Whenever Bill Callahan names the Redskins starting quarterback for the Week 11 game against the Jets, know that Callahan is making his own call.
Sources tell NBC Sports Washington that before Callahan accepted his role as interim head coach last month, he made clear he would only accept the role if he had complete control of the 53-man roster and what players he started. The Redskins agreed to Callahan's terms, partly out of necessity because the team had made clear former head coach Jay Gruden would be fired.
Since Callahan took over as Redskins coach, the team has made a number of changes, including signing a fullback and turning over nearly the entire practice squad. The veteran coach knows what he wants, and has not hesitated to move towards his vision of a 53-man roster.
Nowhere is that more apparent than his decisions at quarterback.
In Gruden’s final game as head coach, he started Colt McCoy in a Week 5 loss to the Patriots. The next game, a Week 6 win in Miami, Callahan put Case Keenum back in the starting spot and moved McCoy to third string.
Callahan made it very clear that Keenum was installed as the Redskins QB1, and the veteran started the next two games. In a loss to Minnesota in Week 8, Keenum suffered a concussion that forced him to miss the Week 9 contest against the Bills.
In his absence, rookie QB Dwayne Haskins started, something that many fans and analysts had been demanding for some time. Haskins played reasonably well for his first start, and conventional wisdom expected the rookie to keep the starting job going forward.
Only Callahan would not commit to Haskins as his quarterback, merely saying he would take his time during the team’s Week 10 bye to make his decision at quarterback.
“I just want to gather all the information, I want to look at a lot of things on film, go back into the self-scout and I just want to take my time and decide where we’re going to go, the direction that we’re going to go,” Callahan said Monday.
Think about it another way: How many interim head coaches would have the gall to eschew overwhelming public demand to play a rookie QB in an otherwise lost season? Only those with the assurance they get to make their own calls without front office interference.
There have been situations in the past where Gruden did not get to make his own decisions. One source explained that Gruden wanted to cut D.J. Swearinger early in the 2018 season, but the coach was told that releasing the popular safety was not an option. By Week 16, after Swearinger made repeated public comments disparaging the defensive coaching staff, Gruden finally got to make the cut.
Callahan has been in the NFL for a long time and knows what can happen with interim head coaches. In Washington, Callahan made his presence known almost immediately when he got the job, and not just with roster choices.
Practice changed. There was more contact, referees appeared, and the team installed scoreboards adjacent to both sets of training fields.
For the first time this decade the Redskins will hold a Wednesday practice during the bye week, something that both previous head coaches Gruden and Mike Shanahan did not do.
Of the bye week practice, Callahan simply explained that his 1-8 unit "needed the work."
Where many interim head coaches act as soon to be released pawns of the front office, Callahan is doing things his way. And that started as soon as he was offered the job.
In that vein, don't be shocked if Callahan steps to the podium next week and names Keenum his starter. It might not make sense for the organization's plans in 2020 or beyond, but Callahan has been adamant that his goals are wins this season.
Keenum or Haskins, whoever gets the call, the decision came from Callahan.
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