Washington Redskins: Louis Riddick

The Washington Redskins' offseason did not inspire ESPN’s insiders. In fact, it turned them off and left them with plenty of questions.

ESPN insider Mike Sando analyzed every team’s offseason and combined grades with former NFL general manager Bill Polian, former NFL executive Louis Riddick and former NFL scout Matt Williamson to form a consensus. The Redskins received a C grade Insider.

[+] EnlargeQuarterback Robert Griffin III
Patrick McDermott/Getty ImagesHow good was Washington's offseason? That perception will probably be determined by the development of quarterback Robert Griffin III.
For their offseason moves -- player-based only -- I gave the Redskins a B, in part because they improved their offense considerably with receivers DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts. They provided some help for the defense with Jason Hatcher, and I liked the idea of adding a pass-rusher in the second round. Whether or not Trent Murphy becomes that guy, we’ll see. I was not crazy overall about their defensive signings, however, and there are still holes that need work. I also factored in upgrades in special teams coverage, to go with better coaching here as well.

Riddick wasn’t high on picking Murphy at No. 47 overall, and I’ve spoken to other executives who also felt he went a little high. The question is: Would he have been gone when they picked again at 66?

Riddick said in the article, "I hated their draft. I like Trent Murphy, but not that early. He was a good college player but will have a hard time winning one-on-one battles at the NFL level."

Williamson said he gave the Redskins an A-plus on offense, but did not think they improved on defense. Their secondary will remain a major question mark. Field Yates, who once interned in New England's scouting and coaching departments and now covers the Patriots for ESPN, wasn’t sold on keeping coordinator Jim Haslett, a fair assessment. He wondered about the loss of London Fletcher's leadership. That is another real concern, but the problem was Fletcher did not play well, so even if he had returned there would be big questions.

Jay Gruden’s hiring produced mixed sentiments among this group. The uncertainty about him is also what I heard from others around the NFL before the Redskins hired him; some liked him and others wondered what the fuss was about. So this part does not surprise me.

And I agree with Polian when he said it rests on Robert Griffin III's development. If Griffin improves as a passer and buys into Gruden’s system and plays at a certain level, then it will have been a productive offseason for Washington.

Riddick on DeSean Jackson, Part 1

March, 31, 2014

Louis Riddick understands what having DeSean Jackson means for a team -- the good and the bad -- having arrived in Philadelphia the same year as Jackson (2008) and rising to the Eagles' director of pro personnel two years later. Riddick, now an ESPN NFL Insider, offers insight into what must happen for a team that wants to sign Jackson. There will be more in part 2 later Monday. Jackson arrives in Washington Monday, but the bulk of his visit will take place Tuesday, a team source said.

Is DeSean that hard to handle?

Louis Riddick: "I don't consider handle the right word… Even though he'd come to a team with a blank slate as their ability to be influenced or coached into the type of player you want them to be, they have their background experience and habits even at a young age. DeSean definitely has his and some guys are more difficult than others. He presents a challenge greater than other kids, but also part of what made him who he was and what made him special other than his natural physical gifts. As it pertains to now, you have to have a plan for him -- you'd have to have one for every free agent. Dealing with a guy does things how he particularly does things and has a pattern of behavior as far as how he is in the building, in the weight room, the training room, in the classroom, on the practice field. You have to have a plan to deal with that to know if it's not fitting in with the way you like to do things. As players get deeper in their career, they become more set in their ways. The more you pay them, the more leverage and clout they have, the more your plan better be intact for dealing with all those things that could come up.

"The last thing is you better have good leadership in place whether it be from ownership down through the front office and administration to the head coach to the assistant coaches and into the locker room, that you have players he respects and looks up to to a certain degree and doesn't want to disappoint. ... But it's not just a talent acquisition as everyone knows. This is an implementation question, a management question. DeSean is getting older so he's naturally maturing at whatever pace. You hope he realizes that, ‘I can't do some of the things I used to do when I was younger. I can't act certain ways as far as being a teammate and practicing.' You have to help him along with that. Some players require more management than others. It's burned many in the past when acquiring a vet and will burn many in the future if they don't take the implementation plan seriously. You can't get so hung up on and mesmerized and intoxicated by speed and playmaking ability. He had all that in Philadelphia. Obviously he had other issues they felt superseded that. Knowing that it has to be your primary focus if you do sign him, then go for it."

Is it telling to you that Andy Reid and the Chiefs backed out and Marty Mornhinweg and the Jets did as well? Both of those coaches know him well.

Riddick: "It says some things to you in the sense that they do have more knowledge than anyone else. But at the same time, it's not just that. In Kansas City's situation, they have a tight salary cap and they're also trying to build through the draft, trying to be methodical on how they construct a team from a long-term perspective and sometimes that supersedes going out and trying to acquire a player that will put a strain on the team and that doesn't fit into the long-term plan. If they really wanted to, could they do it? Sure. Those are the two teams that could make the most informed decision. "

Is Washington a good place for him?

Riddick: "How strong is the leadership there in the locker room? How strong is the head coach as a leader? Though Bruce Allen has been a GM, it's the first year he's in charge and not Mike Shanahan. There are a lot of unknowns. There are a lot of procedure and protocols in place that have not been tested and one is how do you deal with bringing in a volatile player who can be a handful to deal with, but is supremely talented. How do you balance the skills and addition he can make on the field to potentially being someone who doesn't fit in your locker room. I wouldn't blame them for being conservative with it and ultimately deciding this is the dollar figure we'll go to and after that we're out. It would be prudent to do so. If they're confident enough in their way of doing things, then they'll do it. If Dan [Snyder] wants the player, if he's that active -- I've been led to believe he's not -- you know how persuasive he can be. It's a tricky situation for them. They better be sure they have a plan and I'd say that for any team. I've been place where there wasn't a plan for dealing with a player as a person and it just blew up. It was bad business. In this case you have to do your due diligence and do it very thoroughly ... Obviously there's no secret about DeSean [and his issues] and I'm not talking about the gang nonsense. I don't know anything about that. But I've seen what happens when you just look at the player and how you'll use him on the field and then think about his off-field [behavior], 'We'll just figure it out.' It's such a recipe for disaster I can't begin to tell you how ridiculous that is. You can't do that here. You have to make sure you know what you're doing."

Offseason Blueprint: Redskins

March, 4, 2014
The Redskins’ blueprint this offseason will look more like a road map. So many roads they could go down because of the needs they must fill and the number of free agents they have. They’ve already made a couple of moves -- re-signing corner DeAngelo Hall and defensive lineman Chris Baker. But there’s a lot of work to be done this offseason, especially with the defense and the continued development of quarterback Robert Griffin III.

ESPN’s experts weighed in on what the Redskins’ blueprint should be; a few nuggets jumped out. NFL Insider Louis Riddick labeled the relationship between new coach Jay Gruden and Griffin as a top priority. Considering what happened last season, it’s tough to disagree.

Riddick also wrote that the No. 2 priority involves the line: “Other than LT Trent Williams, the offensive line is horrible and needs to be upgraded, no matter what the new scheme will be.”

Draft analyst Mel Kiper listed several players to watch in the second round, but two who could provide excellent value, he said, are offensive tackle Morgan Moses from Virginia and receiver Allen Robinson from Penn State. Both play at positions of depth in the draft.

Finally, KC Joyner included a stat on linebacker Brian Orakpo: “Orakpo posted a 2.3 percent mark in the disrupted dropback percentage metric that tracks how often a defender tallies a sack, interception, pass defensed or batted ball. That total ranked sixth among all linebackers last year and illustrates the kind of impact Orakpo can have.”

Expert's take: The leftovers (Part 2)

February, 24, 2014
After a week-long series, in which Louis Riddick provided analysis of various Redskins situations -- from the retention of Jim Haslett to whether or not the Redskins should re-sign Brian Orakpo -- there's still more in leftover form. This time Riddick, a former NFL player, scout and executive who is now part of ESPN's NFL Insiders, opines on a variety of topics. Earlier Monday, I did the same with former NFL scout, and current ESPN NFL scout, Matt Williamson. You can read his leftover takes here.

Here's Riddick on:

Jay Gruden:“It’ll be interesting to see how he is able to distill confidence in that team. What stood out to me in his press conference was how he wanted guys to be confident and wanted guys to believe they could be winners, that they deserved to be winners and he wanted them to believe he would make them into winners. The mindset he takes as far as the approach he takes toward changing that mindset is very important. It seems like he understands that and is aware of that. I like that. How much do the people at the management level allow him to run the team the way he sees fit and not undermine him knowingly or unknowingly and being conscious of that and allow him to establish his hold on the team and locker room will determine [that success].

“I don’t know much about his individual leadership style and how he interacts with players, but allowing him to do it his way will be important, very important. One thing I do know based on what he says is that he understands the place needs to feel good about themselves. There weren’t many reasons to feel good about themselves in the recent past. The psychology of the game is huge for me. Not enough attention is paid to it, not enough time and resources are committed to it. The teams doing it, you’re seeing results mainly with a Super Bowl championship. I believe in it wholeheartedly and other teams led by coaches from the same mold as Pete Carroll are trying to do the same thing. …I like that from what I’ve heard [from Gruden].”

Gruden’s offense: “His offense is fine. The one thing I’m interested to see is what profile he wants along the line. Cincinnati’s line is a big gap power blocking line. They don’t have anyone there that fits that profile other than Trent Williams. Will Gruden become a guy who’s more finesse zone blocking? They can’t trade out all four guys. Or will he say we need to massively overhaul this so I can get the run game I want here? The passing game, obviously they like to push the ball down the field and like to take shots off play action. Do they have a guy other than Pierre to get downfield?”

Copying Seattle’s defensive philosophy: “The whole concept of timing disruption at the line, ball skills down the field and rush the passer with ferocity have been mainstays of the NFL for years. It’s never gone away. It’s just not as sexy to talk about as it is throwing for 5,000 yards and 50 touchdowns and lighting up the scoreboard as we’ve seen Peyton Manning and Drew Brees do. It’s funny how it always comes back to you better play the style of defense Seattle plays, the style of defense the Ravens and Steelers have played historically. You better be able to rush the passer and tackle well and disrupt the ball and disrupt the offense at the line. You always need that. The Star Wars numbers are nice, but defense still wins, physicality still wins. You better make sure you have enough of that.

“Seattle doesn’t try to be that complex. They try to be simple enough -- not to make it elementary and easy to pick apart, but simple enough to where they’re supremely confident in what they’re doing and break down what you’re trying to do to them. They knew what was coming in the Super Bowl. All the rhetoric about Peyton able to do so many things with personnel variations and formations and there’s no way to handle all of this… They can only do so many things too. There are certain concepts tried and true from a route tree and run game perspective. There’s been so much emphasis on offense in recent years that people lost respect for what great defense is all about.”

In case you missed it

Here's what Williamson and Riddick had to say on Redskins' free agency, plus links to the other four articles in the series.

Expert's take: Kirk Cousins' value

February, 20, 2014
For the fourth installment of Expert's Take, we'll look at another hot topic: Kirk Cousins' value. The backup quarterback said he would welcome a trade, as you already know. So I posed the question about what he might fetch to two people who have worked in the NFL: former NFL executive, player and scout Louis Riddick (now an ESPN NFL Insider) and former NFL and college scout Matt Williamson (now ESPN's NFL scout).

There’s a lot of talk about trading quarterback Kirk Cousins. What do you think the Redskins could get in a deal for him?

Matt Williamson: I’m probably lower on him than those around the league. I tend to think the only teams interested in [a quarterback] are those picking at the beginning of a round. So I would not give up an early second for him. That’s too much, and I don’t know if Washington would take an early third. Maybe a third and a fifth or something along those lines. I’d have a hard time getting rid of a top 40 -- or a top 50 pick even. He’s another one who will hit his head on the ceiling soon. He has average tools. He’s probably a low-end starter that can have maybe an Alex Smith-like career. The more I watch him, he’s still who I think he is. He has an OK arm and he’s not afraid to pull the trigger, which is good. He sees the field pretty well, but he can’t make every throw consistently. He competes hard and he’s an above average athlete. But you don’t look at him and say, ‘He’s only going to get better, and he’ll be a starter for the next 10 years.' He may start a lot of games over the next 10 years, but I don’t think anyone’s thrilled by that.

Louis Riddick: Could I see him getting a mid-round pick -- capped probably at a third-round pick? Yeah, I could see that happening. Obviously it’s a greater likelihood that it would happen in a place where people are familiar with him or had a high grade on him out of college. When you think of it that way, you immediately think about Cleveland and what Kyle Shanahan’s influence will be impacting the position being that [GM] Ray Farmer and [head coach] Mike Pettine are trying to establish themselves. They may have other ideas [about] what to do at quarterback. At a place like that, where he has that familiarity, I could see him going as high as a third. But not much more than that. There’s a lot of hope he would raise his value, and I don’t think that happened. I don’t know if there are enough connections out there that someone would be willing to extend for him to get him and make one of those offers that has us all going, ‘Whoa, where did that come from?’

In case you missed it

Monday's take: Brian Orakpo
Tuesday's take: Jim Haslett
Wednesday's take: Robert Griffin III

Expert's take: Robert Griffin III

February, 19, 2014
The Washington Redskins don't need to get a quarterback this offseason. They do have questions at the position after Robert Griffin III's second season. After one terrific season followed by a tough one -- yes, brought on in part by other factors -- Griffin has shown promise but also rough edges that need smoothing when it comes to his development as a passer. He'll also now get his first full offseason to work on his game. So Wednesday's question for our experts is about Griffin.

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
AP Photo/Nick WassRedskins QB Robert Griffin III has a hefty challenge ahead of him for the 2014 season.
What are your expectations for RG III -- and what do you think for him going forward?

Louis Riddick: It's lukewarm. Obviously a player's success and failure has a lot to do with other factors that you can't necessarily scout and that means the relationships between players and coaches and players and players, off-field distractions, how he lives his life and how dialed in he is. Those are things you can't evaluate from afar. Number one, his relationship with Jay Gruden, his health, his relationship with teammates, what his level of commitment to being an all-around great quarterback. Those are all things that determine it. From what I've seen and know and what I've heard, I think it could really go either way with him. He could turn out to be the guy everyone thought he would be coming out of Baylor and what he showed glimpses of his rookie year. I also would not be surprised to see him become a guy who never fully realizes or meets the expectations of being the second overall pick in the draft and is looked back on in disgust. Was it his relationship with Mike Shanahan or the knee injury or the fact that he was never going to be the prototype pocket passer. Was he always going to be reliant on the zone read and be a one, two progression thrower and he just missed. It could go either way. That has yet to be determined for me.

Matt Williamson: Just watching him on tape I'll bet he was never healthy all year. He has to get healthy first and foremost. He rushed back way too soon, but that wasn't the only problem. His lower body mechanics were bad and I don't know if it was because of the injury or not. I think you need to build him from the ground up with the new staff. I imagine they will. I think the league caught up to the read option, too. It was the first offseason that every defensive coordinator was putting time into stopping the read option. That's such a key component. That's a big blow. Everything was read option or play-action. They ran so much play-action [in 2012] they weren't able to do that nearly effectively [last season]. Game scripts were part of the reason, too; the defense was so bad. A Shanahan offense is based off that zone run game but when you're down 21-0 in the second quarter no one cares about your run game.
I'm still confident he's going to be a star. But that was a rough year. He didn't put any good tape for most of the season. I think he's so unbelievably gifted, we saw him make a lot of great plays -- not just as a runner. He's a good deep passer. He has a big arm. Jay Gruden has to be salivating. I'm not an Andy Dalton fan at all and he got a lot out of Dalton. People looked at it the wrong way by asking why hire a guy whose quarterback falls apart in the postseason. I'm saying, ‘We hired a guy who had a quarterback with below-average skills and he got them to the postseason.' There wasn't a lot of clay to mold in Cincinnati.

In case you missed it

Monday's take: Brian Orakpo
Tuesday's take: Jim Haslett

Experts' take: Jim Haslett's return

February, 18, 2014
The Redskins face numerous questions this offseason. Too many to mention, perhaps. But there are a number that can be addressed and answered -- with the help of people who know the game much better than me. So all week I'll pose a different question to two experts -- former NFL executive, player and scout Louis Riddick (now an ESPN NFL Insider) and former NFL and college scout Matt Williamson (now ESPN's NFL scout). Tuesday's question is one the Redskins already answered because it involves defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. But this topic remains a lightning rod for fans, so ...

There's been a lot of talk about Jim Haslett coming back and how the lack of interference from Mike Shanahan can help. How much do you think it can help that Haslett is more on his own -- and what did you think about the Redskins retaining him?

[+] EnlargeJim Haslett
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliThe Redskins decided to retain defensive coordinator Jim Haslett even though Washington was tied for 30th in points allowed in 2013.
Matt Williamson: That's a good question. I don't think Haslett needs help. I'm not sure keeping him was the right move either. I'm not necessarily a fan of his, but I also don't think he's in over his head. He's been doing it long enough that he understands his job so it could be a good thing [without Mike Shanahan around]. Shanahan obviously was offensive-minded, but I'm sure he knows defense. But maybe he wasn't helping.

At the time, I did not understand [keeping Haslett]. But he does have ties to Jay Gruden so knowing that, it makes sense. But at the time I was wondering what Haslett has done to make the defense any better than it should be. They were really lacking in personnel so it's tough to kill a coordinator when you don't have the horses. But I don't think he got more out of anybody in particular.

Louis Riddick: Depending upon what the level of interference was and depending on how knowledgeable Shanahan is about teaching and scheming and calling defensive football given that his background is offense. It's hard to know how much it will affect it in a positive way. I will say this, knowing Jim like I do and having played for him back in the early '90s when I played for him in the World League, I know he knows defense and I know what he believes in philosophically. I know he likes to pressure and I know he understands good coverage guys and wants safeties with good range and has a good feel for down and distance tendencies. He's not a guy overwhelmed by the moment on game day. He's a very good teacher and motivator. So I would think if the interference was a negative then, yes, this could be a positive. … Sometimes the communication issues you have between a coordinator and head coach can cause things to go off the rails because people are grasping at straws. Everyone thinks they have an answer when the best answer is to let the people who you hired do their jobs. But the calls weren't the problem for Washington, the players were the problem.

Only because there was so much chatter around the fact that the defense has underperformed since he's been there and there seemed to be a desire to make a clean sweep and start over, I was surprised they were keeping him. But knowing him like I do and believing in how he approaches a game philosophically I think it's good that they did keep him. He's more than capable and deserving of leading that defense. I'm not with the public opinion that he needed to go based on where they finished statistically because there's more to it than that. If he can do it the way he wants and teach the way he wants and call it the way he wants on game day, I think you'll see a tremendous improvement in that defense from a statistical perspective, provided they address areas that need to be addressed.

In case you missed it:

Monday's question: What would you do with Brian Orakpo?

Experts' take: What to do with Orakpo?

February, 17, 2014
The Redskins face numerous questions this offseason. Too many to mention, perhaps. But there are a number that can be addressed and answered -- with the help of people who know the game much better than me. So all week I'll pose a different question to two experts -- former NFL executive, player and scout Louis Riddick (now an ESPN NFL Insider) and former NFL and college scout Matt Williamson (now ESPN's NFL scout). These also are the sort of discussions that are taking place at Redskins Park. And you'll see that even smart football men won't have the same opinion on a player or situation. The most talked-about Redskin this offseason has been linebacker Brian Orakpo. Naturally, that's where we'll start this series.

What would you do with Brian Orakpo?

Louis Riddick: It’s interesting. He’ll be a tough comparable for me right now, only because of not knowing exactly what they were asking him to do from an assignment perspective, and not being on the inside, I don’t know if I’m seeing the whole story with him. I read and heard that he thinks he can have a lot more production in the pass rush, whether it’s QB hits or hurries or sacks if he had more freedom, but that he was trying to play within the confines of the defense. But at the same time, just watching him as a one-on-one pass-rusher, would I value him as a top five or top 10 pass-rusher in the league? No, I don’t think I would do that. Let’s put it this way: Greg Hardy, Robert Mathis, Robert Quinn, DeMarcus Ware, when healthy. I don’t put [Orakpo] in that category. He’s somewhere in that second tier and I’m saying because of supply and demand being where it’s at, he could wind up – if he hits the market – getting something that far exceeds what I’m comfortable paying him.

There’s not a number for how I would value him. It’s going to be tricky. Would I want to keep him? Yes. Would I want to extend above and beyond and get him into the nose-bleed area for guaranteed money in the first three years? No, I would not. ... I’d be very prepared to let him walk. That being said, there aren’t a lot of good pass-rushers available in free agency and there aren’t a lot of guys who will win one-on-ones early in their career in the draft so that will work in his favor.

Matt Williamson: That defense needs everything, it really does. He’s their best player on defense, they have a lot of cap room, they can’t let him go. He’s one of the few free agents that you have to give the big money to. If that means franchising him, I think he’s worth it. He’s an all-around player. He’s their best pass-rusher, probably one of the best 10 pass-rushers in the league in his prime and he recovered from his injury. I thought he had a good year. He was a constant pressure guy. He’s a quick-twitch athlete who can get low and still be powerful. He explodes off the ball and he’s a high-motor guy. I don’t think he’ll be elite. He won’t be Dwight Freeney in his prime, and if you looked at his strengths and weaknesses as a pass-rusher, he’s not extreme in any of them but he’s above average in many. Freeney was so low and explosive off the snap, you always remember those things with him. Orakpo doesn’t have one trait that you say, ‘Wow, I’ve got to stop that.’

Conversation with: Louis Riddick (Part 2)

December, 14, 2013
Louis Riddick endured the chaos in Washington from 2001-07, first as a scout and then as director of pro personnel. He knows the toll it takes and what needs to happen. This is Part 2 of our conversation with the ESPN NFL Insider.

What does Dan Snyder need to do?

[+] EnlargeDan Snyder
AP Photo/Paul SpinelliOne has to wonder just how strong the relationship is between Redskins owner Dan Snyder and star QB Robert Griffin III.
Louis Riddick: He can do whatever the hell he wants. He owns the place. He doesn’t have to ignore players. But he has to understand the delicate culture of an NFL locker room. You can’t empower a first-year quarterback to feel he is bigger than everyone else when you have 8-, 9-, 10-, 11-year vets that you’re not doing things for. You can’t do that to a point where a head coach feels as though he has to make a stand against that kind of stuff to this degree – if you believe that’s what’s happening now and why wouldn’t you believe it considering the fact that to different degrees you’ve seen it before with Bruce Smith or Clinton Portis. You’ve seen players say, 'I can do what I want because I’m tight with the main guy.' … You have to respect how the game has to be managed from the ground level, not from the board room and be cognizant of the power and authority the head coach deserves and needs. If it’s just about, ‘I’ll do what I do because I have a right to do it,’ then don’t be mad when the results are what they are. This is a long-winded way of saying you have to make some adjustments, otherwise you’ll face this over and over.

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be personable. This is a relationship business. It’s still a people business. I don’t think the upper level of management has to be so cold and impersonal that it lacks the ability to relate to or communicate effectively with the people who work for you. But the dynamic of running an NFL team from a head coach’s perspective is very unique and you can’t in any way undermine it.

Assuming this staff is gone, someone will take this job.

Riddick: Yes. … I know Dan cares about this team dearly, desperately. I know he does. He just has to make some adjustments.

I know from Robert Griffin’s perspective all the talk about his relationship with Snyder is off the mark, that they’re not as close as it’s being leaked.

Riddick: A lot of times it’s funny how when you’re a part of it and part of the problem you don’t realize how much you’re part of the problem. 'How can what I’m doing be so bad? I’m not doing anything. I’m just hanging out.' If you could have him step outside himself and look at himself. … When I used to look at old pictures of myself as opposed to now, I was wearing earrings and had all the chains and I was like, ‘What the hell is that? That can’t be me.’ While I was doing it I thought this is the way it’s supposed to be. You don’t have perspective. Perspective is going to be the key.

What’s the formula for Snyder?

Riddick: The hardest part for him is to be objective. You can’t help from keeping his subjective feelings and preconceived attitudes and biases about this game out of it. He just can’t help it. He is really attracted to the names, the star power, the perceived star power and big names and doesn’t dig deep to see what’s substance and staying power those star power names have, whether or not it really is something and if star power and names have earned all the accolades and attention they get. If you look at Mike [Shanahan], you can ask 50 different people and get all kinds of different opinions, and one thing you’ll constantly hear people say is if it wasn’t for John Elway, now what? They’ll keep saying that. That’s what they’ll keep saying. If you look past that, once he left and started to get total control and was building the organization, what happened then? What do people say about you after that point? Dan needs to stop chasing names and start trying to look for substance and look for real qualifications and then he has to re-examine his information gathering process and let the process lead to the name instead of looking to the name and saying the process took care of itself because I got the name. It’s almost like doing it backwards. He’ll eventually get what he wants if that process is sound, which is to stop getting embarrassed.

The sad part is the process once led them to Jim Zorn.

Riddick: It’s just as important in the head coach hiring process for the people who are doing the interviewing to have prepared and studied and researched what they need to ask and what they need to hear as it is for the person who is being interviewed. If you have taken the time to find out what the answer is I’m looking for, what characteristics I’m looking for that are going to take my organization to the places I want to take it to. If you don’t know what they are, then you have no shot. You’ll hire this guy, try that guy. You need to stop and look at yourself and say, 'Am I respecting the process and respecting the game and how hard it is to build a winner?'

Friday Conversation: Louis Riddick

December, 13, 2013
Louis Riddick endured the chaos in Washington from 2001-07, first as a scout and then as director of pro personnel. He knows the toll it takes and what needs to happen. This is Part 1 of our conversation with him.

You worked here when you had to deal with a lot of distractions. How crazy did it get when you worked here?

[+] EnlargeDan Snyder
Matthew Emmons/USA TODAY SportsHigh turnover and disarray within the organization have been constants during the Dan Snyder era in Washington.
Louis Riddick: I’m not going into great detail, but I’ll say this: It’s very difficult to build a team in the NFL without all those types of extra distractions to deal with, meaning the team has to be structured very clearly both when you’re talking about how the front office is set up – there are different ways to set up a front office, but the structure has to be very defined as to whose role is what and the coaches have to have it the same way. Everyone has to be allowed, as Bill Belichick says, to do their job without interference from anyone. The problem here is it’s very difficult to do that when the person at the very top, who has the right to do what he wants because it’s his team, puts obstacles – whether knowingly or unintentionally – in the way of you doing your job to the utmost of your ability, but then holding you accountable. It’s an impossible situation to win in. Thus it leads to continuous turnover that is always marked in the end by huge circus-like blowups. It’s always ugly. It gets uglier every time. That vicious cycle can only be stopped by one person. I don’t know exactly what’s happening there because I’m not there. But looking at it and listening to what’s being said brings back some very familiar feelings and memories as to what it’s like to deal with that. I know the owner cares about the team and is a lifelong fan and wants to win.

The blueprint is there from a management and structure perspective as to how to give yourself the best chance to get a Super Bowl championship. To knowingly not give yourself the best chance to do that by having these kinds of situations come up, like the treatment of Robert Griffin III … it takes away from giving the team the best chance to win.

This isn’t just about Mike Shanahan and RG3 and the owner, this is about the coordinators and assistant coaches and training staff, the weight training staff, all the support staff, the secretaries, the personnel people, the marketing people. They all look at it going, ‘Here we go again.’ What you become reduced to, regardless of whether it’s the Washington Redskins or any other company embroiled in controversy, you just start working for a check and look forward to getting paid. You become detached. You don’t care about the color or brand because you feel the brand and colors don’t care about you and if they did it wouldn’t be allowed to happen over and over.

People will read some of that and say Mike Shanahan is getting no blame. What’s his role in this mess?

Riddick: Everyone’s looking at Dan and the continuous change that’s taken place there every few years. If you look at Shanahan’s track record, is it not documented that generally speaking he’s considered someone who makes things personal and takes things to a new level when it comes to having relationships that end badly with specific players? From the outside looking in it seems very much so. You hear that it can become very personal with him and it crosses the line from being professional to personal and from different things we’ve heard, it has become personal. He may have let some of this get out of control even though he knew he could have done things to reign in this whole Robert Griffin is too entitled and coddled line at an earlier time and he didn’t do enough to get it under control and this is the result, this kind of theatrics and drama. The other role is he’s had control of this team for four years and this happened under his watch and he controlled everything. Everyone in that building that I know says he has exercised final say over everything. So to not have a line that can protect this kid, to not have constructed or put together a defense from a personnel perspective that can give them a fighting chance to stay in games and to have the offense become something it’s not good at, which is a dropback passing offense, that’s his fault. And for allowing the never-ending series of press conferences and offseason to become a back and forth, almost like a tennis match, between him and Robert. Mike has final say to football operations and he could have put an end to that. Now, even though you’ve given contractual control to Mike doesn’t mean Dan can’t have a negative influence. I was there when Marty had control over everything and things got ugly then, too. But at the same time the head coach can’t turn around and start playing this through back channels and laying it at the feet of the owner, either. [Shanahan] is more responsible for the product on the field, more than responsible. It’s him.

Do you ever think it could change here?

Riddick: Sure. Everybody has a pain threshold. Everybody at some point comes to the realization that whatever they’re doing is not working and it’s getting too painful and counterproductive to continue down the path they’re on. ... It’s hard to build a team with all the distractions available to [players], let alone when you feel like there are other forces within your own building that are making it even more difficult to keep the ship moving in the right direction. When you’re imploding from within, you have no shot. Even when you’re doing everything theoretically correct a lot of times it doesn’t work out because there are always unforeseen circumstances. It’s hard enough. You throw this on top of it, it makes it 20 times more difficult. And then you hold the people who are building the team and coaching the team responsible, but did you really give them a chance to succeed? The answer is obviously no, you didn’t. As I’m watching it, I can still remember the kind of things you start thinking about as you’re a part of it. It’s tough to have to deal with because you feel you’re a part of the team and you feel in some ways you start losing your fire a little bit. You lose your edge to help the place pull out of it.

Riddick: Redskins' passing game is simple

November, 16, 2013
ASHBURN, Va. -- If Louis Riddick was an advance scout, he knows what he would tell his coaches about the Washington Redskins' offense: Get them to third down.

"Take away the play-action game from them and we have them right where we want them," said Riddick, who was a scout and also the director of pro personnel with both the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles. "You know you can rush against that offensive line and [Robert Griffin III's] ability as a passer in a traditional sense has not reached a level where you're that worried about it."

Riddick said as long as the Redskins' ground game is working and they can use play-action, then they have a chance to go on a run to end the season.

But he also termed their offense simple.

Here's why: "Most of their big plays come off max protect on first down, usually play-action two-man routes. You see the fake zone read, stand up and throw down the field to the deep cross or a deep post on the outside. That's where a lot of their big plays are coming from. When they get to third down, they become a more conventional passing team, not relying on play-action and not relying on pulling the ball off in the zone read. RG III is very much a half-field read, one-to-two-I'm-out-of-here type passer. He's not a dynamic full-field reading passer that is making the decisions the way you see Philip Rivers or the way you see Aaron Rodgers do. He's not that type of passer. He's just not. Compounding it is the fact that their line is not built to be a dropback pass-protect line. They need the benefit of play-action, where the defensive line must play the run first and convert to the pass rush. When a defensive line can tee off and rush the passer, they have one guy who can pass protect and that's Trent [Williams]. They're simple in the fact that you know what's coming on first down with play-action and what the route combinations will be."

Riddick said he took what Griffin did against Minnesota -- 281 passing yards, three touchdowns -- with a grain of salt because of the Vikings' banged-up secondary.

"But the only thing I'll say is that in the division it's not like Dallas and Philadelphia [have great secondaries]," Riddick said. "Philadelphia's secondary, for as much as people say they're playing better, can be had at corner. They can be had. And the Giants, who knows what you'll get from one week to the next. The [Redskins] have a chance because of the division they compete in."

Friday Conversation: Louis Riddick

November, 15, 2013
Former NFL player and executive (with the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles) Louis Riddick, who appears on ESPN's NFL Insiders, is always honest and insightful. Here’s our conversation:

What are your thoughts on the Redskins? They were 3-6 a year ago and turned it around. Do you see similarities?

[+] EnlargeAlfred Morris
Brad Mills/USA TODAY SportsAlfred Morris is the key to a Redskins offense that's not designed to be overly reliant on the passing game.
Louis Riddick: RG3 needs that [zone-read] component very much and their offense needs that. It makes them very inflexible in terms of being able to be successful on that side of the ball. If the run game is not going it has a snowball effect in a negative way because that line is not built to pass protect in a true dropback manner. RG3 is not built, and his skill set is not such, that he is a dropback passer who can play catch-up football and throw the ball all over the yard. He definitely needs the run game to be clicking and right now it is and you see how much better they are. Everything has to go right for them to score points. Defensively the secondary is still a problem. DeAngelo [Hall has] come up with interceptions. They’ve been more scheme-driven and bad decision-making on opponents’ part than because he still has elite-level skills. He doesn’t run like he used to and has to win at the line and can’t play off-man coverage and has to win with his mind. David Amerson is still ridiculously inconsistent. You saw that in the Chargers game. That final drive when they tied it up they spun him around. It’s not physical, it’s mental. Some players never get that straightened out no matter how much you want to say with experience they’ll grow and mature and become better. You never know. You hope he does.

Josh Wilson's skills are deteriorating. The safety position has been a mess because of injury and performance. Brandon Meriweather is still a hammer, but he doesn’t move the same. Reed Doughty is not a good cover guy. They put E.J. Biggers in there to play safety. Jim [Haslett] is trying to work miracles back there. London [Fletcher’s] arrow is pointing down. I can see teams attacking him more in the middle of the field with the better tight ends and backs when they can get him one-on-one.

And as much as I like Brian [Orakpo] and Ryan [Kerrigan] because of their style of play and competitiveness, they can go long stretches [without anything]. They’re going to have to catch lightning in a bottle. I’m not optimistic about it and I originally picked them to win the division.

How much should the salary-cap situation be a reason for their struggles?

Riddick: Unless there was a free agent that they felt could have made a significant difference, we’ve all seen that is not a very consistent way to build a team and not a very productive way to build a team on a regular basis. Lower-round draft picks and college free agents, that’s where teams can separate themselves from a scouting perspective and build depth that winds up playing significant roles on special teams. The cap didn’t prohibit them from doing that. That’s not taking a shot at their scouting department, that’s just a reality. Ask the Dolphins where [free agency] led them. They had a lot of cap room and tried to take that approach. Ask the Eagles in 2011, who tried to get over the hump by applying that model. It doesn’t work. When you’re building your team it’s not because of one year and a bunch of free agents you sign as to why you get better. That’s a process that builds up over time. I don’t like that argument.

How would you evaluate Orakpo and Kerrigan?

Riddick: They’re high motor, tough, consistent in terms of effort. Both are predominately power rushers, leverage rushers who want to get under your pads or use a long-arm stab bull rush and take the inside hand and put in the middle of your chest and drive you back to the quarterback. Brian has shown he can go high side, dip and skim the edge. Other than that if you watch him he doesn’t have a consistent inside move; he doesn’t have a package in terms of counter spins. Maybe he’ll come inside off a designed call .… Ryan is very much the same way. If you have tackles that are fundamentally sound and can handle their power, they will be neutralized -- I don’t want to say easily, but effectively.

How would you compare Alfred Morris to last year?

Riddick: You know his strengths are his vision and consistency and center of gravity and ability to break tackles. I don’t think he’s better than last year. I think he’s gotten stronger as the year has gone on. He’s a guy who will give you exactly what you’re seeing right now; he’s doing what’s asked within the confines of the offense.

Are there good pieces to build around?

Riddick: Sure there is. At tight end, Jordan Reed is dynamite. You can’t utilize him enough. The more creative you can get with him the better. He’s very crafty and instinctive as far as working away from coverage. He has great hands and gets great yards after the catch. He can put up crazy stats.

Do you think there is a problem if the Redskins don’t give Mike Shanahan an extension?

Riddick: Sure … Even though you’re dealing with professionals who are supposed to play hard no matter what, that’s good as long as things are going good. But when things start to go bad that’s when teams start to fall apart and lose direction and motivation and focus. That’s not something you want to risk, especially at a place where you’ve been trying so hard to get over the top and return to the glory years.

Former exec breaks down RG III's game

September, 20, 2013
Former NFL safety Louis Riddick spent seven years in the Redskins’ organization, first as a scout and then as director of pro personnel. Then, from 2008-2013, he worked as a scout and eventually served as director of pro personnel for Philadelphia. So he knows the game from two perspectives: player and front office man. Here's what Riddick, now an ESPN NFL Insider, had to say about Robert Griffin III's performance thus far. He was good, so I'm not wasting time using any of my thoughts.

Here you go:

[+] EnlargeRobert Griffin III
Geoff Burke/USA TODAY SportsFormer NFL exec Louis Riddick says opponents will pressure Robert Griffin III until he proves he can beat them throwing from the pocket.
On Griffin’s progress: “I know everybody says 'well he’s not the same when the threat of running is not there,' when people don’t think he’s a threat on the perimeter on the zone-read to pull the ball and run. If he has to have that in order to be effective … there’s more to play-action than just the threat of the zone-read itself. When Kirk Cousins is playing they still benefit from play-action because of Alfred Morris, because he can run the outside zone stretch. They still have the threat of the play-action pass game even though Kirk is not a runner. Denver did it for years. I played against it. When I was with the Raiders and they had Elway and Terrell Davis, I got beat on a play like that where Elway ran an outside zone and I thought he was handing to Davis, and I come flying up from safety and he pulls up and Rod Smith is screaming across the field on a deep post. … What Robert has to demonstrate is that he can still be effective throwing the ball from the pocket going through reads and delivering the ball to Santana Moss and Josh Morgan and Pierre [Garcon]. He has to demonstrate that, or they have to throw caution to the wind and say if Robert is not operating the pistol and run[ning] the zone-read he’s just another average quarterback. I wouldn’t want to be them and saying that’s the case given what they gave up to get him. If that’s the case, then oh boy. Colin Kaepernick had moments where he’s shown he can operate a more conventional shotgun or under center throwing the ball down the field. Maybe Robert needs to take off one time and put fear back into defenses … But you have to give him time. You just do. He’s a one-year player. The expectations for him are ridiculous."

On what the extra pressure defenses are sending at Griffin tells him: “A couple things. It tells me that until proven otherwise they don’t believe Robert has the ability -- that he can identify different rush schemes knowing where he needs to go with the ball quickly and delivering it accurately -- at this point. Yet. They’re also seeing issues with their pass protection. There’s a lot of components that go into a quarterback’s success. It isn’t just all on Robert. Alfred Morris needs to play better; the receivers need to get open more; the line needs to block better. But what they’re saying is, ‘Robert, we don’t think you can beat us just running Mike’s old Denver offense. Show us you can. Show us you can play like Elway or Jay Cutler when the threat of the zone-read isn’t there. We think you need to do that. Until you do, here we come.’"

More on the pressure: “He has expressed in the past that he wants to be known as a well-rounded quarterback, as he should want to be. Teams are saying, ‘Right now we’re not expecting you to take off, so beat us with your arm.’ That’s just smart football. And people are taking advantage of the fact that he hasn’t practiced [much]. All that stuff works against him. In his defense, you can’t be out there just dicing people up like Aaron Rodgers right now. It’s a perfect storm working against him, and he has to dig his way out of it. People have to be patient and adjust their expectations. Unless they just say 'the hell with it, we’re back to 2012 and we’re doing it.'”

On the criticism: “It has to be tough on him. He’s known nothing but success, this has to be killing him. People are saying put Kirk Cousins in. I guarantee if you ask people there and you’re asked what bothers me more than anything is when people start suggesting that maybe Kirk should play. That has to kill him and burn him up. It’s tough. I wish him the best. It’s tough watching a young player go through that. But from an opponent’s standpoint, they’ll be coming like a pack of wolves after him until he shows he can fend them off again.”