The inside story on the Redskins decision to release D.J. Swearinger


The Redskins didn't cut D.J. Swearinger because he voiced critical comments about Greg Manusky after the loss to Tennessee. 

The Redskins cut D.J. Swearinger because for two years he established a clear pattern of criticizing coaches, teammates and the entire organization after losses. 

The debate about if the Redskins made the right decision will rage on for some time, and while there are cases to be made for either side, the explanation is simpler.

Sources inside Redskins Park made clear that the team sat down with Swearinger multiple times to explain that the safety should not go to the media any more with criticisms about the team. 

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Swearinger first spoke out publicly about practice efforts in 2017, following a humiliating loss to the Chargers. 

This season, it happened after losses to the Saints and Falcons, questioning the seriousness of practice from his teammates and from coaches. 

The situation that really began to bother coaches came in early December, however, after the team had addressed the public criticisms with Swearinger in a closed door meeting. 

After the Redskins suffered an embarrassing 40-16 defeat from the Giants at home in early December, Swearinger said, 

“You can’t say it’s the players, man because we the same players. We’re the same guys. We’re putting in the same work. Defense, we’re practicing hard. … From a players’ standpoint, we’re practicing, bro. Like I say, I can’t give you no answers to that because I’m not the coaches.”


Those comments bothered the staff, and prompted another closed door conversation with Swearinger. 

Directly calling out the coaching staff would not fly. The word was to stop going to the media with team criticism. Period. 

Things seemed to go from boil to simmer when the Redskins actually rallied to win a game in Jacksonville two weeks ago. New quarterback Josh Johnson gave Washington some hope at a playoff spot following a tailspin in the back half of the season.

For 45 minutes in Nashville, it looked like the team would have more good news, and another week of cohesion. Then, the 'Skins defense could not get a stop in the fourth quarter against Titans backup QB Blaine Gabbert.   

Washington lost again, dropped out of the playoff race, and despite multiple meetings about keeping his criticism in-house,  Swearinger either could not or would not hold back.

"If I'm the D-coordinator, I'm calling zone every time on third down because you got a backup quarterback. Make him beat us. We're playing a backup quarterback. Why would you put us in man-to-man? We are our best on defense when we look at the quarterback.”

Those comments came in direct opposition to what Swearinger was told in the last meeting. But the comment that nobody could look past?

“I'm a very smart football player. I probably watch more film than the coaches.”

Some coaches on staff felt Swearinger questioned their work ethic. That could not fly.

“I’m quite disappointed to be honest with you,” Gruden said of Swearinger’s latest comments. 

“We made it pretty clear that we try to keep our business within these walls and we’ve had many a talk before about that, and unfortunately he chose to go to the media again and talk about his displeasure with some of the calls. I know Coach Manusky works extremely hard as does the rest of the staff.”

Previous conversations had mentioned possible discipline for Swearinger, but this time, the staff inside the Ashburn headquarters felt they had no choice. The safety had already caused significant friction around the building, and with the intensified comments aimed directly at Mansuky, the staff felt they had no option but to release the Pro Bowl alternate. 

It's important to note that Swearinger works very hard, and teammates will talk about his intense film study. He’s also been a good player for the Redskins in two seasons.

Washington is releasing Swearinger with a year left on his contract, though there is no guaranteed money in 2019. 

Gruden and the team made this decision with eyes wide open, accepting that Swearinger is a talented player, but that his repeated insubordination could not stand.