The rumors finally came true.
This week, the Los Angeles Rams stunned the league, tapping 30-year-old whiz kid, Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay, to be their next head coach.
McVay, along with Atlanta Falcons and former Washington coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, were hot names on the coaching market, with their reputations as offensive gurus. Atlanta and Washington finished second and third, respectively, in yards per game, this season.
McVay will attempt to work the same quarterback magic on former, number-one-pick Jared Goff, as he did with Redskins QB, Kirk Cousins. The Rams scored a paltry 224 points (an average of 14 per game), in 2016, which was dead last in the NFL.
As for McVay’s former employer, Washington suddenly finds itself with two vacant coaching slots, having already fired defensive coordinator Joe Barry, earlier this month. The past two weeks have been devoted to finding Barry’s replacement, even as rumors continued to swirl around McVay.
There are a few quality candidates left, on the defensive side – including the supposed front-runner, Gus Bradley. However, in terms of offensive-minds, the cupboard is pretty bare.
The biggest names out there are probably ex-San Francisco head coach Chip Kelly and Minnesota offensive coordinator Norv Turner. It is unlikely the latter would be willing to coach for Skins’ owner Daniel Snyder again. As for Kelly, it is unclear whether Gruden would be willing to work with such a headstrong personality, one who might challenge his authority.
A lot could happen between now and April 18th, the first day of OTA’s. But, in all likelihood, the Redskins will promote from within, while handing a larger load of the play-calling duties back to the head coach, Jay Gruden.
O-line coach Bill Callahan and quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh have over ten combined years of experience as offensive coordinators. Callahan already had a hand in helping to formulate the weekly game plan with Gruden and McVay. A promotion would see him filling a similar role to the one he served in Dallas, as the OC/O-line coach.
Will it work? Assuming that Washington retains their star quarterback, Cousins, major changes will not be needed on offense. McVay had gradually taken over the play-calling reins, but the overall philosophy and offensive-principles were and are still of Gruden’s hand.
Gruden is certainly qualified for the role. He served as Cincinnati’s OC from 2011-2013, and the Bengals offense improved every year. They ranked 22nd in points scored in 2010, the year before he got there. In his three seasons, they improved to 18th, 12th and 6th, respectively.
The problem is, the head coaching position brings more responsibilities, a greater division of attentions. One of the main concerns about the Redskins, last year, was the seeming-lack of focus. Gruden is a players’ coach and, at times, it felt that was taken clear advantage of.
As the defense crashed and burned, there was never a feeling that anyone was being held properly-accountable. For example, after the Josh Norman signing, cornerback Bashaud Breeland marched into Joe Barry’s office and informed him he would still be covering opponent’s number one wide receivers.
Rather then laughing the threat off, Barry acquiesced to his player’s demands, a move that would prove costly, as Breeland was roasted by Antonio Brown for 125 yards and two scores.
Instances like that would never happen under the watch of a head coach with absolute authority. Gruden needs to take a more proactive role in the big picture and not just tend to the sculpting of his offense. With more of his attention devoted to calling the plays, will more incidents skate by under his distracted nose?
As for that empty d-coordinator position, it will be important for the skins to go with someone experienced, with the clout that demands players’ respect. The last time around, the Skins passed on Wade Phillips to go with Barry.
Barry’s previous coordinator experience included shepherding the Lions’ unit, during their 0-16 season. But, for the first-time-head-coach Gruden, Barry made for a less-intimidating presence on the sidelines than the more-accomplished Phillips.
Gruden must be willing to set aside his ego and go with what’s right for the team. Defense is not his area of expertise, and he will need someone capable – especially if McVay’s departure leads to his attentions being further divided.