The Washington Redskins will retain Jim Haslett as their defensive coordinator and will look into the possibility of extending Haslett’s contract, Coach Jay Gruden said Friday.
“He has one year left on his contract,” Gruden said in a telephone interview. “I’ll talk to Bruce [Allen, the team's general manager] and we’ll talk to [Haslett] and see what we can do there. But definitely he’ll be back next year as coordinator.”
People close to the situation had said since Gruden was hired as the team’s head coach that Haslett would be retained as a holdover from the staff of the Redskins’ previous coach, Mike Shanahan. But Gruden did not commit to that at his introductory news conference and the Redskins had not officially clarified Haslett’s status until Gruden’s comments Friday.
Update (3:08 p.m.): Gruden said he also will retain offensive line coach Chris Foerster.
“We feel good about retaining both of them,” Gruden said. “I feel confident they’ll both be here.”
Gruden confirmed that he is considering Earnest Byner as his running backs coach and said he intends to hire Ike Hilliard as his wide receivers coach. Hilliard previously coached for the Redskins and served as the Buffalo Bills’ wide receivers coach this season but was not retained.
“I have talked to Ike,” Gruden said. “I’ve known him a long time. That’s something we are going to pursue and we’ll make that happen.”
Gruden’s coaching staff is taking shape.
“I’m hoping to have it done by next week,” he said.
The Redskins announced soon after Gruden made his comments that they were retaining Haslett and Foerster and that they’d hired Wes Phillips as their tight ends coach. Phillips, the son of longtime NFL coach Wade Phillips, had been the Dallas Cowboys’ tight ends coach.
The Redskins previously had announced the elevation of Sean McVay from tight ends coach to offensive coordinator. They’d confirmed that they were keeping Raheem Morris as their secondary coach and Jacob Burney as their defensive line coach and they’d announced the hirings of Ben Kotwica as special teams coach, Brian Baker as outside linebackers coach and Kirk Olivadotti as inside linebackers coach.
Haslett, McVay and Morris had worked with Gruden in the past. McVay and Morris worked with him with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and McVay and Haslett worked with him in the United Football League.
The Redskins ranked 18th in the league in total defense and were tied for 30th in scoring defense this season, when they went 3-13. Haslett has been criticized by some fans and media members during his tenure with the team. But he managed to get the defense to contribute to the team’s run to an NFC East title in the 2012 season and some within the organization are confident he can produce a reliable defense if he is supplied with enough talented players.
The Redskins have many of their defensive starters eligible for free agency this offseason but also will have available salary cap space, with the expiration of their two-year, $36 million salary cap penalty by the league, to rebuild.
The team pursued Cincinnati Bengals linebackers coach Paul Guenther. But he remained with the Bengals and was elevated to defensive coordinator there to replace Mike Zimmer, who was hired as head coach of the Minnesota Vikings.
“I wasn’t trying to poach anyone off of their staff,” Gruden said. “If Coach Zimmer had not gotten a head coaching job and [Guenther] was going to stay there as the linebackers coach, I was going to try to get him. Fortunately it worked out for everybody.”
Gruden said he won’t attend the Senior Bowl practices next week in Mobile, Ala.
“I’m going to stay here with Sean and get started on the offense,” he said.
He said he just has started his player evaluations. The team’s focus will turn to free agency and the NFL draft once Gruden completes assembling his coaching staff.
“I’ve started,” Gruden said. “Slowly but surely we’ll really get into that. We’ll really start on that next week. There’s a lot to do in a short amount of time.”
Gruden has spoken to Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III, but the scope of their discussion has been limited so far by the league’s rules governing offseason activities.
“The rules kind of handcuff you,” Gruden said. “We can’t talk football yet. I know he’s excited. We’re eager to get started, but we’ve got to hold him back. That time will come.”