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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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Thomas Davis is excited for Reuben Foster's return: 'He was born to play the linebacker spot'

Thomas Davis is excited for Reuben Foster's return: 'He was born to play the linebacker spot'

Washington linebackers Thomas Davis and Reuben Foster are at two very different points in their respective NFL careers.

The former is entering his 15th NFL season and is on the tail-end of an incredible career, while the latter is still trying to find his place in the NFL. The two are separated by 11 years in age.

Yet, both linebackers are expected to have significant roles in Washington's defense come this fall, a team they have yet to play a snap for. In a Zoom conference call with local media on Friday, Davis shared his excitement for what Foster has the chance to bring to Washington's defense.

"Reuben is a physical specimen," Davis said. "I was telling somebody the other day you have people who are born to play a position. When you look at Reuben, he’s one of those guys. I feel like he was born to play the linebacker spot."

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It's been a long and windy road -- both on and off the field -- for Foster since Washington claimed him off of waivers in November of 2018.

Foster was released two years ago by San Francisco after two separate domestic violence accusations. Washington claimed the linebacker, yet he would not play for the team at all that season after immediately landing on the Commissioner's Exempt List.

Later that year, Foster's former girlfriend recanted her testimony on the first incident, and charges were dropped on the second. The linebacker got clearance from the NFL to play shortly after.

Foster returned to the field for OTAs in 2019, but his first practice with his new team ended rather quickly. On just the third snap of the session, Foster suffered a gruesome, non-contact knee injury, tearing multiple ligaments. His recovery took longer than usual, as he lost feeling in his toes in January -- months after the surgery. 

Earlier this week, Foster was removed from the active/PUP list and placed on the team's active roster, 21 months after he was originally claimed by Washington and 15 months after his devastating injury. Foster spoke with reporters shortly after Davis did on Friday, and opened up about his life from the past year and a half.

RELATED: WHAT ARE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS FOR REUBEN FOSTER IN 2020?

If there's someone who can relate to Foster's rehab process, it's Davis. Over a 23-month span from 2009-2011, Davis suffered three (!!) separate ACL tears.

Yet, Davis bounced back from those injuries in tremendous fashion. Since returning from the final ACL tear in 2012, Davis has been extremely durable. Over that span, he's earned three Pro Bowl nods and was named to the NFL's All-Pro squad in 2015. Even at age 36, Davis racked up 112 tackles for the Chargers last season.

"Just seeing [Foster] make progress each and every day has truly been special," Davis said. "As a guy who has his own rehab story, to see Reuben being able to do the things he’s doing day in and day out, I’m extremely impressed and I’m excited for him."

With so many twists and turns in his young NFL career, Foster has finally reached the point where he can make football his top priority.

And now in Washington, he has someone he can look up to as a mentor in Davis.

“I try to talk to Reuben as much as I possibly can," Davis said. "Reuben, he’s excited, man. He’s energetic, he’s up-tempo. He’s always just ready to get back on the field as much as he possibly can when he was that opportunity. He’s just out there working hard and we’re just trying to constantly encourage him to continue to fight, continue to work and just let the chips fall where they may at the end of the day."

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SEE IT: This Washington Redwolves concept keeps team's identity intact

SEE IT: This Washington Redwolves concept keeps team's identity intact

Another day, another Washington Redwolves concept. 

Except this time, we may have found a winner. 

On Friday afternoon, an unaffiliated team account, @WashRedwolves posted a concept by Raymond Santiago that combines the classic Burgandy & Gold color scheme with the highly requested Redwolves logo.

Take a look:

RELATED: HOW THIS RED WOLVES DESIGN COULD BE A SIMPLE TRANSITION FOR WASHINGTON FANS

As you can see nothing really changed from the team's current uniform, just the Redwolves logo rather than the numbers they're currently rocking.

And that's absolutely fine. 

Because the team seems to be committed to keeping the identity intact as much as possible post-name change, less would serve as more. 

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