You are Greg Manusky. Your title, as far as you know, is defensive coordinator of the Washington Redskins. The last time you checked the team’s Web site — and you check frequently, just to be sure — there was your picture right next to that title. Your Wikipedia page describes you as “currently the defensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins of the National Football League (NFL).” Safe and sound.
So before you click “refresh” again, put your feet up on your desk and relax. You have your job.
Except that desk, the one out in Ashburn, didn’t it used to belong to Gregg Williams, Washington’s assistant head coach-defense from 2004-07?
What does Gregg Williams have to do with you, Greg Manusky? Nothing, right? He was let go from his job with the Cleveland Browns — whom he led to a 5-3 record as the interim head coach this past season — and now he’s heading to the New York Jets to coordinate the defense there under the new regime of Coach Adam Gase.
There was no way Williams was going to work for this franchise again, right? He interviewed for the head coaching job four times — four times — with owner Daniel Snyder. He was passed over for — get this — Jim Zorn. Yeah, yeah, it was 11 years ago. Still, would you have a soft spot for someone who preferred Jim Zorn to you as a head coach? You’d think that could leave something of a bitter taste. And yet NBC Sports Washington, citing unnamed sources, reported Washington was trying to arrange a meeting with Williams before he landed in New York..
Plus, the guy you work for most directly, Gruden, is already on his third defensive coordinator in five seasons with the franchise. The position seems almost disposable. The special teams coordinator just left for the Atlanta Falcons and the exact same position. Curious. It’s as if the franchise doesn’t respect people or can’t attract real talent or something.
So, what’s to worry about, Coach Manusky? Go back to evaluating your own defense, which ranked 17th in the NFL this past year and was openly criticized by at least one player.
Wait, Coach, before you flip the film back on. Did your employer also seek out Steve Wilks, the former Carolina defensive coordinator who spent one season as the head coach in Arizona? Why, according to NFL Network, Washington did just that.
Now, you don’t have to worry about Wilks, because whether he talked to your bosses or not, he’s now the defensive coordinator in Cleveland — where, you might remember, Williams won more games in his half-season stint than the Browns had won in the previous two-and-a-half years combined.
If you let your mind wander, Greg, you can see why Gregg — the third “g” is important here — would have been an attractive candidate as Washington tries to upgrade its coaching staff. Snyder may have snubbed him as a head coach more than a decade ago, but the owner’s memory is probably fonder now than it was in the moment when Joe Gibbs abruptly retired for the second time. Williams’s defenses in Washington ranked among the top 10 in yards allowed three times in four years, a claim neither you, Greg, nor your predecessors under Gruden — Joe Barry and Jim Haslett — can make.
Come to think of it, Gruden is now entering the final two seasons of his contract, and maybe it would be appealing for ownership to have someone on staff who could take over should the head man need to be axed mid-season. This franchise doesn’t know who its quarterback will be come fall, and Gruden has one playoff appearance in five seasons, so that’s not a completely outlandish scenario.
Given all the dissension on your defense this past season, Greg — Josh Norman being benched in New Orleans, D.J. Swearinger popping off after the Tennessee game, Mason Foster posting damning thoughts on social media — fans could interpret making a change as a restoring of order.
Have you clicked refresh on your bio at redskins.com yet, Greg? Yep. Still there? Good.
Greg, you know the pieces on this defense that make it attractive. Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne, Matt Ioannidis and Ryan Kerrigan are tough up front. What if the owner thinks someone else could get more out of them? What if Williams had liked these players better than New York’s? The Jets, after all, are one of the few franchises in all of sports that could make the Redskins look stable.
About that stability, Coach Manusky. As you sit in what is, for now, your office, think about the place you work and the people you work for. These are the people who opened their minds and their wallets to try a new approach on the business side, a new approach that lasted all of eight months before the architects were fired the day after Christmas. The fans have waged an active #FireBruceAllen campaign on social media because the team president is so reviled, but instead of booting him to the curb, Snyder’s response gave him more power. They hired an accused domestic abuser who wasn’t touched by any of the other 31 NFL teams before they knew the result of his (second) domestic abuse case.
And now they employ a defensive coordinator — that’s you, Greg — while apparently considering alternatives for the same position.
That’s a lot to take in, Coach. Work done for the day? No problem. Head home, and get a good night’s sleep. Show up tomorrow in Ashburn, just like always. And when you slide your key into the office door, cross your fingers that it still works.
For more by Barry Svrluga, visit washingtonpost.com/svrluga.