Despite speaking to several former head coaches who were once top defensive coordinators in the NFL, the Redskins plan on keeping defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.
This ends a strange two-week period in which the team was linked to meetings with Gregg Williams, Todd Bowles and Steve Wilks — all of whom had been fired as head coaches at season’s end. Normally when teams speak with potential coordinators, they have an opening. But Washington talked to all three without letting go of Manusky, who just completed his second season as the Redskins’ defensive coordinator.
A person with knowledge of Washington’s offseason plans said Coach Jay Gruden was looking for “different perspectives” in the conversations with outside coaches. The team is keeping Manusky in part because Gruden wants to keep continuity with a young defense that showed promise last year.
Last season, several players said they struggled in 2017 as they adjusted to the defense Manusky introduced in his first year as the team’s coordinator. They said the familiarity helped them in the early weeks of 2018 when the defense played a key role in building a 6-3 record and a two-game lead in the NFC East. Gruden, the person said, does not want to stop the momentum that players such as defensive tackles Daron Payne, Jonathan Allen and Matt Ioannidis had last season.
The Redskins are also working on a new contract for defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, whose deal expired at season’s end and who has been rumored to be looking elsewhere.
Washington has one opening on the coaching staff after special teams coordinator Ben Kotwica asked to leave for a similar position on the staff of the Atlanta Falcons. Another assistant, longtime inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti, requested and received permission to interview for a job as linebackers coach in Green Bay with former Redskins assistant Matt LaFleur.
Improving the coaching staff is believed to be a mandate of team owner Daniel Snyder. People familiar with the Redskins’ postseason planning said Snyder considered firing Gruden after the team failed to make the playoffs for the fourth time in Gruden’s five years as head coach. Ultimately, Snyder decided to keep Gruden, who has two years remaining on a contract extension signed in the spring of 2017. In retaining Gruden and expanding the role of team President Bruce Allen, Snyder is said to have hoped he could make upgrades on the coaching staff. It is unclear what those upgrades will be, particularly with Manusky remaining as defensive coordinator.
Also uncertain is what kind of role someone such as Williams, Bowles or Wilks would have had with the team. While their conversations with the Redskins have been reported, individual meetings with each have not been confirmed. No one has said if the meetings were actual job interviews, attempts to determine interest in a position in Washington or simply exchanges of ideas. The team has not made any official comment on meetings with candidates or other decisions pertaining to the coaching staff.
All three have accepted other jobs — Williams, who was Washington’s defensive coordinator from 2004 to 2007, now has the same position with the Jets, Bowles is the new coordinator in Tampa Bay, and Wilks replaced Williams in Cleveland, where Williams served as interim head coach to end the season.
This past season, the Redskins allowed the 17th-most yards of any NFL team with 5,654 but were tied for 10th in takeaways with 26. Both were improvements over 2017, when Washington was 21st in the league in yards allowed and last in rushing defense. This past season’s numbers dropped in the second half after quarterback Alex Smith broke his leg and the offense’s resulting stumbles forced the defense to be on the field for a longer time, wearing it down. Injuries to key players such as cornerback Quinton Dunbar and an unsuccessful attempt to mix safety D.J. Swearinger Sr. with midseason trade acquisition Ha Ha Clinton-Dix also hurt the defense in the last two months.
The Redskins’ focus apparently will turn to replacing Kotwica, whose loss was a blow. Special teams were one of Washington’s strengths last year. Punter Tress Way went the entire season without a touchback, regularly pinning opponents deep in their own territory, and kicker Dustin Hopkins hit a career-best 89.7 percent of his field goal attempts, including four of five attempts from beyond 50 yards. The team is interviewing candidates to replace Kotwica this week.