After a laborious month of rumors and interviews, the Washington Redskins’ hunt for a new defensive coordinator ended Sunday, with the promotion of outside-linebackers coach, Greg Manusky.
For fans, the “there and back again” conclusion to the saga reeked of quiet resignation. During the search, the Redskins were scorned by their higher-profile candidates. McCloughan and company will need some strong, alternative facts to shake the image of them retreating with their tail between their legs.
As for Manusky, who previously held the title for San Francisco, San Diego and Indianapolis, he will be tasked with rebuilding a defense that, of late, has finished consistently in the bottom dregs of the league.
Ultimately, that cold reality doomed the Redskins, in their search for a proven, defensive-genius. It’s not a good job – the type that would attract only the Rob Ryan’s of the world.
Editors Note: Ryan is generally regarded as one of the most-overrated coaches in football. If Washington had settled for him, I was prepared to drop the Redskins and cover my father’s team, the Buffalo Bills – whom at least know to fire (not hire) Ryan brothers.
Manusky has historically run a sort of hybrid, defensive scheme that utilizes both 3-4 and 4-3 formations. This will allow for a more-seamless transition for the Redskins, who ran a similar concept under ex-coordinator Joe Barry while sparing their entire defensive line from having to learn new assignments.
Unfortunately, those concepts were not effective, last year. Washington had issues front to back, including the linebacker corps – Manusky’s department – which was, at times, brutal. The Redskins allowed opponents to rush for a generous, 4.5 yards per carry and only the Bengals gave up more yards to opposing tight-ends.
Lack of talent and injuries (including Junior Galette, who missed 2016 with an Achilles injury) clearly played a role in those deficiencies, and yet it was accompanied by a disturbing sense of indifference. The coaches kept rolling out the same players, with the same schemes while achieving the same results.
Manusky might not have had much pull, in the decision-making, but he was part of the staff nonetheless and will have to demonstrate that he is willing to mix things up if they aren’t working.
He at least will have first-hand knowledge of the personnel. That perspective will only provide him a brief head start on a laundry list that includes needs in virtually all departments.
They will have to do it without a New York Giants-type makeover; they don’t have the cap room for such luxuries. While they will have about $65 million of free space, a large chunk of that will be reserved for the offense.
Their top priority will be some guy named Kirk Cousins, which will eat up around $19-25 million. Also, they will likely bring back one of their wide receivers, DeSean Jackson or Pierre Garcon, locking them into another $8-12 million.
Let’s say they are left with around $30 million. From that, they will have to construct a viable defense; including replacing or re-signing the following free agents (I also listed their 2016 salaries):
DE Chris Baker ($3 million)
LB Junior Galette ($1.6 million)
DT Kedri Golston ($1.05 million)
DE Cullen Jenkins ($985,000)
SS Donte Whitner ($985,000)
DE Ziggy Hood ($935,000)
CB Greg Toler ($840,000)
LB Terrance Garvin ($750,000)
SS Duke Ihenacho ($675,000)
That’s a large chunk of the roster. Baker has expressed interest in returning, but it’s unclear if the feeling is mutual. It is entirely-possible that none of those faces will be back next year. And, there isn’t exactly an overflowing stash of proven replacements waiting, in house.
They do have a pair of wildcards from last year’s draft: DT Matt Ioannidis, who was on the field for less than ten percent of the Skins’ defensive snaps, and Su’a Cravens, who may be moved to safety full-time, in 2017, to take advantage of his ball-hawking skills. Their roles will be expanded, with so many players on their way out.
As for this year’s draft, the Redskins will have options. With ten picks, they have the war chest to move up slots, if need be. Or, they can sit back and stockpile players – hopefully with a heavy-focus on defense.
Affordable, young players are exactly the medicine they need; youth and speed – too often, the Redskins’ defenders looked like they were playing in mud, last season. They need linebackers who can cover the edges and safeties who can step up and make tackles to stop opponents from turning medium gains into huge ones.
Teams weren’t exactly lining up to interview Manusky, so for him, accepting the promotion is a no-brainer decision. It’s a win-win situation for the man who once donned the Burgundy and Gold himself. With improved personnel, the numbers can only improve, making him look like a genius. If the new players don’t pan out, he can write his failure off as him being a victim of circumstance.
For the Redskins’ brass, the move is decidedly-more lateral, something that equates to water-treading. With head coach Jay Gruden taking on a larger role in the offense, he will be relying on his D-coordinator more than ever.
If they struggle again, next year, it won’t be long before the seats beneath Gruden and McCloughan become decidedly-warmer.