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Pressure is on Haslett as the handcuffs come off

Feb 21, 2014, 11:55 AM EST

Haslett_sideline

It’s been out for a while now that Mike Shanahan, who made his reputation as an offensive guru, was involved with Redskins’ defense. In a pre-mortem shortly before Shanahan was fired the Washington Post reported that he called the “Cover-0” blitz that ended up costing the Redskins a 2011 game in Dallas. Jim Haslett recently said that we will “see more of what we want to do”, seemingly employing the royal “we” there in that he is now going to be able to do things his way.

And after agreeing to a contract to return to the Redskins, cornerback DeAngelo Hall said to ESPN 980 that Shanahan “liked to micromanage things” and that Haslett was “handcuffed” and the defensive coordinator will “unleash his full arsenal of play calls”.

That all sounds great. But what Haslett and Hall and others are assuming is that Shanahan’s input was mostly, or perhaps even entirely, detrimental to the team. We really don’t know what Haslett unleashed—or, per Hall, un-handcuffed—will do. It could be better than the Shanny-plus-Haz hybrid we’ve had on defense for the last four years. Or it could be has Shanahan was keeping Haslett from making some killer mistakes in key situations.

The pressure is on Haslett this year more than any other coach or player with possible exception of quarterback Robert Griffin III. Jay Gruden will have his hands full getting his offense installed. It will be on Haslett to improve a defense that ranked 18th in yards last year.

And, if he gets his way, he will have to work with largely the same group of players he had last year. Hall is back and Haslett said last month that he also wants Perry Riley, Brian Orakpo, and Chris Baker to re-sign with the team. While you can make a solid case for all of those players coming back, there will be little room for a fresh infusion of talent on defense.

And that would mean that any improvement will have to come from Haslett’s game planning and play calling skills. We will see if Haslett had the better approach all along or if Shanahan was right to step and save him from himself from time to time.

  1. kenlinkins - Feb 21, 2014 at 1:32 PM

    Well, I guess that HAS TO BE the story line, why else would you keep Haslett? It can not be his fault and stay on staff. IMO GM Allen wants to place the blame at head coach Shanahan’s door step and walk away. I can not wait until these guys start writing books about the Redskins 2013 season and see the real inside stuff. Until then we just trust and wait to see if this New Plan can bring us a winner in Washington. Like all Redskin fans I have hope but the football fan in me keeps saying that is was more than just half of the coaching staff and a few players that landed us at 3-13. The deeper you dig the more causes for concern you find.

    • jayovalentine - Feb 22, 2014 at 11:05 PM

      Allen allowed it to happen…

  2. ordiggs - Feb 21, 2014 at 3:15 PM

    I hope Bruce and company does not take Haz’s advice , because if he brings back the same gang without the infusion of better upgrades and talent fans will blame Bruce Allen for for bring that bum back

  3. ajbus1 - Feb 21, 2014 at 4:05 PM

    What’s Haslett’s contract look like? Wasn’t it speculated that he was kept to save some money? I think he’ll be on a very short leash to prove that it wasn’t his fault. I won’t be surprised to see a new d-coordinator in 2015.

    • Rich Tandler - Feb 21, 2014 at 4:18 PM

      No, he wasn’t hired to save money. Haz was Gruden’s choice, period. But Gruden won’t fall on his sword for him. You’re right about the short leash. We’ll see if he can get it done.

      >

      • kenlinkins - Feb 21, 2014 at 6:16 PM

        Rich, IYO, What does a “Short Leash” look like?

        • Rich Tandler - Feb 21, 2014 at 6:51 PM

          That’s a good question. I’d say he doesn’t need to lead a top five, or even a top 10 defense in terms of yardage. But maybe he has to be near the top in takeaways and sacks. That’s what has has said that he wants his defense to do so it’s on him to get it done.

          Of course, they can’t give up big play after big play while gambling for sacks and turnovers. And if they get a lead they have to hold it more often than not. I know that’s not very solid and I’ll think about it some more but that’s what I have for right now.

  4. shermanp79 - Feb 21, 2014 at 5:58 PM

    Haslet has never had a top ranked defense or even near the top. We could ask if Shanahan was involved during the first 3 games or got involved after? The stats are much different. I like the guys he wants back. I think Riley and Baker really improved down the stretch. I do wonder who would come in to replace them? Who would we sign? So going with guys you know ,who are young and got better seems like a good plan.

  5. thankslittlebrandonbanks - Feb 21, 2014 at 8:00 PM

    So uh… I hear Michael Bennett may be available

    • jayovalentine - Feb 22, 2014 at 11:08 PM

      not a good fit in our D. And gonna be way too expensive!!

  6. thankslittlebrandonbanks - Feb 21, 2014 at 8:03 PM

    So uh…. I hear Michael Bennett may be available

  7. kenlinkins - Feb 22, 2014 at 7:58 PM

    With the Redskins keeping Morris as a coach could the Redskins be thinking that if Haslett has a slow start that firing him and using Morris the rest of the year be Plan B? My other idea is that they kept Morris because they are planning to draft 2 CB’s (and maybe another FS/SS) early in 2014 and want him working with all the young DB’s they will have. Your thoughts?

    • Rich Tandler - Feb 22, 2014 at 8:06 PM

      They didn’t hold on to Haz and make contingency plans to whack him in October. Barring something completely unforeseen, Haz gets all of 2-14.

      > >

      • kenlinkins - Feb 22, 2014 at 10:14 PM

        Thanks for the insight. On the surface it seemed to many very hard to understand keeping Haslett (and Morris) after going 3-13, but one thing I have learned from reading your stories is that thinsg ran deep at Redskins Park in 2013.

  8. aprilwalker2013 - Feb 22, 2014 at 8:04 PM

    Well said Rich…well said..!!! HTTR

  9. aprilwalker2013 - Feb 22, 2014 at 8:05 PM

    Well said Rich..well said!! HTTR

  10. skns2thend - Feb 23, 2014 at 11:50 PM

    No, Haslett was kept to direct the defense he helped shape. Sure, Shanahan told Haslett what to call in each type of situation and then put his up in the box for punishment when he got out of line…Haslett has a few 2nd year players that Gruden knows he’s worked with and now it’s time to live or die with his decisions, For any of you who are thinking of a lot of the cap money is goiung to be used on defense this year are going to be disappointed. Gruden wasn’t brought in to build the defense differently. I’d be highly surprised if the offense oriented/QB coach was brought here so he can learn how to be a better all round head coach. Gruden is in Washington to bring major change to this offense. Starting with protecting RGIII. Gruden isn’t here to “take what you have and deal with it” on defense, That’s the job of Haslett-And rightfully so. Protect your own QB (RGIII) before you spend the money to get after the opposing. Defense is worthless when your QB gets blasted every pass play. Shanahan has already taking the approach of leaving the same OL in front of RGIII for 2 years. Time to help the franchise QB who’s taken enough beating from incompetent coaching and offensive lineman who watched as RGIII dug himself out of the turf without putting a hand towards him…and it was his man! Polumbus’ contract is up and it’s time to go, along with Montgomery and Lichtensteiger. Defense gets a good corner to put the, shameful playing, Josh Wilson. The rest of the defense should be with the last years rookies and what they have. See if Haslett can just make a disciplined unit that knows their assignments. That was/is the problem. Though Haslett reminds me of someone you have to ask to speak up due to his soft nature. No fire in him…but their will be next year. Just with “ed” at the end.
    Rich T is the best Redskins’ Media Guy out there…
    HTTR

  11. virgintothegame - Feb 24, 2014 at 12:50 PM

    Personally, I believe that Haslett is not a bad coordinator. I believe everthing I read about Shanny being a control freak. He was an offensive minded coach and wanted to chime in on defense. I believe that we will see much improvement as it is Haslett’s first year calling plays and actually having a say on who is hired on his defensive staff and also picking the players he wants for his 3-4 scheme. We are definitely not going to be a top 10 defense but we wont be at the bottom of the barrel.

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