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Will Gruden be more like Gibbs or more like Norv?

Will Gruden be more like Gibbs or more like Norv?

Jay Gruden is a different breed of coach for the Washington Redskins.

Not since they hired Joe Gibbs in 1981 have they gone with a relatively unknown coordinator with a limited record of success and no experience a head coach as their new head man.

Since then they have hired two coordinators without head coaching experience but with Super Bowl success on their resumes. Richie Petitbon, hired to replace Gibbs in 1993, was the defensive coordinator for the Redskins three world champions under Gibbs. He only lasted a year and he was replaced by Cowboys offensive coordinator Norv Turner. He had a couple of Super Bowl rings earned with Dallas in 1992 and 1993.

Neither one of those “hot” coordinator hires worked out. As noted, Petitbon lasted just one year and Turner spent almost seven frustrating seasons at the helm with just one playoff berth to show for it.

Gruden does have some hardware but it came from winning titles in the Arena League. His team won the championship four times with him at quarterback and twice with him as the coach. And he does have a Super Bowl ring earned with the Buccaneers when he was an offensive assistant.

That’s all good to have on your resume but the most notable entry there is his three years as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator. They were good offensively and Cincinnati earned a playoff berth all three years he was there. But Gruden’s offense wasn’t particularly innovative and one could say that it was the Bengals’ defense that led the way to the three playoff spots.

Some question how much of a boost he got from his older brother Jon, the former Raiders and Bucs head coach who now does Monday night football analysis. Certainly Jon gave his brother a huge lift when he gave him his first NFL job with the Bucs. But his older brother never elevated him above the lowly offensive assistant level. Before joining the Bucs Gruden toiled in the Arena League and after Raheem Morris fired him when he was elevated to head coach in 2009, Jay had to find work in the UFL. You’d think that if Jon was such a big help to his brother that Jay could have found some better gigs before landing in Cincinnati in 2011.

When you look at the big picture, for nearly every positive you can point out about Gruden there is a legitimate “yea, but . . .” to go with it. That is why just about everyone except those who view the world through burgundy and gold glasses all the time and those who are the biggest skeptics out there view this hire of with an attitude of, “OK, we’ll see.”

Will Gruden turn out to be like Gibbs, the Packers’ Mike McCarthy or Andy Reid of the Eagles and now Chiefs, all assistants with relatively modest backgrounds who have had great success? Or will he join the likes of Rob Chudzinski and Scott Linehan, hotshot offensive coordinators who didn’t have what it took to handle the complexities of being and NFL head coach?

At this point, your guess is as good as anyone’s. Gruden does have something that Chudzinski, Linehan, and other failed offensive coordinators didn’t have and that’s a quarterback. If former QB Gruden can get current QB Robert Griffin III performing at a high level he has a good chance of enjoying success and lasting a long time. If not, we will probably be doing this again in three years or so.

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Need to Know: Redskins player quick hitters—Defensive starters

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Need to Know: Redskins player quick hitters—Defensive starters

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, March 22, 35 days before the NFL draft.  

Redskins starters quick hitters—defense

The last couple of days here I looked at how the depth charts are shaping up with a little bit of commentary (offense, defense). Today and tomorrow I’ll take a closer look at the starters with some quick hitters about each one. Yesterday it was the offense, now the defense is up.  

DE Jonathan Allen—He was close to being ready to practice during the last couple of weeks of the season so his Lisfranc rehab is going well. Anticipation will be high when he takes the field in Week 1.

DE Stacy McGee—From looking at my social media timelines I can conclude that many Redskins fans hear “free agent D-lineman” and automatically say “bust”. That’s not the case with McGee. Last year he was the Redskins’ most consistent defensive lineman.

NT Ziggy Hood—I’ve said this before and it still holds true—Hood should not be a starting nose tackle. He would be very good as a rotational defensive lineman.

OLB Preston Smith—Sure, he’s inconsistent. But he’s on often enough to be a very valuable player. He lacks eye-popping sack totals but since he came into the league in 2015, only Smith has at least 20 sacks, 3 interceptions, and four forced fumbles.

OLB Ryan Kerrigan—He will turn 30 during training camp but he shows no signs of slowing down.

ILB Zach Brown—The Redskins needed to bring him back and they got it done. He does struggle in coverage at times, but the defense is much better with him than without him.

ILB Mason Foster—He and Allen saw their seasons end due to injuries at about the same time and the defense wasn’t the same after that. Foster brings experience and toughness to the defense that is hard to replace.

CB Quinton Dunbar—It’s possible that Fabian Moreau will beat him out for the starting job before the season starts. But Dunbar has come a long way since the former wide receiver volunteered to help out at cornerback when a rash of injuries hit during his rookie season. I wouldn’t bet against him.

CB Josh Norman—He certainly didn’t play poorly last year but the goose egg in the interceptions column is a black mark. The thing is, with quarterbacks like to test Dunbar and Moreau playing on the other side, he might not get many opportunities to pick off passes this year, either.

S D.J. Swearinger—After signing as a free agent, he put himself on the line, saying he was the leader of a defense before he had even played a snap with the group he wanted to lead. He walked the walk, filling both the leadership vacuum and the lack of quality safety play.

S Montae Nicholson—Jay Gruden said that Nicholson was the defensive version of Jordan Reed, a player who changes what the unit can do when he is on the field. High praise, but also a lot of pressure to stay on the field.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/16) 26
—Training camp starts (approx. 7/26) 128
—2018 NFL season starts (9/9) 172

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Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?


Free agency update: What happens next for the Redskins on the defensive line?

The Redskins sure hosted a lot of free agent defensive line visits in the second week of free agency, but so far, no signed contracts. 

Johnathan Hankins came to Ashburn. Sylvester Williams came to Ashburn. Pernell McPhee came to Ashburn. All three left without a done deal, and now for Redskins fans, the question becomes not about when a deal will get done, but if any deals will happen.

Actually, one deal did happen. According to a report, Williams has signed with the Lions. 

Since visiting the Redskins on Monday, Hankins also took a trip to see the Lions. McPhee, who was offered a contract by the Redskins, has since taken a trip to visit the Falcons. 


Keep in mind too, Washington expressed interest in nose tackle Bennie Logan last offseason, and the 6-foot-2, 309 lb., former Chief is again on the market. A visit from Logan would surprise nobody, though it hasn't been reported yet. 

Mother Nature might also be an impediment for the Redskins. A March snowstorm shut the D.C. region down on Wednesday, which could have limited potential free agent visits.

What's clear is between Hankins, McPhee and Williams this week, in addition to Muhammad Wilkerson and Benson Mayowa last week, the Redskins are obviously looking to upgrade their defensive line. Combine that with a contract restructure for incumbent Terrell McClain, and Washington has the flexibility to improve on last season's NFL-worst run defense. 

That doesn't mean, however, the Redskins will absolutely sign one of the above mentioned players. And it doesn't mean outside linebacker Junior Gallete won't return to the Redskins either. 

Many fans wonder if a McPhee signing means the Redskins would move on from Galette. It might, but that's no sure thing. 

Washington went into the 2017 season with five outside linebackers: Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith, Galette, Ryan Anderson and Chris Carter. Right now, the 'Skins only have Kerrigan, Smith and Anderson under contract. The team needs to add at least one OLB, but likely two.

McPhee also carries about 20 extra pounds on his frame than Galette, giving the former Bear and Raven more flexibility to play against the run. Galette is a speed, leverage and moves player, focused on getting to the quarterback. He's capable against the run, but in the same way a sports car shouldn't carry a snow plow, Galette should be used to pressure QBs. 

Point being: McPhee and Galette could both make sense for the Redskins, if the team can work out the cash. 

Money usually matters the most in free agency, and it's clear the Redskins haven't made the type of offers that any of these players felt compelled to immediately sign. Deals could still happen though. Hankins didn't sign last offseason until April and Galette seems to thank Redskins fans via social media with relative frequency. 

Washington also had some success with the patient approach to free agency. The team was able to keep Zach Brown, though it took some nervous days of allowing the tackling machine linebacker to test the free agent market. With that win in hand, don't expect the Redskins brass to change their philosophy. 

Until further notice, it's hurry up and wait season in Ashburn.

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