Redskins mailbag: Front-office structure and the future head coach

Bruce Allen

Bruce Allen, speaking with reporters at Redskins Park on Monday. (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Well, the 2013 campaign is finally in the books, Mike Shanahan is out, and Bruce Allen is on the case, looking to put this franchise on the winning track, once again.

Plenty to tackle in this week’s mail bag. So let’s get after it.

With the Shanahan regime now officially over, and Bruce Allen confirming there won’t be any further front-office changes, how confident are you in the duo of Scott Campbell and Morocco Brown being able to adequately scout both college players and potential free agents?

  Bradford Gillens, Orlando, Florida

That’s a good question, but also one that will take a while for us to get a clear answer to. We know that Brown has drawn interest from teams in the past, so that’s a sign that he has some respect around the league. The Hampton native has worked as a scout with Washington and Indianapolis, was a member of Chicago’s front office for seven years then returned to Washington. The Redskins have credited him as an instrumental player in their signings of Pierre Garcon, Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen, Josh Wilson, Josh Morgan, Kai Forbath, Darrel Young, Chris Baker and Nick Sundberg. There are some definite hits there, and some apparent misses as well. And Campbell has been doing this for a long time. He has seen the NFL from many angles. This is his 27th NFL season and 13th with the Redskins. His father, Marion Campbell, played in the NFL and coached for in the league for 20 years, and Scott Campbell served as an assistant on one of his coaching staffs in Atlanta before moving to the personnel side. The Redskins credit Campbell for the discovery of Alfred Morris, and he and his staff correctly hit on players like Trent Williams, Perry Riley Jr. and Ryan Kerrigan. David Amerson, Jordan Reed and Aldrick Robinson have promise as well. To varying degrees, the jury is still out on Jarvis Jenkins, Roy Helu Jr., Evan Royster, Josh LeRibeus, Adam Gettis, Bacarri Rambo, Phillip Thomas and others. Campbell was on staff for one of the worst Redskins drafts (2008), which featured Devin Thomas, Malcolm Kelly, Fred Davis, Chad Rinehart, Justin Tryon, Kareem Moore, Colt Brennan, Rob Jackson and Chris Horton. (You’re saying, “Who?” for many of those names). People within the organization have suggested that prior to Shanahan’s arrival, Redskins management never put much stock into Campbell’s recommendations and instead went after the so-called sexy picks. Campbell has said that since Shanahan’s arrival, he felt like the research of his department really was taken to heart. But Bruce Allen seemed to indicate that this wasn’t always the case for either Campbell or Brown with Shanahan running the show, either. Allen says both just need a chance to show what they’re capable of. We’ll see this year how they handle the increase of freedom, I guess. Allen did say that they could add one more person to assist both Brown and Campbell. But a lot of this decision also has to do with who the team brings in as a coach. If it’s a guy that wants all of the power, then they could wind up being overruled and serving as gophers again. A.J. Smith remains a member of the front office, and he could also have an impact. He had success in San Diego. But it still isn’t entirely clear what kind of role he will have going forward.

So, the new front-office structure is controversial at best. It seemed that Bruce indicated that there instances that Campbell and Brown may have been overruled by Shanahan in the past on player moves. Any examples that you can share?  It also sounded like he was saying they would be doing the roster but he was in charge of the team/final say. Agreed? Also, just generally is the organization aware but arrogant to the point they don’t care or just tone deaf to their public and media perception? The Babb piece about their actions yesterday demonstrated all levels of ridiculousness.

  John Little

That was an interesting jab there from Allen, mainly because there hadn’t been any rumbling of that type of thing. As mentioned in the answer above, Campbell had said in an interview in the past while we were at the Senior Bowl that he finally felt like what he was doing mattered and was taken into account. Now, could that line from Allen been referring more to free agency? Possibly. I once had been told that Shanahan was the only guy in the room who was sold on Josh Wilson, who has had mixed results during his time as a Redskin, and that Haslett had wanted a bigger corner. But you also have to take anything Allen says with a grain of salt. He is a great politician/spin master. His job was to go out there yesterday and relay Daniel Snyder’s decision not to restructure the front office and paint it in the best possible light. As we all saw with Shanahan, these guys don’t mind tweaking or revising history a little bit to make their message sound exactly how they want it to sound.

Is Dan Snyder as an owner a big negative for prospective coaches coming to Washington? Who do you predict will be the next head coach of the Redskins? Should there have been changes in the front office or did Snyder make the right decisions? It’s clear Snyder is not only the owner, but a fan as well. Does he make poor business decisions because of this?

 Peter Chi

There have been former coaches who have said publicly that they would not coach for Snyder because of his reputation. One of them was Marty Schottenheimer, who wound up changing his mind once he saw the dollar signs. Another, more recently, was Tony Dungy, and there’s no indication he will change his mind. But Snyder is a good pitchman, and you should never say never. It’s hard to say right now if they made the right decision in not adding another front office guy to run the show. Bruce Allen had some success with the Raiders and the Buccaneers, and A.J. Smith is another successful former general manager. Can they, along with Brown and Campbell get the job done? That will take some time to tell. Snyder’s intense love for this team is a good thing in that he isn’t afraid to spend money or do whatever it takes. But at the same time, none of it has paid off yet, and at times in the past, that fandom has probably made him more impatient and rash. He has tried to take a back seat in the past four years. It looked as if it was going to pay off, but then this debacle of a season happened. We’ll see if he remains in the background, or if he thrusts himself back into the leading role.

Has anyone said why Jim Haslett and Raheem Morris were not fired as well?

  Melanie Rose

Bruce Allen has said that those coaches’ futures will be decided by the next head coach. In Haslett’s case, he has another year left on his deal, and holding on to him for now could be money-related. In Morris’s case, and that of tight ends coach Sean McVay, both are talented, young assistants who had ties to Bruce Allen in Tampa, and he is a big reason why they are here. Some league insiders believe that both have a chance to remain with the team. It’s unclear where defensive line coach Jacob Burney, offensive line coach Chris Foerster and his assistant Chris Morgan stand. The Redskins didn’t announce the names of Bobby Turner and Richard Hightower among the eight coaches dismissed along with Shanahan, but people within the organization say that they will not be retained. The decision not to simply dismiss all the coaches right away came as a surprise to the assistants. Most thought that they were getting their walking papers along with Mike Shanahan once they learned of the head coach’s dismissal, and then learned that they instead remain in limbo. They have to continue coming to work, evaluating players and their performances from the past year, until they learn that they are either no longer needed, or that they have futures on the new staff.

Do you really think that the Redskins would take a chance on an unproven college coach at this juncture?  (By unproven, I mean at the NFL level)  Despite the recent successes of Chip Kelly and Jim Harbaugh, It just seems that an established coordinator is a better fit for the Redskins at this point. How much time will the Redskins take to decide on the new head coach. Have any deadlines been tossed around?

 Christian, Orange County, Calif.

It’s hard to say which direction they’re leaning. Bruce Allen didn’t discuss specifics, he just said that they “want to pick the right coach, the right leader for this franchise that can inspire this football team, that can lead this team and teach them the fundamentals that are so critical in the game, who understands the value of time, because in the NFL right now time is really, really critical to manage.” Now, can a college guy come in and be that type of coach? It’s really difficult to say. We’ve seen them succeed and fail just like NFL veterans have. I think a coach who already has a good feel for the NFL would be best, but what do I know? The Redskins haven’t laid out a timeline, but they want to get this taken care of as soon as possible. You’d think maybe two weeks? But that could change if one of their candidates is on a team that’s still playing in the playoffs and they have to wait to interview him.

I’ve heard Gregg Williams’s name floated into the mix for the Redskins position. Our defense was awesome when he was with the team and he seemed like the natural selection to replace Joe Gibbs when he left. After lots of interviews he wasn’t selected and we ended up with Jim Zorn. Do you have any scoop as to why he wasn’t selected for the head coaching job at that time?  Do you see any possibility that he could end up being our coach this time around?  

  Adam Hallenbeck

I don’t think it’s very likely that Gregg Williams winds up back here. It sounds as if he’s definitely interested, but I don’t think the interest is mutual as of now. Williams did appear to be the coach in waiting during Gibbs’s second run. But from what I’ve been able to gather, he had an abrasive, off-putting style, and Snyder wasn’t fond of it. Some people think he spoke unfavorably of Gibbs on the legendary coach’s way out the door, and that Snyder also didn’t take well to that. It’s also believed that Williams also didn’t want to report to Vinny Cerrato, and that also worked against him. It’s unclear how much, or how little stink he still has on him from the Saints’ bounty scandal, and if that would scare Snyder away as well.

I have heard a lot of discussion about how a potentially new offensive system might affect RGIII. There has also been much discussion about upgrading the majority of the offensive line. Though not as efficient as we would have liked, it was clear that Washington’s line was assembled for a zone blocking scheme (smaller but quicker linemen). Alfred Morris has obviously thrived in this scheme, and considering he was a sixth-round pick, he has been an absolute gem. I am wondering if his skill set would transfer well into a different scheme, and if you think that will at all factor into the selection of a new coach/offensive coordinator, new offensive scheme, or even which linemen Washington will pursue in the off-season.

  Pat Coffey

Bruce Allen did say that there would be some schematic changes, and some of the characteristics of the players they are looking for would change as well. This could involve the offensive line, which definitely is in need of an upgrade. Alfred Morris is a back that many across the league believe could fit into any system, however. He runs hard, has good quickness, can deliver a blow at the point of contact, and has enough wiggle to make some tacklers miss in the open field. Allen spoke highly of the nucleus of the team, and said that would make this job attractive to potential coaches. There’s not much on defense because eight of the 11 starters at the end of the season are free agents. But on offense, they have Griffin, Morris, Trent Williams, Pierre Garcon and Jordan Reed, for certain. They just need to build around them and find a coach with a system that fits their skill sets well.

I read your article about the Rams having the Redskins’ first-round pick in the 2014 NFL draft (No. 2 overall). All of us fans are pretty depressed about not having any picks in the first round. But, a little silver lining is that the Skins will have what will amount to a very low pick in the first-round (i.e., high second-round pick), correct?  Just want to ask you, to make sure 1.) they still will have their second-round pick (didn’t trade it away) and 2.) that it will be pick No. 34 or something like that.

 Keith Keeney

Rest easy. The Redskins do indeed still have their second-round pick, and that is expected to be 34th overall. That should be high enough for them to still get an impact player, although not as a difference-maker as No. 2 overall.

Will the new coach play Tanard Jackson? Ha! Happy New Year Mike. Thanks.

 Jim Assurian

Haha, great! After a crazy last few days and weeks, I needed that. Of course, we couldn’t forget old Tanard Jackson, or let 2013 close out without one more mention of him. To be honest, I have no idea! Thanks to everyone, and Happy New Year to you and yours!

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.

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