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Did the Redskins hire the right Bengals coordinator?

Jan 16, 2014, 12:26 PM EDT


Less than a week after the Redskins hired Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden to be their new head coach, Minnesota hired Cincinnati’s other coordinator. Mike Zimmer, the defensive guru for the Bengals, was announced as the ninth head coach in the Vikings’ history on Wednesday.

The Redskins requested an interview with Zimmer per NFL protocol when you are interested in talking to another team’s coordinator about your head coaching job. But the interview never happened. The Bengals were eliminated from the playoffs on Sunday, Gruden came to town for his interview on Tuesday evening and he never left.

There were some who thought that Zimmer might be a better fit for the Redskins as they have had big issues have on the defensive side of the ball. Even with Marvin Lewis, who made his reputation on the defensive side of the ball, at head coach the Bengals finished no better than 17th in total defense from 2003-2007. Since Zimmer joined them in 2008 they have been in the top 10 in defense four times including the last three years in a row. Not coincidentally, the Bengals made the playoffs in each of the last three seasons.

Was Zimmer more what the Redskins need? They have not been in the top 10 defensively since 2009. As we saw from three of the NFC’s final four teams, a solid defense can be a young quarterback’s best friend. Defensive improvement may be the best way for Robert Griffin III to join peers Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, and Cam Newton as participants in the deep rounds of the playoffs.

I don’t think that anyone would have had a legitimate beef if Zimmer had been the guy. But for this team at this time, Gruden is probably the better fit.

Zimmer’s approach is similar to that of the departed Mike Shanahan, the old-school my way or the highway style. Gruden can get riled up when it’s called for (as we saw on Hard Knocks) but he is more of the enthusiastic, collaborative type coach. He is the breath of fresh air that this team needs rather than more of the same following the failed Shanahan regime.

And make no mistake about it, the fact that he was a quarterback in college and in the Arena League is a big factor in him being the right guy for the job. The most important task on this team for the next few years will be the development of Griffin. The fact that the head coach walked in Griffin’s shoes (or a version of them, anyway) will help in getting Griffin where he needs to be.

Still, as noted, Zimmer would have been a very solid hire in Washington as well. The good thing is, we’ll get some evidence as to whether the Redskins made the right choice on the field of play. The Vikings will be one of the Redskins’ opponents in 2014. While on head-to-head matchup won’t tell the whole story it could give us an idea of who is further ahead.

The full story, of course, will take a few years to unfold.

  1. colmac69 - Jan 16, 2014 at 4:57 PM

    Gruden was right hire….its an offensive league and working with rg3 should bring out best of rg3…still unsure bout retaining haslett as def co but maybe spending some gd money on quality players may make difference. …

  2. hailyeah1 - Jan 16, 2014 at 11:05 PM

    with out a doubt it was the right choice we needed an offensive minded head coach ,
    now it seemed like with some of the coaches that were retained this was in place well before the actual interview .you don’t retain certain coaches unless there was some conversation or something going on just struck as alittle strange thats all.

  3. rhinochaserdesign - Jan 17, 2014 at 8:51 PM

    Rich, I have a question that you may help shed light on for me (and many other fans). How the heck are we holding on to Haslett? If I remember correctly, the Skins defensive downturn began when he started. To me, it seems like a direct correlation. I just don’t get it. I know Haslett has some history with Gruden and Bruce Allen – but I don’t want to just jump to the conclusion that Allen is just bringing in old friends and just hopes that it’ll work out.

    Defense is SO important – if you look at Wilson, Kaep and Newton – every one of those guys can rely on a STRONG defense.

    There is only one thing that gives me hope for the D this year – and that’s that I think Haslett KNEW the defense was in serious trouble this year. I remember on either a Sunday night game or Monday night game this past year, where Rondee Barber (a color analyst for the game) mentioned he was talking with Haslett and Haslett asked the retired Ronde to come play (I’m sure mostly joking, of course). That’s the only nugget that is giving me hope.

    As for the Gruden, I’m on the fence. But, just like when a new president is elected, I’ll give the benefit of the doubt until I’m proven wrong. I do love the Sean McVay hire though. A Lot.

    • Rich Tandler - Jan 18, 2014 at 8:18 AM

      I’m skeptical of retaining Haz. I will say that he hasn’t had much talent to work with and Shanahan, who has a history of awful defenses rivaling Haslett’s, picked the personnel, picked the position coaches (hello Bob and Bobby Slowik coaching your LB’s), and would meddle in everything from game planning to play calling. All that said if it was up to me I would have made a change. But Gruden made the call and we’ll see how it turns out.

  4. internetcareer - Jan 18, 2014 at 9:30 AM

    Sean McVay reminds me of a young JOHN Gruden. Similar look, enthusiastic, and of course he comes from the same coaching tree having worked with the Grudens. If somebody had told people that he was the younger brother of John and Jay nobody would bat an eye. Archives

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