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Report: Tension over Cousins contract a main factor in Redskins firing McCloughan

Report: Tension over Cousins contract a main factor in Redskins firing McCloughan

There were many issues that led to the messy departure of Scot McCloughan from the Redskins. But the primary one appears to be the issue that still is the lead story of the 2017 offseason.

The partnership between the organization and the man they hired to be their general manager in January of 2015 started to fray less than a year after it started, according to Albert Breer of TheMMQB.com. After successfully lobbying for the team to make Kirk Cousins the starting quarterback and bench Robert Griffin III in August of 2015, taking five hours to persuade Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder that it was the right move, McCloughan tried to get Cousins, who was in the last year of his rookie contract, signed to a new deal.

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But there was resistance due to concerns over how Griffin, who they thought still may have a key role, would react to a Cousins extension. There were some preliminary talks with Cousins’ agent during the Redskins’ bye week but Cousins’ play had been inconsistent and the talks didn’t go much of anywhere. McCloughan got the green light to make a push to get Cousins to sign a long-term deal in December but by that time Cousins was on a roll and the price tag had escalated.

The Redskins had to use the franchise tag on Cousins and that set the bar for the negotiations. McCloughan tried to get a deal done and the early 2016 talks got off to a "rough start," as Breer put it. By later in the year McCloughan was off the Cousins negotiations, replaced by Eric Schaffer. The GM was not in the loop on decisions regarding Cousins after that, including the application of the exclusive franchise tag last month.

There are some “what ifs” involved here. It’s easy to say that if McCloughan had been able to have his way shortly after Cousins became the starter the organization would be up in the air as it is now, facing the choice of making Cousins one of the the highest-paid quarterbacks in the game when he clearly is not among best or starting all over again at the most important position on the field either this year or next.

But that presumes that a fair deal with a quarterback who had been inconsistent and eventually benched when he had chances to start in 2014 would have been easily accomplished either before the start of the 2015 season or even during the bye week. Cousins has been more than willing to gamble on himself and it is not a given that a deal could have been done.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins need to turn free agency focus to their own

Regardless, the conflict over how to handle Cousins was the beginning of the end of McCloughan’s time in Washington, or at least part of the end. Breer also cites Allen’s issues with McCloughan’s handling of situations involving an injury to rookie Su’a Cravens and an incident where cornerback Bashaud Breeland had an outburst during practice as major factors in McCloughan’s departure.

There is more to it, of course. Some players disputed that McCloughan’s alleged problems with alcohol were as evident as some sources said it was when the news of the GM’s firing was first reported. When something blows up in such an ugly fashion there usually are dozens of problems preceding the blow up at the end. As Breer put it:

"Maybe we eventually get more answers on what really happened. What I do know is that the conclusion predicted by some in Ashburn—Eventually, those people forecast, there would be problems over power and McCloughan’s past issues would be raised as he departed—has come true."

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Redskins still absorbing rule changes involving kickoffs, contact with helmet

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Associated Press

Redskins still absorbing rule changes involving kickoffs, contact with helmet

The NFL has passed two major on-field rule changes in the last two months. One, the rule that prohibits players from lowering their helmets to initiate contact with another player. That one passed during the spring meetings in March but it was just recently clarified. The other one changes how kickoffs are executed. 

Both rules, designed to make the game safer for the players, could have a major impact on the game. And the Redskins are still a little unclear about how to handle them. 

Safety D.J. Swearinger is one of the Redskins’ hardest hitters. After saying that the helmet-lowering rule, which is outlined in some detail in this video from the NFL, would not affect him because he hits low, he wondered why he was even wearing a hard hat at work. 

“I’ve got a helmet on, but I can’t use it or hit nobody with it, might as well take the helmet off if you ask me,” said Swearinger following the Redskins’ OTA practice on Wednesday.

As of Wednesday afternoon, coach Jay Gruden had not yet been filled in on the details of the helmet-lowering rule. He said that the team will sort it out over the three and a half months between now and the start of the regular season. 

“The lowering of the helmet, I don’t know which ones they decided to go with, so we’ll see,” he said. “I know there’s been a lot of talk about bull rushes and they’re trying to obviously protect the players, but we’ve just got to be careful.”

Gruden said that special teams coach Ben Kotwica went to meetings to help hash out the kickoff rule. What they ended up with looks a lot like another special teams play according to the player who will be executing the kickoffs. 

“It looks like they’re trying to make it more like a punt,” said kicker Dustin Hopkins. Among the similarities are that the kicking team will not be able to get a running start as the kicker approaches the ball. They will have to be stationary a yard away from the line where the ball is until it is kicked. 

The league probably will be happy if the play does more closely resemble a punt. The injury rate on punt plays is much lower than it is on kickoffs. 

Some believe that this change will lead to longer kickoff returns. Gruden didn’t disagree, but he said that he needs more information. 

“I think without the guys getting a running start, number one, it could be,” he said. “I think it’s just something I have to see it before I can really make any judgments on it.”

The new rule prohibits wedge blocking meaning that you are unlikely to see any offensive linemen on kickoffs as they were used primarily to create or break wedges. 

“I think for the most part, you’re going to see more speed guys,” said Gruden.

The Redskins will start to wrap their heads around the new rule during the next three weeks, when they have their final two weeks of OTAs and then minicamp before the break for training camp. Gruden said that they will continue to work on it in Richmond. He said that the joint practices with the Jets and the four preseason game will be important for sorting out just how the team will implement kickoffs. 

The best way to handle it might be to just let Hopkins pound the ball into the end zone every time. Last year 72.5 percent of his kickoffs went for touchbacks. He could have had more touchbacks, but he occasionally was told to kick it high to force a return with the hope of getting better field position. But if the rules lead to longer returns it may not be worth the risk. 

More 2018 Redskins

- 53-man roster: Player one-liners, offense
- Tandler’s Take: Best- and worst-case scenarios for 2018
- OTAs: Practice report: Smith sharp
- Injuries: Kouandjio out for the season

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

 

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Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

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Associated Press

Need to Know: Redskins' Jay Gruden and Alex Smith from the podium

Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, May 24, 64 days before the Washington Redskins start training camp.  

What Jay Gruden and Alex Smith had to say from the podium

After yesterday’s OTA practice, Alex Smith and Jay Gruden took the podium. Here are some of their quotes and my comments on them:

Smith was asked about getting together with his new teammates:

So I think every guy these last two days has enjoyed just getting back out there and losing yourself in the game, right? To be limited, it does make you miss it, and I think it makes you appreciate it, so that’s been nice. 

Comment: This is a guy who loves football and everything that goes with it. Smith would start playing games tomorrow if they were scheduled.

Gruden was asked how Smith has looked in these first two days of OTAs:

He’s got good command of the offense already. Great command in the huddle. He’s just getting a feel for the receivers, the players around him, how we call things, but overall, the first two days, I would say I’m very pleased with his quick progression and learning. I knew that wouldn’t be an issue with as much as he’s played in a similar-style system.

Comment: It did seem that Smith was in sync with his receivers, Jamison Crowder in particular. He and Paul Richardson connected on a deep pass after giving each other a look at the line of scrimmage. The encouraging thing is that he is coming from a similar offensive system, so the learning curve should not be too long. 

Smith had a great analogy when asked about similarities to the offenses he has run:

Both from West Coast worlds, so it’s kind of like they are all Latin-based languages, you know, but they are not the same. There are some similarities, structure of the playbook, of how we call things, things like that. There are a lot of similarities but it’s not the same language. I guess that’s the best analogy I can make

Comment: If terminology is the biggest obstacle for Smith to overcome it will be a smooth transition for him. 

Gruden was impressed with the running backs. 

“I’ll tell you what, just today in general, you could see the competition. You could see Rob Kelley step up. Samaje Perine’s had a couple big days. Byron Marshall, I mean, he had a couple great routes today. He’s running the ball between the tackles. [Kapri] Bibbs had some big runs yesterday. Obviously, Derrius Guice has come in here and fueled the fire a little bit.

Comment: I think that the Redskins are going to have to release some good running backs. Rob Kelly never really earned the nickname “Fat Rob” but he looked particularly lean and quick running the ball. He wants nothing to do with being on the roster bubble. Marshall moved quickly and showed his speed. Although Gruden wouldn’t say it, Guice clearly was the best of the bunch; his ability to change direction while maintaining his speed will serve him well. It must be noted that they are not in pads and not getting tackled so more definitive opinions will have to wait until we are in Richmond for a few days. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCS and on Instagram @RichTandler

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Timeline  

Days until:

—Minicamp (6/12) 19
—Training camp starts (7/26) 64
—Preseason opener @ Patriots (8/9) 78

The Redskins last played a game 144 days ago. They will open the 2018 NFL season at the Cardinals in 108 days. 

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