Redskins Coach Jay Gruden made it clear Wednesday that D.J. Swearinger was cut for insubordination after being warned multiple times about his criticism of the team to media.
The safety called out the play-calling of defensive coordinator Greg Manusky after the 25-16 loss to the Tennessee Titans on Saturday, a defeat that effectively eliminated Washington from postseason contention. Swearinger also implied that he works harder than members of the coaching staff when it comes to film-study preparation.
“I’ve had many talks with him in the past,” Gruden said. “Obviously, I didn’t get through to him so, again, that’s my responsibility. . . . Obviously, he wasn’t happy. He voiced his displeasure many, many times. At the end of the day, we thought it was best for him to let him go and best for us moving forward.
“If you read the articles, I think those aren’t constructive. Having a suggestion whether to play zone or man is a suggestion and that’s fine in-house. With a microphone in your mouth, it’s not productive for anybody.”
Gruden said he did not make the decision alone and the move was in the best interest of the organization. He expected players to be frustrated as they lose a close friend and teammate, but “at the end of the day, we just can’t have that.”
The coach added that he hopes this is a teachable moment. “When you work for a company or work for a team, it’s best that you try to be positive with your remarks,” he said.
Gruden attempted to take blame for the situation.
“Obviously, I didn’t make it clear to certain people that we don’t talk about our business to the media,” Gruden said. “For me to allow that to creep in is ultimately my fault. D.J. did some great things here without a doubt. We wish him nothing but the best. But at the end of the day, that’s something that this franchise or any franchise in my mind can’t afford to have, so we moved on.”
Players in the locker room seemed torn as they returned from a short Christmas break. There was widespread support for Swearinger, but also an understanding that sounding off to the media was not the wisest course of action. They are also aware that they are now without one of their best defensive players and will be shorthanded at safety. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Deshazor Everett are the starters with recently-signed Jeremy Reaves, Harlan Miller and Alex Carter behind them in the rotation. The team is already short at the position with Montae Nicholson out for the year on the reserved/non-football illness list following an arrest for assault after a fight outside of a bar.
“That one comment, I didn’t agree with it, but you’re entitled to your own opinion,” defensive lineman Jonathan Allen said. “That’s what social media is for, to get your message out there. If he felt that was the best thing to do, cool, good for him. I’m not knocking him, I just disagree with what he said. That’s just my opinion. Don’t hate the guy, still love the guy. Unfortunate what happened. Wish him nothing but the best.”
Allen immediately defended Manusky after the game by tweeting the coordinator “coached a great game.”
Swearinger responded during an interview with 106.7 The Fan on Monday that Allen played well, is young and doesn’t have an understanding of the secondary calls, so of course he would defend Manusky. Allen was surprised that Swearinger was cut and added that there’s a time and place for criticism when making public comments to the media.
“As a player, you can’t put it on Manusky,” Allen said. “We’re the ones that who have to go there and execute, do our jobs, make the plays and I don’t feel like it was fair for him to take the criticism. But it’s the world we live in. Just my opinion. Like it or hate it, just the way I felt.”
There was also an understanding that outspokenness is part of the package with Swearinger. He can be feisty, loud and talkative. Swearinger is most likely to speak his mind, which often contains critical evaluations, particularly after losses. It’s a feature, not a bug for a player who was named a Pro Bowl alternate yet still issues with Houston Texans Coach Bill O’Brien.
“D. J.'s real passionate and he cares a lot about this team and his teammates,” linebacker Mason Foster said. “He was trying to win and sometimes maybe he didn’t go about it in the right way or was able to voice his frustrations in the tone that he [wanted], but that’s D.J., man. He’s always been like that since I’ve known him. Real passionate. . . .
“For the most part, most of us that are vets and know D.J., we knew that’s how he was. Just got to take it with grain of salt. I just knew he loved his teammates. He meant well, but sometimes it may not have come out the way that he wanted. . . . It just hurts to lose a guy like that and a brother.”
Swearinger was claimed by the Arizona Cardinals off waivers Tuesday. The sixth-year veteran played with the Cardinals in 2015-16 before signing a three-year, $13.5 million free-agent deal with Washington before the 2017 season.
Redskins defensive backs, who were closest to Swearinger, closed ranks and decided not to speak at length about the situation, according to cornerback Josh Norman.
“Guys in here, we know how we feel about him. We’ll keep that to ourselves,” Norman said. " . . . It sucks, with him and his family, I know them pretty personally, that’s a tough break. Like I said, kind of keep things close to the breast.
“Just the whole thing, the whole situation. I feel like that’s just something we’re going to keep in-house, just kind of keep to ourselves. Guys in here respect people and their privacy and how they handled that. To get involved into that he-said, she-said and all that, just avoid the whole thing all together.”