Sunday, January 11, 2015

Final Thoughts on the Haslett Firing

(So much for that "Unleashed Season" eh?)
The word is that the Redskins will have a couple more interviews for the defensive coordinator position this week. They have also indicated that they would like to have a new coach in place by the end of the week. So, I have decided to finally sit down and write up some final thoughts on Jim Haslett and his tenure in Washington. I'm also going to throw a few questions out there about this past year and the future of the Redskins defense and why Haslett remained DC after Shanahan was fired. You probably aren't going to like my answers to these questions.

Before I start writing about Haz himself, we need to get something out of the way. Jim Haslett WAS NOT fired by the Redskins. Maybe both sides did agree to "part-ways" in some mutually agreeable PC sort of way, but the fact of the matter was that Haslett's contract (he was extended in 2012 for two years) was up and either the Redskins or Haslett himself decided to move on from the current situation. Haslett was a lame duck coach in 2014 and usually that doesn't bode well for the team or unit when that coach is in charge.

So why did the Redskins/Jay Gruden retain Haslett for his final year? If they liked him enough to be the DC in year one of the Gruden era, why didn't they extend him? If they didn't trust him to be a long term solution, why retain him?

You're probably not going to like these possibilities

Most likely either because of money or convenience or maybe a little of both.

Jay Gruden is a offensive minded head coach and former offensive coordinator. It's clear that defense isn't his top priority and that he would delegate those duties to someone who is defensive minded while he gets his playbook together and tries to find a way to help RGIII succeed. The Redskins had Haslett paid (coaches contracts are usually guaranteed unlike their players which aren't) for through 2014 and he had the continuity so maybe both Gruden and Bruce Allen figured the might as well leave it to him. Plus, Gruden had a past working relationship with Haslett, so they both could work together. Thus, the team and Haslett mentioned how 2014 would allow Haslett's scheme to finally be unleashed after being held back by Mike Shanahan's meddling as a way to explain why they kept Haslett around.

Here's my problem. We've seen this before and pretty recently with the Redskins. Remember way back to 2008? The Redskins had hired a new 1st year head coach in Jim Zorn. Instead of having Zorn hand pick his new staff, Vinny Cerrato and the front office convinced Zorn to keep the coaches still under contract from the Gibbs 2.0 tenure. We saw the end result of the Zorn era, a mishmash of ideas and schemes that gave the team no identity and lead to Zorn's firing after two seasons.

It makes me wonder if Gruden will eventually share the same fate but maybe things can change since it is supposed to be Gruden's final say on who becomes his new DC and whatever coaching staff moves he decides to make.

As for Haz, what can I say. There was talk of the so-called unleashed 2014 and how Brian Orakpo would finally have a break out season. Instead, the defense floundered. Orakpo and other free agents that Haslett requested from the team were busts or injured. The defense still couldn't generate a consistent pass rush. Turnovers were nowhere to be found and opposing quarterbacks generally looked like they belonged in the Hall of Fame when they faced the 'Skins. Coverages were blown frequently and even when the coaches tried to simplify the plays, players were still out of place leaving opposing receivers wide open.

There are some good things to mention. The Redskins, on occasion, could stop the run well. Ryan Kerrigan, Keenan Robinson and Bashaud Breeland had a good season so the team has a few players whom they can build around for the future.

In the end, Haslett's defense only seemed to be successful when he ran zero blitzes (ie. sending everyone to attack the quarterback with only man coverage on the receivers with no other help) against the opposition. However, with the exception of Dallas, many teams were able to figure out how to combat his exotic blitzes and beat the team with the pass. Haslett's firing was really past due and luckily the team didn't have any more years on his contract or maybe we'd all be on Twitter still calling for his head.

Now comes the next big question who should come in and run this team? Should the team continue with a base 3-4 or move to a 4-3? Does this base scheme even matter since teams run multiple schemes nowadays? I just hope somebody can come in and find some answers, because we've been searching for them on defense for quite awhile and couldn't find a solution for 4 and a half of the past five seasons.

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