After a season in which the defense ranked among the NFL’s worst and struggled as it has much of the previous four seasons, the Washington Redskins parted with defensive coordinator Jim Haslett on Wednesday.
News of the move came by press release just 28 minutes before General Manager Bruce Allen was scheduled to speak with reporters for the first time since training camp in August, and less than 48 hours after Coach Jay Gruden had expressed support for his senior assistant.
Haslett’s release, which the team described as a mutual agreement, came with one year remaining on his contract. But the move hardly came as a surprise, given the ineptitude of Haslett’s unit.
Washington’s defense couldn’t keep teams out of the end zone, surrendering 27.4 points a game (tied for 29th in the 32-team league), couldn’t get off the field on third downs (allowing a 43 percent success rate, tied for 24th) and couldn’t get the ball back for the offense, mustering only 19 takeaways ( tied for 25th). The Redskins also allowed 8.2 yards per pass attempt (31st) and saw opposing quarterbacks combine for a passer rating of 108.3 (32nd).
The Redskins planned to begin reaching out to prospective candidates as early as Wednesday afternoon. Allen did not give a timetable for the interview and hiring process.
Despite the shortcomings of the defense, people within the organization had remained loyal to Haslett. Players blamed themselves for poor execution, and Gruden pinned many of the struggles on injuries.
“It’s obviously disappointing for me because Haz was a big proponent in bringing me to Washington, and I had a lot of respect for him both as a coach and a person,” outside linebackr Ryan Kerrigan said in a phone interview. “So, I’m sad to see him go.
“One thing I’ve learned in my four years in the NFL,” Kerrigan said, “is to not be surprised by any move, whether it’s player turnover or coaching turnover, especially when you only win four games in a year and three games the year before.”
“I’m sad we didn’t play well enough for them not to have to take the flak, or for them not to have their careers on the line,” safety Ryan Clark said following Sunday’s 44-17 blowout loss to Dallas.
And on Monday, Gruden said, “I have a lot of respect for Jim Haslett. Coach Haslett had his hands tied a little bit this year. We had a lot of injuries, a lot of issues to our defense, the personnel, that not many people have had to go through in this NFL season, or the history of the league, playing with as many different guys, as many key positions throughout the season.”
Gruden and Haslett had a history before coaching the Redskins this past season. Haslett in 2009 served as head coach of the UFL’s Florida Tuskers, and Gruden worked as his offensive coordinator. So, when the Redskins fired Mike Shanahan after last year’s 3-13 debacle and hired Gruden to replace him, the first-year head coach retained Haslett, counting his experience and skills as a coach and strategist as valuable assets.
Washington’s defense lost cornerback DeAngelo Hall for 13 games because of a ruptured Achilles’ tendon, and outside linebacker Brian Orakpo for nine games because of a torn pectoral muscle. Injuries also cut short the seasons of cornerback Tracy Porter, linebackers Akeem Jordan and Adam Hayward, safety Brandon Meriweather and defensive end Jason Hatcher. Nose tackle Barry Cofield and defensive end Stephen Bowen also missed portions of the season with injury.
The Redskins used 13 starting lineups and lined up a league-high 36 players on defense over the course of the season.
But blown assignments in the secondary were rampant, and outside of Kerrigan, the members of Washington’s front seven routinely struggled to provide a disruptive pass rush.
Haslett and Gruden met over the course of the past two days and came to the conclusion that the team needed to go in a different direction.
“Jim and I have had discussions over the last few days and have decided that it’s best for everyone that we have a new defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins,” Gruden said in a statement. “I wish him nothing but the best in the future.”
Haslett also issued a statement, saying “Jay and I mutually agreed it’s time for the Redskins to have a new defensive coordinator.
“I want to thank Dan Snyder, Bruce Allen, Coach Gruden and all the players and fellow coaches for their efforts the last five years and I wish them nothing but the best.”
Haslett’s assistants, including secondary coach Raheem Morris, linebackers coaches Brian Baker and Kirk Olivadotti and defensive line coach Jacob Burney, remained in limbo as of Wednesday afternoon.
Gruden plans to give Haslett’s replacement input on whether or not they would remain with the team.
Allen declined to say if any of them were candidates to succeed Haslett.