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Gruden has missed on two defensive coordinator choices; will he survive a third?

Gruden has missed on two defensive coordinator choices; will he survive a third?

Two years ago, Jay Gruden hired Joe Barry as his defensive coordinator over several other better-known names. Barry was fired today along with multiple defensive assistants on Thursday.

Now that Barry is gone after two seasons of heading up defenses that were in the bottom third of the league in virtually every important statistical category the spotlight turns from him to Gruden.

Hiring Barry wasn’t the first debatable move at defensive coordinator that Gruden has made in his three years on the job.

When he came on board he kept Jim Haslett on board. In his four years as Mike Shanahan’s defensive coordinator, Haslett’s defenses weren’t significantly better than the ones Barry has run here the last two years. But Gruden opted for continuity.

A year later, Haslett was out.

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The search for Haslett’s replacement included interviews with some accomplished, well-known defensive coordinators such as Wade Phillips and Vic Fangio. But Gruden opted for Barry, reportedly because he liked his energy and enthusiasm. But the poor results on that side of the ball remained.

But let’s be clear here. The Redskins’ defensive woes are not all the fault of the coordinator.

The defense suffered from major holes, particularly on the line and at safety. A good share of the blame for the problems has to fall in the lap of GM Scot McCloughan. But there is little evidence that Barry was able to maximize the talent he did have available or that he could put together an effective unit even if he did have better players at his disposal.

So now Gruden has gone against the conventional wisdom twice and he turned out to be wrong twice. The question becomes what now?

Phillips wanted the job two years ago.

After it was apparent that the Redskins were going in another direction, Phillips had to “settle” for coordinating the Denver Broncos’ defense. You may remember that they won the Super Bowl after the 2015 season. They were pretty good defensively last season, too, ranking in the top 10 in most defensive categories.

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Phillips is now a free agent, his contract with the Broncos having expired.

Head coach Gary Kubiak retired a few days ago and his replacement may or may not want Phillips to return. Even if the new head man does want Phillips he may want to join his son, tight ends coach Wes Phillips, on the Redskins coaching staff.

Could Gruden turn down Phillips again after things didn’t work out so well with his choice two years ago? Or if former Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley is interested would Gruden have to seriously consider him? I’m not sure if Rex Ryan is a good fit in a lot of ways but if he expresses interest in the job can Gruden afford to not at least listen?

Some have said that Gruden has preferred to go with lower profile defensive coordinators because he did not want to be overshadowed by the likes of Phillips, who has decades of experience in the league including stints as a head coach. Whether that’s true or not. the end product on defense has not been good. He had better cast a wide net and strongly consider hiring a coordinator who has a track record of success. If that means he might be overshadowed, so be it.

When you dig down to the core of it, Jay Gruden has two strikes against him in the defensive coordinator department. If the defense continues to struggle, the next coach to go might be him.

 

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Redskins injury woes were league-wide issue in 2019

Redskins injury woes were league-wide issue in 2019

Injuries are a part of the game. In something as physically demanding and grueling as football, they are bound to happen. 

But for the Redskins, injuries have seemed like more of a definite than a possibility in recent seasons, and 2019 was no different. However, when looking at the trend from a league-wide perspective, they were not alone.

According to a report by the Associated Press, NFL teams lost over $500 million to either Week 1 starters who were injured or players who ended the season on injured reserve during the 2019 season.

Washington certainly contributed to that number, as the 3-13 season was filled with injuries. From the beginning to the end, the Redskins consistently had players end up on IR. By the end, the likes of Jordan Reed, Derrius Guice, Brandon Scherff and a plethora of others were all on the sideline come gameday.

The Redskins also fit the mold when it came to which type of players were suffering the most injuries. Associated Press reported that wide receivers were the most injured group in 2019, with cornerbacks and safeties coming right behind. Looking at Washington, the IR was littered with those skill position players. 

Paul Richardson Jr. and Trey Quinn were unable to stay healthy, leaving the Redskins with a thin receiving corps. As for the secondary, Quinton Dunbar, Jimmy Moreland, Deshazor Everett, Danny Johnson, Fabian Moreau and Montae Nicholson all finished the season not suiting up. By the final few weeks, Washington was pulling players off the street and inserting them into the game.

Yet, while the Redskins' list of injuries goes on and on, they were not alone. Per the report, the New York Jets racked up the most players on IR with 21, while the Philadelphia Eagles had the most money going toward players that were not active on the field.

There's no denying that the Redskins dealt with a large number of injuries in 2019, but it looks as if they were not unique. With a new training staff coming in for 2020, Washington will look to become an outlier on the injury trend rather than a big contributor.

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DeMaurice Smith: 2-year strike may be necessary leverage for NFLPA in CBA negotiations

DeMaurice Smith: 2-year strike may be necessary leverage for NFLPA in CBA negotiations

Super Bowl week includes a host of fanfare and festivities before Sunday's game. On Tuesday, Super Bowl week included discussions about the league's immediate future when NFL Players Association Executive Director DeMaurice Smith spoke at a rally in downtown Miami. 

Smith, who is currently engaged in negotiations with the NFL on the next collective bargaining agreement ahead of the current deal's expiration in March 2021, said Tuesday if players want to receive everything they're seeking, a two-year strike may be necessary. 

"People need to understand that it's really easy to call for a work stoppage; it's really hard to win one," Smith said at the rally. "So that's why I started notifying players four years ago about saving their checks, making changes to their debt structure, and the reality is that if we want to hold out and get everything we want, that's probably going to mean a two-year strike."

In the next CBA, the NFL and its owners are seeking the ability to expand the regular season to 17 games during the deal, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN. The option to expand playoffs is also being considered, and the league would shorten the preseason slate if the regular-season schedule receives an increase. Another obstacle in negotiations is what the appropriate increase in revenue share for the players — which is currently a 47% minimum — is to agree to a longer season. 

Over the course of an NFL season, Smith visits all 32 teams to give an overview of collective bargaining and what the players can do for leverage. Smith negotiated the current collective bargaining agreement, a 10-year deal agreed to in 2011, and he knows that there could be some concessions made throughout negotiations.

"Any collective bargaining deal is going to be a package of things," Smith said. "Is it going to be an agreement where you get 100% of everything you want? Probably not, and one of the reasons that we're in a position of bargaining right now is because the league didn't get everything they wanted in 2011."

Owners engaged discussions with the players early in 2019, hoping to reach an agreement on a new deal well ahead of the expiration of the current deal, according to Graziano's report. Several components of the new deal have already been agreed upon, including the league's drug and discipline policy and training camp rules, which would limit contact and duration of practices.

The leading issue still to be resolved is the aforementioned regular-season duration. San Francisco 49ers wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders — who played all 17 games in 2019 after a mid-season trade — recently spoke out against a 17-game season. With that key decision looming over the negotiations, Graziano said any optimism that a new deal can be agreed to this offseason has faded. 

Ultimately, the decision is up to the players, as Smith reiterated Tuesday. Players will have the chance to vote on any deal he and his committee formulate.

Smith will meet Thursday with player representatives from 30 of 32 teams — excluding the two Super Bowl teams as they prepare for Sunday's game — to discuss options going forward with no official vote expected, according to Graziano. The NFL hasn't had a strike since 1987, but in the coming months, the players could decide that it's the best course of action to take. 

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