Saturday, January 25, 2014

Thoughts On Jay Gruden & The Coaching Staff

(Welcome to DC Coach Gruden! Hopefully, you'll be here for awhile. Photo AP)
I figured this would probably be my last chance to talk about the coaching search/hires before starting to delve into the college all-star games, looking at the draft and free agency, so with little rambling on my part here's my quick opinions on the 2014 Redskins coaching staff. I hope to also address the current front office structure and what I like and possibly don't like about the current setup in a future post.

Why I Like Jay Gruden As Redskins HC

Gruden has been on my radar for a while now and he was my top choice to become the next head coach of the Washington Redskins. Yes, there is the "Gruden factor" in play as I have been a big fan of brother Jon, but after doing a little research into Jay Gruden's coaching history I still feel that he's the right choice. I would have been happy with Ken Whisenhunt or Jim Caldwell as well, but I think Gruden provides a total package that hopefully will work with the players, fans and even media.

1)  Attitude
What I've wanted for a long time in DC is a coach who is hungry to prove himself and to win. I've wanted a younger guy who can deal with the stress of being a HC and a guy who hasn't won it all. Frankly, I've been tired of seeing big name former HCs who won Super Bowls in the past here and I'm glad that the Redskins brought in a more fiery type of coach. If you haven't seen the clip from hard knocks, then here you go.

It also seems that Gruden is a player's coach. He develops his schemes around the talent he has and goes from there. This seems like a breath of fresh air compared to the Mike and Kyle Shanahan attitude of "I know what works" and then throw the ball 40 times a game a forget to run the ball.

I also like Gruden's straight shooting when it comes to the media. I don't expect a highly detailed answer that gives away team secrets on every question asked, but a reasonable answer beats no answer or some stupid answer like poor cardiovascular fitness to explain a problem when everybody knows that's not the case.

2) Experience
His resume is rather thin at the NFL level but unlike many of the coaching prospects this year, Gruden has coached at a professional level and has shown that he can win. Gruden won Arena Football League championships and took the Florida Tuskers of the UFL to the championship game.

Also, with RGIII being a top priority, it's nice to have a head coach who has been a winning QB at both the collegiate and professional level (was a MVP and won multiple championships in the Arena League). Here is a coach that can understand the struggles of being a QB and how to overcome those issues.
(Although overcoming these unis is difficult. Photo: Chris Arnold; H/T DC Sports Bog)

So again, I think the Redskins made a good choice in selecting Gruden to be the head coach. One of the first tasks of Coach Gruden will be to build his staff, so let's take a look at the staff currently in place.

It Takes More Than One Coach To Win Championships

Offensive Coordinator/QB Coach: Sean McVay
Highly regarded by players, former players (Chris Cooley), coaches and league insiders, McVay is supposed to be one of the next up and comers in the NFL. While he won't be doing the playcalling, McVay is known to have an amazing feel for the game and many have predicted that one day he'll be a head coach in the NFL. He will also have a huge responsibility in developing Robert Griffin III.

Defensive Coordinator: Jim Haslett
Haslett has been under a great deal of scrutiny during his time as the Redskins DC as the team has struggled to succeed in a 3-4 scheme. Word is that cap issues hindered the D's development and that there was interference in game plans and play calls by head coach Mike Shanahan. In 2014, there will be no excuses as Haslett will have full autonomy and a salary cap. While I think Haslett has had (at times) more success than given credit, I don't think the 'Skins have done well in the 3-4 and think with a 3-4 master available in Wade Phillips they should brought him in. Hopefully Haz can get things turned around.

Special Teams Coordinator: Ben Kotwica
At this point anything will be better than what we saw last year. That said, if you look at Kotwica's resume you may be impressed. Hopefully, kick and punt returns will improve along with coverage and blocking.

Offensive Line: Chris Foerster
Should get credit for developing Trent Williams into one of the best LTs in the game and having one of the stronger run units when the team actually decides to run the ball. Two things I look for improvement is pass blocking and the development of Tom Compton, Josh Leribeus, Adam Gettis and Maurice Hurt. If the pass blocking can improve, it was a very good decision to keep Forester.

 Wide Receivers: Ike Hillard
In 2012 Hillard generated a great deal of production from the WRs despite losing Pierre Garcon for 6 games (and more because he was limited in a few games he played). Santana Moss had 8 TDs and the Redskins actually had Joshua Morgan catching passes. He also got production from Aldrick Robinson and Leonard Hankerson. If he can have a repeat season in 2014, this should help the offense and RGIII tremendously.

Running Backs: Randy Jordan
I don't know much about Randy Jordan, but he seems to have experience in running both I formations (which generally means power runs) and some zone stretch schemes based on his experience with Nebraska and Texas A&M. Also a former player and has worked with Bruce Allen in Oakland.

Tight Ends: Wes Phillips
The son of Wade and former right hand man of Jason Garrett has now departed Dallas and joined Washington. Phillips has had a great deal of success with Jason Witten can he do the same for Jordan Reed?

Defensive Line: Jacob Burney
Has helped Barry Cofield become one of the better NTs in the game. The key for 2014 will be to develop Jarvis Jenkins and Chris Baker (FA) into run stuffers and pocket collapsers. Also, Burney needs to help improve upon the depth on the roster. In 2013, the line had troubles with injuries that led to breakdowns in stopping the run and generating an interior pass rush.

Outside Linebackers: Brian Baker
Baker has a great deal of experience coaching various positions on defense at the NFL level. I'm curious to see how good Ryan Kerrigan and the other outside LBs can become with a coach specializing strictly on their position. Also, the development of Brandon Jenkins will be key to the improvement on the pass rush.

Inside Linebackers: Kirk Olivadotti
Olivadotti has been one of the highly regarded coaches who has worked on every staff for the Redskins from Turner through Shanahan. In the last couple of seasons, he has made Georgia's ILB corp. one of the best in the SEC. He'll have a tough time ahead of him in developing young players and finding a replacement for the retired London Fletcher.

Defensive Backs: Raheem Morris
Morris may have the youngest unit on the team as he will be working with a developing David Amerson, Bacarri Rambo, Phillip Thomas, Chase Minnifield, Richard Crawford and Jose Gumbs - all of whom are 1st or 2nd year players. This doesn't count any DBs drafted this season (which is likely). Morris will have to be not only good at watching film and using opponent tendencies against them, but he will have to get these young players ready to play at the NFL level and grow into starting caliber talent.

* Coaches photos and profiles via, and

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