NFC East: Washington Redskins

By season’s end it became clear to the offensive coaches: They needed someone devoted only to the quarterbacks. They got that person Wednesday. Washington hired Matt Cavanaugh as quarterbacks coach.

Last season, offensive coordinator Sean McVay had that title in addition to his other duties. And head coach Jay Gruden once played the position and worked closely with the quarterbacks while a coordinator in Cincinnati. Both, however, found that because of the demands of their new jobs, having one person dedicated to the job would be beneficial.

Cavanaugh spent the last two seasons as the quarterbacks coach in Chicago, but the Bears’ staff was fired after the season. The Chicago quarterbacks had a strong season in 2013, as Jay Cutler and Josh McCown combined for single-season team records in passing yards (4,450), touchdown passes (32) and passer rating (96.9).

Last season, however, Chicago’s quarterbacks (mostly Cutler) finished with an 87.3 rating, 30 touchdowns and 19 interceptions.

Cavanaugh also was the New York Jets’ quarterbacks coach from 2009-12. He was Baltimore’s offensive coordinator from 1999-2004, winning a Super Bowl after the 2000 season. He also won Super Bowl rings as a backup quarterback with the 1990 New York Giants and 1984 San Francisco 49ers.

The former second-round pick started 19 career games and appeared in 112. He threw for 4,332 yards and 28 touchdowns while playing for five teams.

Redskins thoughts: Perry Fewell

January, 28, 2015
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Just a few thoughts on the Washington Redskins hiring Perry Fewell Tuesday to coach the secondary (they also hired Mike Clark to be their new strength and conditioning coach):

  • The Redskins interviewed Fewell for their head-coaching job last season, so I talked to a few people at that time about him. It was clear that few, if any, pegged him as a future head coach. Then, he didn't have that X factor that it took to be a head coach (and that was from someone who knew him).
  • As a coordinator, Fewell had mixed results: His four defenses in Buffalo ranked between 10-18 in terms of points allowed and were mostly middle of the pack when it came to yards (except for one 31st place ranking). With New York, Fewell's five defenses again had mixed success, with two top-10 finishes for total yards and three that ranked between 27-31. With points, those units ranked between 12-25. I'm not a big believer on going just off stats, but there's a good sample size here. But he's not coming here to be a coordinator.
  • As a position coach, I've heard good things from those in the game -- and it's what I heard last year, too. Fewell is described as energetic, enthusiastic and professional. I think the defense will benefit from a lot of those qualities -- and there's a definite theme to the Redskins' defensive hires thus far.
  • Whether they work out or not, I don't know. I've seen enough change and every time someone new comes on board, there's always talk about how things will be different under the new guy. And I know the secondary liked departed coach Raheem Morris, who was as energetic as they come. But he was not someone who impressed others in the same manner.
  • I've heard that Fewell was liked by his players in New York. I hear you though: The fans want someone who helps the team win. No, it doesn't matter if they're liked or not, but when you spend this much time together you don't want it to be toxic, either. Ultimately, what players really like is a guy who makes them better.
  • But does that mean Fewell is an upgrade? Don't know. But it will be a different vibe, as it will be with new coordinator Joe Barry. I think a new vibe is most definitely needed on defense. Make it more business-like.
  • One NFL assistant said Fewell is better at preparation -- he's considered more of a teacher than a planner -- than adjusting during a game. That could explain some issues as a defensive coordinator. And the word out of New York was that he'd sometimes make the defenses too complicated and perhaps overthink the game plan a bit.
  • What I remember in the research last year, and it was reiterated Tuesday, is that Fewell would listen to his players when it came to changing the scheme. What this means for him as a position coach? That flexibility always helps, but you also have to earn a level of trust before coming to him with suggestions. It's one thing if veteran linebacker Jon Beason has something to say as opposed to a player in his second or third season.
  • As for Clark, he's entering his 12th season and has worked for Chicago, Kansas City and Seattle (when it lost in Super Bowl XL).
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.

Griffin
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:

Breeland
"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?
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."
Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris will make it to the Pro Bowl after all. The Redskins announced Monday that Morris will play in the postseason all-star game after Philadelphia Eagles running back LeSean McCoy withdrew, citing an injury.

Morris
It's the second consecutive appearance for Morris, but it also comes after a tough season by his standards. Morris rushed for 1,074 yards-- 11th best in the NFL -- and averaged 4.05 yards per carry. He also scored eight touchdowns.

But Morris also had a career-low 265 carries, a function of how often the Redskins trailed and an offense that at times veered away from the run. Morris averaged 2.0 yards after contact, tying his career best set a year ago (his yards before contact of 2.05 were the fewest among any back with 1,000 yards this season). Morris became the first player in franchise history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons.

Morris received a recent increase in salary for 2015 based on his playing time in his first three seasons.

Morris initially was an alternate to the Pro Bowl for the 2014 game as well. Last year, he rushed twice for four yards but caught four passes for 69 yards.

Morris will join left tackle Trent Williams as the only Redskins on the Pro Bowl roster this season. The game will be played Sunday in Glendale, Arizona.

Redskins meet again with Vic Fangio

January, 18, 2015
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The Washington Redskins will meet again Sunday with Vic Fangio about their vacant defensive coordinator position, after getting together with him Saturday night.

But Sunday's meeting was always part of the plan, so it's tough to say how much momentum there is yet for a deal. Clearly, there's serious interest on both sides. Fangio had dinner with team officials Saturday, and the longer interview will take place Sunday.

Fangio also spoke with the Chicago Bears this weekend about a similar position. He was released from his contract earlier in the week by San Francisco after the 49ers promoted Jim Tomsula to head coach. Fangio had reportedly made it clear he did not want to stay in that scenario. His record the past four years as the 49ers' defensive coordinator certainly warranted another job: San Francisco had top-10 defenses in both points and yards, including this past season when they were hit hard by injuries to key players like Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, among others.

There is a desire by all coaches to get a deal done soon with the start of the Senior Bowl this week. If possible, coaches want their staffs in place so they can get busy scouting. Recently hired coaches will have a tougher time doing this, of course.

The Redskins also have interviewed Wade Phillips, Joe Barry, Eric Mangini, Raheem Morris and Ed Donatell for the position. If Fangio is hired in Washington, it's likely he would bring Donatell aboard. Fangio, Donatell and Redskins head coach Jay Gruden share the same agent.

Redskins thoughts: Bill Callahan

January, 15, 2015
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Initial thoughts on the Washington Redskins' hiring of offensive line coach Bill Callahan:

  • I received two unprompted text messages, one from an executive and one from a coach, after this move was announced. The executive called Callahan the best line coach he’d ever been around. Loves him as a teacher (more on that in a minute). The coach called Chris Foerster the best line coach in the NFL. Another coach, also unprompted, later texted to say how well he thought Foerster coached. Of course, he will not be part of the staff. Once the Redskins allowed Buffalo permission to interview him for a lateral move, he was done in Washington. Indeed, the NFL Network reported Foerster was going to have the same job in San Francisco.
  • It’s quite a coup for the Redskins to land Callahan if, as had been reported, as many as eight teams were interested in hiring him. The fact that he was coaching in Dallas certainly doesn’t hurt, does it?
  • [+] EnlargeJason Garrett and Bill Callahan
    AP Photo/Tony GutierrezBill Callahan has a reputation as one of the best offensive line coaches in the NFL.
    Callahan will just be the offensive line coach, so there will be no play-calling duties. I don’t know the amount of the contract, but do know it’s for three years. This really seems like a coach, Jay Gruden, saying he simply preferred one guy over the other.
  • For what it’s worth, Callahan and Jay Gruden share the same agent – as does potential defensive coordinator Vic Fangio (and an earlier candidate, secondary coach Ed Donatell, who could always come on board if Fangio is hired). Connections and relationships matter a lot in this industry. Indeed, in Oakland, Callahan coached with Gruden’s brother, Jon, and worked for Redskins president Bruce Allen.
  • While Foerster could coach either style, so, too, does Callahan. Dallas used a lot of zone but also gap and power, too. The Redskins did the same. Running back Alfred Morris should fit nicely into what Callahan wants – DeMarco Murray did a lot of plant-and-cuts in Dallas. Gruden likes more power – they used more gap-blocking this season, too, as the Redskins did this year on occasion. My guess is the Redskins want more of that in 2015. In Dallas, the line was not just as much about obstructing guys (as the Redskins had been under Mike Shanahan), it was about moving guys on the go.
  • Here’s what the executive said, “It’s the way he communicates and drills the linemen. It’s consistent, relentless. It makes sense. He’s not a yeller or a screamer but he talks and they’re at attention. … He’s heavier on the power and gap scheme. He excels at power, but he knows zone stuff, too.”
  • Is he a miracle worker? Well, I don’t know about that. Few coaches are and most coaches are better when they have great talent. The Cowboys drafted three players in the first round along the line: tackle Tyron Smith, center Travis Frederick and guard Zack Martin. Yes, coaches must then develop those players. Callahan, though, has been considered strong in other stops as well, so it’s not as if he just had success in Dallas.
  • As of now, the Redskins have one first-round pick starting on the line. New general manager Scot McCloughan only drafted five linemen in his five drafts with San Francisco (and one first rounder, Joe Staley, with the 22nd pick). The Redskins drafted two bigger linemen last season: guard Spencer Long and tackle Morgan Moses. Long weighs 311 pounds, one pound more than Martin. Redskins center Kory Lichtensteiger, at 296 pounds, is almost 20 pounds lighter than Frederick, for what that's worth.
  • Blocking for any mobile quarterback can be a hassle – whether it’s Robert Griffin III or any other one. It wasn’t just Griffin, as Colt McCoy had issues with sacks, too. That’s why you can’t just blame the protection issues on the line – the coaches never did so because, well, they know who’s at fault. Sometimes it was the running backs and tight ends, too. The bottom line: Griffin was sacked 33 times in 214 attempts; McCoy 17 in 128 and Kirk Cousins only eight in 204.
  • Green Bay’s Aaron Rodgers took a lot of sacks for years in part because of his mobility—he had years of 50 and 51 sacks. This is not just a knock on Griffin; it’s the reality of young and mobile quarterbacks who must learn to operate better in the pocket. So a lot of factors enter into sack totals.
  • In most cases the line coach has a big say in the run game – Callahan was responsible for the run plays in Dallas last year. Again, my guess is that his vision more aligned with Gruden's than anything else.
  • It could well be that Raheem Morris is the last person interviewed for the Washington Redskins' defensive coordinator position, but at least some involved in the process weren't quite ready to say that Tuesday. Still, it appears a decision should be made soon on this job, perhaps by the end of the week. And I haven't heard of anyone else being on the list.
  • Morris
    Morris
    If, as some reports say, Morris and Joe Barry are the two finalists for the job then you can easily look at a direct connection to (once again) the Tampa Bay days. Team president Bruce Allen worked with both there (one reason the Redskins brought Morris on board in 2011) as did coach Jay Gruden. Barry was a linebackers coach with the Buccaneers for a while during this time. Yes, Barry and Morris coached together as well.
  • Another key factor: Energy. Both coaches are known to have it and that's something the Redskins want more of from the defense. It takes more than energy, though, to be a good defense. But you absolutely want energy; there's no doubt Morris has that in abundance and I've heard the same about Barry. There are a few other qualities I would want in addition to energy: discipline, a tough-minded mentality, commitment to a philosophy. You need a coach that players trust will put them in the right spots.
  • It would be unusual to promote someone who has been part of a defense for four years that has struggled during that time. During his last news conference, coach Jay Gruden said, in essence, that if you always do what you've always done you always get what you've always got. Would promoting Morris fall under this category? Unless they viewed Jim Haslett as the sole reason for failure (just as the organization had blamed Mike Shanahan for many things after last season. Turns out they were a bit wrong.). Along the same lines, does always hiring people with a connection to you fall under this category as well? It's not as if that Tampa group was a dynasty, you know? (The Bucs had top-10 defenses in total points and yards in six of seven seasons between 2002-08 when they went a combined 57-55; they were 45-51 in Allen's tenure, which began in 2003).
  • That's not to dismiss promoting Morris. He's never been a coordinator, but he has been a head coach. In three years as the Bucs' head coach their defenses ranked 27th, 9th and 32nd in points allowed per game and 27th, 17th and 30th in total yards. He inherited a group that had ranked among the top 10 in both categories each of the past two years, but it was an aging group and in Morris' first season there were seven new defensive starters. If you're going to judge him on the Redskins' secondary the past two years, you also have to look at what the Bucs did vs. the pass during his stint as secondary coach in 2007-08. The past four years, the Redskins ranked a combined 31st in yards per pass attempt; they were sixth in yards per pass attempt and second overall in total passing yards allowed. Yes, there are other factors and having talented players is chief among them.
  • I hope this is more Gruden's call than Allen's. It would be wrong if it wasn't.
  • I also know Barry was the coordinator for two years in Detroit, including the year when the Lions went 0-16. I'll focus more on this if he's hired, but those in Detroit do not blame him at all for how poorly that group played. Still, the numbers are what they are and it's part of his resume: they allowed an NFL record 422 completions in 2007 as well as 70.1 percent of the passes to be completed (an NFL record until 2011); they allowed 517 points in 2008.
  • For what it's worth, both Barry and Morris have coached in the 4-3 and 3-4. When he was a coordinator in Detroit, Barry ran a 4-3 -- though some there say that was influenced as much by head coach Rod Marinelli. But Barry spent the past four years in San Diego where the Chargers ran a 3-4.
  • I'd still be interested in talking to Vic Fangio (if he doesn't get the 49ers' head-coaching job that is) and Jim Schwartz. I've heard good things about both, but Schwartz in particular. The Redskins asked for, and were denied, permission to speak to both earlier this month.
ASHBURN, Va. -- It's not always having an eye for talent. It's often about working with the head coach. That's something Scot McCloughan learned from working with a number of coaches and it's what he knows must happen in Washington.

[+] EnlargeScot McCloughan
AP Photo/Nick WassNew Redskins GM Scot McCloughan is a believer in open communication within the organization.
Former San Francisco 49ers head coach Mike Nolan, who hired McCloughan, said that was something the Washington Redskins' new general manager did well. And McCloughan knows that must be duplicated here with coach Jay Gruden as well as president Bruce Allen. It's the way McCloughan saw it work when he was in Green Bay (with coach Mike Holmgren) as well as Seattle (with Pete Carroll).

"When we've had success," McCloughan said, "it's communication on a daily basis. It's not about the one individual; it's about the sum of the parts. That's not just dealing with Jay, but dealing with coordinators, dealing with position coaches, sitting with Bruce and talking contract-wise and all that."

But that takes time. Just like it will take time for him to mold the scouting department to his liking (he's already said any changes would be made after the draft). And just like it could take time for his work to have the impact everyone wants.

"There's going to be disagreements and that's part of it," McCloughan said. "There's strong enough people in this building with enough backbone to say, 'Listen. OK, let's watch some more tape. I see this, you don't see that. Let's do it because that's what we're here to do.'"

It's a process the Redskins say they like. That's not to say it'll always be unanimous when it comes to who they like or want. That rarely happens. McCloughan does have the ultimate say over the roster. But he also wants input.

"It's not going to be me standing up there saying, 'I get to make the pick,'" McCloughan said. "It's not going to be Jay standing up there saying, 'I make the pick,' or Bruce. It's going to be us. The more good opinions you get around yourself, the better chance you have of being successful."
The Washington Redskins will interview their secondary coach, Raheem Morris, for the vacant defensive coordinator's position Tuesday, a team source said.

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

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

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

Morris has not been a coordinator in the NFL. He was the Buccaneers' head coach for three years during which they ran a 4-3 front. The Redskins have run a 3-4 front the past five seasons.
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan learned a lesson early in his NFL tenure: The draft is the way to go, and free agency isn’t. He’s not so black and white with that philosophy, but he still operates with an emphasis on building one way over the other.

That was true in Green Bay, where he started. It was also true in San Francisco, where he eventually became the general manager, and in Seattle, where he spent 2010-14 as an executive focusing on the draft. In Green Bay, he worked under Ted Thompson and Ron Wolf, both of whom focused hard on the draft. McCloughan said he’s more aggressive than those two, but still clings to a core belief.

“The draft is the lifeline of your organization,” McCloughan said. “But you’ve also got to understand with free agency that’s a tool you can use and you can use it in a positive manner. [But] you start dabbling too much in free agency sometimes, you’re getting older guys, you’re getting medical history.”

The Redskins in recent years turned more toward signing players around 28 years old, but this past offseason they did sign 31-year-old Jason Hatcher. Injuries nagged him all season and had an impact on his play.

“The thing I liked about what we did in San Fran, what we did in Seattle: We drafted our own, molded our own and re-signed the ones we wanted to re-sign,” McCloughan said. “So all of a sudden now, you train them how you want to train them. See, in Washington, we’re going to draft these guys and we are going to draft them and mold them as Redskins. We’re not going to have to go out to other organizations and bring in 32- and 33-year-olds who have different plans.”

Like others, though, McCloughan did say you can’t lose sight of free agency, either. In San Francisco he signed defensive end Justin Smith, who remains a core player for the 49ers.

But McCloughan loves studying tape and cashing in on longtime relationships with college coaches, who can provide him inside information on their players. He learned long ago to know everything about everyone on a college team. It’s about finding detailed information.

“It’s very methodical,” he said. “You don’t do knee-jerk reactions. You’re very, very thorough, not just from the standpoint of how they play on tape but how they’re wired.”

And then, during the draft, you don’t focus on a particular spot.

“I’m never under the assumption that you draft for need,” McCloughan said. “You draft the best available football player on the board. You know people say, ‘Well, if you have this and this, why would you do that?’ Because, you know, in the long run, they are the ones who will help you win the most games."
Scot McCloughan likes to focus on size when it comes to the NFL draft. The new Washington Redskins general manager made an exception for one player when he was a part of Seattle's front office in 2012.

Here's his report on Russell Wilson, according to a story by Seth Wickersham in ESPN the Magazine: "Obviously we are really interested in passers with better height, but this guy may just be the exception to the rule. He has the 'it' factor."

Cousins
The Seahawks obviously selected Wilson in the third round and it's likely others in the organization shared McCloughan's thoughts. But if the Seahawks had not drafted Wilson, reports say they would have selected quarterback Kirk Cousins.

The question is, what did McCloughan think of Cousins, who has one year left on his contract in Washington? One source said he clearly recalls McCloughan being high on Cousins. What he thinks now? I have no idea. So I wouldn't get too caught up in anything just yet. Nor do I know what McCloughan thinks of Robert Griffin III, though there are some who recall him liking the Redskins' passer before the 2012 draft.

The quarterback position obviously will garner a lot of interest in Washington this offseason and McCloughan now has control of the roster. If Griffin stays, it can't be read that others have more say; it could be that McCloughan still likes Griffin and believes, at 24, he's too young to dismiss. But if Griffin goes, then it's clear he wants to give coach Jay Gruden what he might want.

Anyway, this one deserves a hat-tip to CSNWashington's Ben Standig, who dug up some old quotes for a story he did on the topic and wrote a more in-depth connecting-the-dots piece.

And he included this quote from Pete Carroll, who told Seattle reporters before a matchup vs. Washington earlier this season: "We interviewed him, did the whole thing. We had him at the combine and all that stuff. He's a really cool kid, a really great competitor, real bright, hard-working, kind of a squeaky-clean guy. He's got a great history and background, and his mentality was so on it. We were really impressed with him."
The Washington Redskins have 15 free agents, including three who are restricted, as they enter the 2015 offseason. The new league year opens at 4 p.m. ET March 10, when unrestricted free agents can sign with any team.

Here’s a list of the Redskins' unrestricted and restricted free agents:

Unrestricted:

Colt McCoy, QB
Leonard Hankerson, WR
Santana Moss, WR
Niles Paul, TE
Roy Helu, RB
Tyler Polumbus, OL
Jarvis Jenkins, DE
Chris Neild, NT
Brian Orakpo, LB
E.J. Biggers, CB
Ryan Clark, FS
Brandon Meriweather, SS

Restricted:

Trenton Robinson, FS
Kai Forbath, PK
Justin Rogers, CB
The deal isn’t done, but it certainly appears headed that way. A.J. Smith and the Redskins will meet on Jan. 11 to discuss a larger role in the football operations. For the Redskins, it’s a start. And it would give them another executive in a full-time role, one who has a history of success – and failure – in that job.

It’s not as if Smith was a glorified consultant before now; he had input on last year’s draft. There’s also no guarantee this will work because, well, not a whole lot has worked for the Redskins lately. At the least, he’s a legitimate general manager.

Here are some quick thoughts:
  • John Clayton reported that Jon Gruden would have wanted Smith as his general manager had he returned to coaching. Got a hunch that this means it would be OK with Jay Gruden as well. Not that they always have to be in lockstep, but if his brother endorses such a move, then it makes sense Jay Gruden would respect his opinion.
  • This is important because Smith had a bad relationship with Marty Schottenheimer; at times the coach heard about personnel moves on TV. I haven’t heard that same level of discord with Schottenheimer’s successor, Norv Turner. But the fact that he replaced Schottenheimer with Turner is concerning. Turner was not a good head coach. But, again, given the ties to Jon Gruden, I don’t think the relationship with the head coach would be an issue in Washington.
  • Yes, it does sound as if Smith is interested and would relocate to Washington.
  • In 10 seasons as San Diego’s general manager, the Chargers had two losing seasons – Smith’s first and last years.
  • Talked to one scout who said he liked what Smith did in drafts, for the most part. The book on Smith, in part, was that he did a good job helping build a good team in San Diego, but struggled to maintain it and started reaching for more players in the draft. Here it’s a rebuild, so if he repeats that, then it will be a success. I’ll have more on this aspect later after I’ve talked to more people who know Smith and have dealt with him. But this is an early impression from a few and as I talk to more, you’ll hear more.
  • In his first six seasons with San Diego, the Chargers won 10 or more games four times. They were 24-24 in his last three years. The Chargers have gone 9-7 in each of the two years since Smith was fired.
  • Don’t be surprised if Smith pushes hard for Wade Phillips as the defensive coordinator. Phillips was the San Diego Chargers’ defensive coordinator for three seasons when Smith was the general manager. Smith was a scout and then pro personnel director in Buffalo during Phillips' six seasons as defensive coordinator and then head coach. In San Diego, Phillips' defense ranked 11th, 13th and then seventh in points allowed per game. They were 18th, 13th and 10th in total yards. Doesn’t sound like there’s any doubt Phillips would want to return to coaching. Phillips' son, Wes, also serves as the Redskins’ tight ends coach.
  • My guess is that people in the organization already know Smith’s thoughts on who he’d recommend as the defensive coordinator. So even though interviews will take place before his meeting with the Redskins, I’d imagine those thoughts would be taken into serious consideration
  • Ryan
    Smith is also tight with Rex Ryan, but the fired New York Jets coach will either be a head coach this season or a TV analyst. He's told way too many people that he does not want to be a defensive coordinator. No, he would not change his mind because he gets along with Smith.
  • I don't get the sense that Smith is a big fan of any of the quarterbacks on the roster. Or, at the least, that none can reach a certain level. But that's in line with what a lot of others in the organization think.
  • The Redskins need a stronger voice in the football operations. Let Bruce Allen be the ambassador of the franchise, the guy who is out front on various off-field issues and who negotiates deals, etc. He’s a good buffer between owner Dan Snyder and the head coach. That’s an important role. But it sidetracks him from duties that pertain to the football side. It sounds as if Allen would keep his general manager title, but I can’t imagine Smith would come here full-time, and move to the area, without some level of assurance that he had control over football matters.

Washington Redskins season report card

December, 31, 2014
12/31/14
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The Washington Redskins fancied themselves if not a contender for the division title, then at least an improved team. But what they ended up with was a season with double-digit losses and a last-place finish. Again. That makes five double-digit-loss seasons in the last six years and six last-place finishes in the past seven.

The Redskins began the season with questions at every key part of the organization, from general manager to coach to quarterback. They finish the season with the same questions because none of those people proved themselves this season. First-year coach Jay Gruden will have a lot to prove in 2015. But their issues start above Gruden and until that’s fixed, every coach here will face obstacles.

MVP: Linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. Nobody was more consistent than Kerrigan, who played well early in the season and late. He had a brief lull in the middle, partly because of a bad wrist, but Kerrigan’s rushes were a factor in almost every game. That’s why he finished with a career-best 13.5 sacks and five forced fumbles. Kerrigan had a four-sack game vs. Jacksonville in Week 2 and recorded a sack in five straight games from Week 12 to 16. The impressive part about Kerrigan is how he continues to work at his craft. The result: Better paths to the ball, improved use of his hands and more sacks.

Best moment: Winning at Dallas. And that best-moment feeling for them occurred after rookie cornerback Bashaud Breeland broke up a fourth-down pass in overtime to clinch the win. The players sprinted off the bench and onto the field, celebrating victory when they were heavy underdogs. The locker room was upbeat afterward, and although they reacted with great joy on the field, during interviews they came across as a confident, determined group. It was their most significant victory since beating the Cowboys to clinch the NFC East title in 2012. And it could have been one that jump-started their 2014 season. Instead, the Redskins lost their next six games.

Worst moment: It wasn’t a moment as much as it was a period of time. The Redskins lost at home to Tampa Bay -- a team that has the first pick in the draft after going 2-14 -- by 20 points. It was a low point in a season full of them. But it’s what the loss also exposed that was troubling. While it was already known that the coaching staff had concerns about and had lost confidence in quarterback Robert Griffin III, it became public a day later. Coach Jay Gruden, upset that Griffin didn’t focus on his own game after the loss, offered a scathing rebuke of his game. It wasn’t just that Griffin had played poorly, it was that his fundamentals within the offense were so bad. This led to more stories about the circus in Washington, and Gruden had to clear up some messes as they became public.

2015 outlook: Coming off another double-digit-loss season, it’s hard to be optimistic. The Redskins have a lot of work ahead. The defense must be overhauled, whether they bring in a new coordinator or not. The organization has done a horrible job of putting the defense together. And if they can’t solve the quarterback issue, it could be another long year. There’s little confidence in Griffin's long-term success, but there’s no great alternative either. The problem is, the fatigue over this situation -- the focus on Griffin, whether it’s by his actions or words or stories beyond his control -- will only intensify if the struggles, and losses, continue. Gruden’s first season was not about some young team taking its lumps; it was about a team in need of a rebuild. Next season must be about legitimate improvement, something that did not take place this season. Gruden was not on the hot seat this season, but it’ll get real warm real fast unless things improve.

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