzing a new coach.
    • Nothing has worked here -- from hiring coaches to drafting well, etc. -- and that's the issue. If I was a coordinator in demand, that would be pretty important in my thought process.
    • Thus far this offseason, Redskins fans have lauded the team for hiring general manager Scot McCloughan (has connections here) and offensive line coach Bill Callahan (connections).
    • While Wade Phillips is a popular "why-didn't-they-hire-him" coach, I'll be curious to see what happens to him this offseason. His name is mentioned for other jobs, so perhaps he gets hired. But the Redskins' defense requires a rebuild; do you give that task to someone like Phillips or a younger guy who has more of a stomach for growing pains? The fit matters.
    • That's not to say Phillips wouldn't have done well. But it is easy to see why a head coach would stress energy so much when picking the coordinator. It will be required. Yes, other qualities matter. The people I've talked to who know Barry respect his knowledge and call him detailed; that's something this group needs (in addition to more talent). The Redskins have strong connections to Phillips, too, (and I was told before this process that Bruce Allen was a big fan). Obviously the ties to Barry are deeper.
    • I'm not trying to tell you why this is a good move. I'm trying to explain -- and understand -- why it was made. Understand the difference.
    • Mostly, this hiring also is symbolic of where the franchise is at these days. While everyone wanted Vic Fangio, he did not want the Redskins. He opted for a proven coach in Chicago with John Fox and an ownership group that doesn't change coaches every few years.
    • Again, under Snyder no coach has been in place for more than four years. Joe Gibbs could have stayed longer, obviously. But other than that it's Marty Schottenheimer (one year); Steve Spurrier (two), Jim Zorn (two) and Mike Shanahan (four). That's not the way to attract quality candidates. Job security matters to assistants.
    • While McCloughan has a good resume, people know one man won't turn a situation around. You need proof, first, or a strong belief in the people hiring you.
    • Gruden did not pick Barry over Fangio out of fear for his job. This was Fangio's call all the way. So please stop that argument; you have stronger ones. Some coaches could be that paranoid; Gruden doesn't strike me that way. Besides, the best way to provide security is to hire good people and win.
    • And there's no way if you're Fangio that you can assume, "Well, if Gruden is fired, I'll be the head coach." He had great defenses in San Francisco for four years and was passed over for that job.
    • Barry is not the reason Detroit went 0-16. That defense is on his resume and he can't run from it and it was dreadful, but when you're that bad the issues extend way above the defensive coordinator. Way above. Barry also was 36 years old at the time. Perhaps he's learned a thing or two since then or maybe he didn't; for better or worse, the Redskins are about to find out.