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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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Clinton Portis among group of NFL players charged by Justice Department with defrauding NFL health care program

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Clinton Portis among group of NFL players charged by Justice Department with defrauding NFL health care program

The Justice Department charged Clinton Portis and nine other former NFL players with defrauding a health care program for retired players.

The news broke Thursday morning when the Eastern District of Kentucky alleged that the retired players submitted fraudulent claims for medical equipment costing between $40,000-50,000 to the Gene Upshaw NFL Player Health Reimbursement Account Plan. 

Former Redskins cornerback and first-round pick Carlos Rogers is also charged along with Robert McCune, John Eubanks, Tamarick Vanover, Ceandris Brown, James Butler, Frederick Bennett, Correll Buckhalter and Etric Pruitt. Joe Horn and Reche Caldwell are also expected to be charged with conspiracy to commit health care fraud.

Portis' attorney Mark Dycio said of the charges (via The Washington Post): "Clinton Portis had no knowledge that his participation in what he believed to be an NFL sanctioned medical reimbursement program was illegal. He is completely taken aback by this indictment and will move forward with the process of clearing his good name and those of his fellow NFL alumni."

According to the indictment, the claims filed between June 2017 and December 2018 totaled $3.9 million and the health care plan paid out more than $3.4 million.

Portis played seven years for the Redskins from 2004 to 2010, rushing for nearly 7,000 yards and 46 touchdowns. He remains a fan favorite and currently works for the Redskins Broadcast Network. 

A Redskins spokesperson was not immediately available for comment. 

Stay tuned as this is a developing story. 

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The Redskins' offense has been bad all year, but they're atrocious on opening drives

The Redskins' offense has been bad all year, but they're atrocious on opening drives

No matter how you break it down — by quarter, by month, by time of day, by location, by whether the opponent has an animal mascot or a human mascot — the numbers show that the Redskins have a really ineffective offense. Currently, they're last in the NFL in points per game and yards per game.

They're bad all the time, honestly.

However, they're downright atrocious when it comes to their opening drives.

In Week 1 against the Eagles, the Redskins scored a touchdown on their opening possession. It was fun. The players had fun. The fans had fun. Everybody had fun.

But since then, they haven't notched a single TD on a first drive. In fact, they haven't converted a field goal, either.

Overall, in their 13 game-opening possessions on the year, Washington has that single end zone trip to go along with a missed kick, seven punts, two fumbles and two interceptions (one of which was taken back for a score).

What's the opposite of coming out hot? The 2019 Redskins' offense.

"I'm tired of the slow starts, our guys are, too," Bill Callahan said Wednesday. "That's the goal of the first drive of the game — try to jump ahead, get ahead, find a way to get on the board early. We haven't succeeded at that." 

The issue is registering with Dwayne Haskins, too. So, what can they possibly do to try to improve?

"Just trying to figure out a way we can move the ball early, not getting behind the chains, finding lanes and getting the ball out fast," the quarterback said. "It helps our defense when we come off fast and move the ball down the field and not put them in a tough scenario with having a short field."

Many have complained about the offense's run-first approach being too predictable under Callahan, and that's something that could be plaguing them at the beginning of their contests. Since he took over as interim coach, for example, the offense has run the ball on their first snap in six-of-eight matchups, including four-out-of-five with Haskins under center.

Of course, this is an area where Jay Gruden struggled as well, but his tendencies weren't as obvious. Plus, and yes, this is minutiae now, he did call two play-action shots in Weeks 2 and 4 that schemed up wide-open receivers that Case Keenum simply missed. He was also in charge for that lone touchdown in Philly.

The most obvious explanation for the problem, however, is one that can explain a lot of things this season: an overall lack of talent. As mentioned at the start of the story, it's not like the offense gets into a rhythm at any point, so their numbers will be underwhelming in any situation or sample.

That said, even with an inexperienced and undermanned group, there should be more production than one TD in 13 chances. Callahan told the media that "we put a lot of thought, focus and concentration" into the early-game plan. Clearly, it's not paying off.

In many ways, the Redskins have fallen behind the rest of the NFL over the past few months. The stats above show that, at least in one way, that's literally very true.  

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