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Need to Know: Redskins' Gruden's fate hinges on Manusky, McCloughan

Need to Know: Redskins' Gruden's fate hinges on Manusky, McCloughan

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, January 24, 36 days before the NFL franchise tag deadline.

Timeline

Days until:

NFL free agency starts 44
—NFL Draft 93
First Sunday of 2017 season 229

Gruden's fate rests on Manusky, McCloughan

In his press conference the day after the Redskins lost to the Giants to end their season, Jay Gruden talked about the decision-making process that would unfold if there were changes in the coaching staff.

“Ultimately I would think it is my call – our call,” he said. “Bruce [Allen] will have some input, Dan [Snyder] will have some input, Scot [McCloughan] will have some input, but from a staff standpoint, I like to think I have a lot of pull on that one.”

That doesn’t make it sound like he was completely free to replace the fired Joe Barry and new Rams head coach Sean McVay with whomever he chose. Others could make suggestions and have input and possibly veto power.

The decision to make Greg Manusky the defensive coordinator likely was influenced by and/or had the approval of, McCloughan. Manusky ran the defense in San Francisco when McCloughan was the GM there. McCloughan was instrumental in getting Manusky to come to the Redskins to coach the outside linebackers a year ago, after he was fired as the Colts’ defensive coordinator.

Related: Redskins defensive coordinator resume: Greg Manusky

Having McCloughan’s approval for the hire provides Gruden with some degree of security. If it doesn’t work out, if the Redskins upgrade the talent on defense and still don’t get better results, the heat will be on McCloughan as well as Gruden.

Still, Gruden will be the one in the spotlight this season. When the annual media lists of coaches on the hot season in 2017 come out, Gruden is sure to be atop many of them. It’s simple math, really. In Gruden’s three seasons the team has gone 4-12, 9-7, and 8-7-1. A return to double-digit loss territory would be a regression and there would be legitimate concern over whether Gruden is the guy who can make progress and then maintain it and build on it.

Did Gruden get his first pick for the job? Probably not. It seems that Gus Bradley was the favorite, having built the aggressive Seattle defense and having ties with McCloughan from there and with Gruden and Allen from Tampa Bay. But he decided to head west and take over the Chargers’ defense, perhaps wondering about Gruden’s job security. If Bradley didn’t top the list, then Gruden’s top choice probably was Cincinnati defensive coordinator Paul Guenther. But he is under contract and the Bengals denied permission for him to talk about making a lateral move.

More Redskins: Redskins stay in house

Wade Phillips decided to go to the Rams, who have decidedly better defensive personnel than the Redskins, before he had a chance to meet with Washington. We’re not sure how seriously Gruden pursued Phillips but it’s possible that he would have taken him over Manusky if he had the chance. That means that Manusky was at best Plan C or Plan D.

But that’s water under the bridge. Gruden’s fate now lies in the hands of Manusky and in the hands of McCloughan, who must set out to get the new defensive coordinator a significant talent upgrade. If Gruden gets a better defense and can maintain a top offensive attack (given Kirk Cousins’ contract status, he needs McCloughan’s help there, too) and the Redskins can take the next step he should be expecting to start serious extension talks in 2018.

If the Redskins spin their wheels and end up around .500 again or if they regress and post double-digit losses like they did for five out of six years from 2009-2014 they could be cleaning house and starting over again. That wouldn’t be a good scenario for anyone. The organization is counting on Manusky, who was Plan C, and McCloughan to help Gruden get things on track.

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Adrian Peterson is fifth in rushing and, oh yeah, he finally feels fully healthy now

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USA TODAY Sports

Adrian Peterson is fifth in rushing and, oh yeah, he finally feels fully healthy now

The version of Adrian Peterson the Redskins have been getting this year — the one who currently sits as the NFL's fifth-leading rusher and the one who has been the team's only consistent offensive threat — hasn't even been the fully in-shape version, according to Peterson.

If you take him at his word, that's a pretty frightening thought for non-Redskins defenses to ponder.

After practice on Wednesday, the 33-year-old was asked about how he's feeling after dealing with ankle and shoulder problems earlier in the season. Those problems are apparently now all behind him.

"Last week, I actually started feeling all the way healthy," he said in the 'Skins locker room. "My shoulder, I'm back to bench pressing. I hadn't done that in three weeks. And so I'm back to doing the normal things that I was able to do. My ankle's feeling good, my body's just feeling refreshed."

Oh, so the guy who's been averaging nearly 75 yards per game on about 17 carries per game and the guy who's scored four total touchdowns through nine contests is only just now back to normal?

Damn.

"Second half has been a blessing to me, you know?" he said. "It was a grind the first eight weeks, and here now, as I stand in front of you, my body's feeling amazing."

Must be nice to be one of the sport's best players of this generation, huh?

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So what does Josh Norman want from Redskins fans? 'Pandemonium'

So what does Josh Norman want from Redskins fans? 'Pandemonium'

Josh Norman made headlines last week when he called out a subset of Redskins fans for booing the home team and others for not showing up to FedEx Field.

Some fans took exception to Norman's comments, but on Wednesday, the star cornerback made clear exactly what he wanted from fans. 

"You want to see an atmosphere full with raving Redskins Nation fans and pandemonium," Norman said during an interview with Larry Michael on Redskins Nation. 

"That's what you want to see."

Norman's request seems more than fair, especially considering the 6-3 Redskins will take on the 6-3 Texans. Both teams are in first place in their division, and while Washington is coming off a solid road win in Tampa, Houston travels to FedEx Field winners of six-straight. 

"It’s big, because the other team is coming in at 6-3," Norman said. 

6-3 is the best Redskins record this late in the season since 2008, and Norman recognizes his team is trying to turn mediocre tide of recent years and that fans might need a reminder.

"To change that from the culture where it was to now coming around, come on man, we need your support."

For decades, the Redskins fan base was considered among the NFL's best. Venerable RFK Stadium had arguably the best home-field advantage in the league. Norman remembered that.

"This is a signature storied franchise," Norman said. "I grew up with it knowing the Washington Redskins and knowing how big it was. Down in Carolina that was our team. The Washington Redskins was the team of the South. Everybody was about that."

Times change.

The 'Skins left RFK more than 20 years ago and now Carolina roots for the Panthers. 

Still, for Norman and many players, the challenge is out there for the fans to fill up FedEx Field and make it a hostile atmosphere for the Texans.

"From the inside of the stands to the outside of it, all Redskins Nation going in there live, pumping us up. We feeding off of them, we giving them something to cheer for and they giving us back something to be excited for," Norman said. "Those big 3rd downs. As long as we need them, we hear those decibels. We need it up to 105. Literally just blow it off the roof, those decibels, just shoot them up. That’s what we need."

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