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Need to Know: How much can A. J. Smith help the Redskins?

Jan 3, 2015, 5:16 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, January 3, 117 days before the Redskins make their pick in the first round of the 2015 NFL draft.

Three and out—Would A. J. Smith be an upgrade?

1. How much can A. J. Smith help the Redskins? It depends on how much authority he’s given in his “enhanced” role”. If he’s not given any he can’t do any more in a new role at Redskins Park than he does now from his home in Del mar, California. Without power he’ll just be trading his home in the Pacific coast town of Del Mar for one in Ashburn and a bigger paycheck.

2. It’s not a stretch to say that Smith could greatly improve the quality of players the Redskins draft. He was GM and in charge of the Chargers’ draft from 2003-2012. In that time he drafted 12 players with a career approximate value (a metric used by Pro Football Reference to measure the quality of a player’s career) of 40 or better. In that same time frame the Redskins drafted three such players,

3. We’ll have to see how things develop before we can evaluate this potential move. If he gets some authority he can be the first new set of eyes in the building with some juice in several years. And it’s hard to imagine that he’ll make the move and take the job without real power. Redskins fans shouldn’t throw a big party if he takes a quasi-GM role without the title. But they should be happy that they have someone who has experience in building a roster would be taking over for Bruce Allen, who does not.

Out: We haven’t really gone much into why Jim Haslett is no longer the Redskins’ defensive coordinator. The numbers his defenses have put up both here and elsewhere are well known so there’s really no need to go into detail on those. I think the straw that broke the camel’s back, however, was him publically lobbying for Allen to bring back Brian Orakpo, DeAngelo Hall, Chris Baker, and Perry Riley. Haslett got all of them and things were not better on defense. Oh, and the hints that he would “unshackled” from meddling by Mike Shanahan and able to run the defense his way didn’t help either. He got the players, he got the unfettered authority, and the defense still wasn’t very good.


—It’s been 6 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 254 days until they play another one

Days until: NFL free agency starts 67; 2015 NFL Draft 117

If you have any questions about what’s going on at Redskins Park, hit me up in the comments. And I’m always on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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In case you missed it

  1. gasngo14 - Jan 3, 2015 at 8:27 AM

    The title should read much will they allow A J Smith to help the Redskins! This type of move does not surprise me at all, Allen is not going to hire anyone young who may threaten his job. Smith is a long time friend who has had some success and some failures, so it will come down to what kind of role they (Dan & Bruce) allow. Is this the best thing for this organization? Can’t say i would do this but again Allen will not go out and hire someone who could send him packing for the door! So i suppose it’s another set of eyes looking for talent in which our team desperately needs, its better then nothing!

    • mr.moneylover - Jan 3, 2015 at 12:27 PM

      I totally agree wit you….we actually need somebody young and hungary to prove himself that he can build a great team not nobody old and already proved his self but like you said its better then what we had for that last six or seven years

  2. hk2000 - Jan 3, 2015 at 8:44 AM

    I can’t help but wonder about the fact that both him and Snyder fired Marty after a successful season- Wildly successful in the case of SD (14-2). Could it be a case of like minds? If so, this is Vinny Cerrato all over again. Let’s face it, this team operates on hunches and personal feelings and no consideration for FB talent whatsoever.

    • skinsgame - Jan 3, 2015 at 9:07 AM

      No way this is Cerrato 2.0.

    • gonavybeatarmy - Jan 3, 2015 at 12:16 PM

      I’m as cynical as any Skins fan, but Smith is a very highly talented personnel evaluator and no comparison to Vinny the Idiot.

      Winning a Super Bowl is hard and it involves a degree of luck. But the foundation he laid in San Diego was impressive, and helped resuscitate an organization, like ours, that had become a mess. And the Chargers continue to benefit today from his work, two years after he was fired. Currently, there are three future Hall of Fame members on the roster that Smith acquired-Rivers, Gates and Weddle. Weddle was just named All Pro safety, something the Skins could use. When was the last time the Skins had three probable future HOF members on the roster simultaneously that they had drafted or signed as UFA?

      For some reason it seems that fans focus exclusively on his performance in San Dego, but they should consider his total career. Smith was instrumental in helping Bill Polian to identify a lot of the talent that became the great Bills teams of the 90s. Those teams were stacked with HOF players. The fact that Polian and, to a lesser extent, Jon Gruden were considering hiring him had they re-entered the NFL is a pretty strong endorsement of how he’s viewed within the league. Perhaps even more revealing is that when the Chargers let him go two years ago, Belichik and Andy Reid pursued him very hard to join their teams. Belichik and Reid are two of the smartest men in the league. Who is pursuing Vinny? Nobody. He can’t get a job in the league, not even as an area scout. He’s a mid-day talk show host on a lame channel in Baltimore.

      That said, I agree with the general skepticism of fans. This organization and its owner have been a joke for a very long time. But if the following happen then perhaps the organization may be in a position of turning the corner:
      1) Fully empower Smith over personnel
      2) Allow Smith to fire anyone in the scouting department, including people like Campbell if he deems it necessary
      3) Snyder and Allen must invest fully in the areas Smith recommends- ex scouting resources

      Lastly, I do share the concerns of some given Smith’s age. That said, winning a Super Bowl, as far-fetched as it may seem, could still motivate Smith and offset some of that narrative. In fact, it would vindicate his career to some extent. And the Redskins are the ultimate challenge.

      • bangkokben - Jan 3, 2015 at 1:08 PM



        Weddle to the HOF is vastly pre-mature. Sean Taylor RIP same draft.

        • gonavybeatarmy - Jan 3, 2015 at 1:37 PM

          Only because you brought it up…

          Sean Taylor and Weddle were NOT in the same draft class. Taylor was in the 2004 draft; Weddle 2007.

          In his four seasons in the NFL, Taylor was named just once to the All Pro first or second team (2007). In his just completed eighth season, Weddle has been named as a first or second team All Pro five times.

          This is not to belittle at all the unbelievably talented Sean Taylor whom all Skins fans adore. He was great. But even if Taylor had lived to play eight seasons in the NFL, he could not have been named first or second team All Pro more times than Weddle.

          Lastly, Weddle was drafted by Smith the in the second round, 37th overall. Drafting Taylor with the fifth pick overall is way less impressive from a value perspective than drafting a player on the second day of the draft who has been named to the All Pro team in five of his fist eight seasons. Any monkey could project Taylor as a fine NFL player at that early stage.

        • bangkokben - Jan 3, 2015 at 2:39 PM

          You’re right. Same draft as Landry. Had Taylor alive at the time.

  3. skinsgame - Jan 3, 2015 at 9:17 AM

    Unfortunately, he’s far better than what we’ve had and so I am reluctantly satisfied with any expanded role he gets. Looking at his drafts, some of the best players they picked up were undrafted free agents.

  4. shermanp79 - Jan 3, 2015 at 9:41 AM

    If they let him have final say on players I might feel pretty good about it. It’s not like anyone is going to hit a home run with every player but he will improve the disaster of our prior Drafts. What will they do if he truly doesn’t like any of the QBs on this team? Clearly the way they played his evaluation isn’t a stretch. I bet Gruden would welcome some support , it’s clear Allen can’t be honest. Just listen to what he said, that RG3 can be the guy, blaming the change in offense and now he knows how to get ready during the offseason. It’s a joke, how about saying he struggled mightily and hasn’t progressed on things he should have by now. We need somebody in there to wake Snyder and Allen up. It’s one thing to make a mistake in drafting him. How many years are we going to throw away seeing the same thing. I just wonder how much friction occurs between the two of them. I would keep Smith over Allen, he really should be fired anyway. If anyone drafted as he has over the last 6 years, they would be gone. It must be nice he got to blame Shanahan.

    • bangkokben - Jan 3, 2015 at 1:27 PM

      The coach always need final say on the players – after they are selected. Allen had nothing to gain from acknowledging rg3’s flaws. He did the right thing to voice his support and if you believe it’s wholehearted then be the fool. Lastly he got to blame Shanahan because Shanahan had the first and final say.

      Allen got Graham Gano and Shanahan blamed him for getting his kicks blocked. Still having Gano on the team and no longer having Danny Smith as special team coordinator would have saved the ‘skins 7+ yards of opponents starting field position the past two years. Plus we’d have kicker that could make 50+ FGs. Something a team that struggles scoring could use.

      • Rich Tandler - Jan 3, 2015 at 1:37 PM

        Here are to coaches who have control over the 53: Belichick, Carroll, Kelly, O’Brien, Payton, Philbin, Smith, Tomlin.

        All have had head coaching experience or won something before getting that control.

        Redskins’ setup not at all unusual.

        > > >

        • bowlregard - Jan 3, 2015 at 1:57 PM

          If there was any question about Kelly’s control of personnel, it was laid to rest this week.

    • rtcwon - Jan 3, 2015 at 2:50 PM

      If you don’t think Shanny had total control over the draft & all personnel, watch where he goes now. He will get that same authority because he won’t consider not having it.

      Stop blaming Allen & Campbell for Shanny’s drafts.

    • Skulb - Jan 3, 2015 at 6:05 PM

      The main reason billionaires generally want to own sports clubs is for tax evasion purposes and in general to make a profit off it. Chances are Snyder couldn`t care less about results but is 100% occupied with marketing his brand to increase the market value of his tax shelter. It`s not a surprise to me that billionaire penis substitutes like the Redskins don`t do all that well competitively. You need people with passion to run sports clubs, and not some parasite scammer.

      • skinsgame - Jan 3, 2015 at 11:13 PM

        Let me guess; you moonlight in the “Occupy Wall St” movement?

        • Skulb - Jan 11, 2015 at 11:07 PM

          I don`t care about labels. It`s just the truth and ideology and party politics apparently exist exclusively to blind people to obvious things like this. It should be enough that NFL clubs, and sports clubs in general, pretend to be private corporations yet most stadiums are built by bribed politicians for taxpayer money. This is called a PPP (Private Public Partnership) and is basically Mussolini`s definition of fascism, but with a new and innocuous sounding name.

  5. manilarizzo - Jan 3, 2015 at 9:54 AM

    Can I have a beer with AJ first? I feel I’m the only one capable of vetting this the way we fans need it to be.

    Rich, how about a blurb on what GM’s are on the market that could have some ties or some sense of reason to be a potential fit assuming Bruce slides? Any word on Morroco Brown? Would he jump for a GM role?

    • skinsgame - Jan 3, 2015 at 12:21 PM

      Second time Browns name has been tossed out there, though yours is a much more tame blurb. The other post I read about him had the guy as the next Jesus. I’d be interested to read a piece about Brown that shows the track record or chops.

  6. Darrin Yarborough - Jan 3, 2015 at 10:12 AM

    I really hope that the Redskins DON’T give Raheem Morris the DC job he needed to follow Jim out the door. I hope they get a True GM and work on the OL and the secondary. It’s pass time to start winning we have been the laughing stock of the NFL. Let’s get it together and do what Redskins do best and start winning. GO SKINS…100

    • mr.moneylover - Jan 3, 2015 at 1:27 PM

      I hope so to but it sounds like wade Phillips is the front runner hes been studying and scouting the defense from a far and been to 5 games this year sitting In the crowd

  7. ajdub412 - Jan 3, 2015 at 10:47 AM

    I’m very concerned about Smith taking GM responsibilities for a few reasons:

    1.) Age. He’s 65 and holding a position with the Washington Redskins, appropriately enough, tends to age people in presidential years. How much good will it do the franchise long-term to have a guy that may only be around a few years at most? If Smith comes in, there needs to be some sort of succession plan in place, almost like you’d have with an aging player that’s only got a couple of years in effectiveness. And given that Smith wasn’t really gung-ho to go back to work after the Chargers let him go a couple of years ago, you’ve really got to wonder whether he had one foot out the door on his career already.

    2.) He’s often been guilty of being a little cheap, and as much as I like to have a guy that won’t overspend on high-priced free agents, I’m a bit worried that when some of our own guys, especially guys that are mid-to-late-round picks – Keenan Robinson, Bashaud Breeland who looks like he may have top-10 ability at his position in a year or two, and ESPECIALLY Alfred Morris – hit their contract years, that he won’t be willing to give them what they warrant. It also forces the team to draft players to fill the gaps at that position, that may or may not be as good as the guys you let go. He got away with giving up on Brees too early because he had Rivers (although Brees has a ring and a truckload of records and MAY be headed to Canton when all is said and done.) But the Chargers haven’t had a decent running game since Michael Turner left, which has really held the team back. And Rivers’ performance took a noticeable dip after the departure of Vincent Jackson.

    3.) His talent scouting at some positions left a bit to be desired. The Chargers are still trying to rebuild their offensive line from draft mistakes made during Smith’s tenure, and this is a huge red flag for me. If Smith comes over and takes over some or all of the GM duties, we’re likely going to be in the market for a quarterback. While he’s been decent at picking those (he’s got Brees, Rivers, and journeyman Charlie Whitehurst to his credit), his record with picking offensive linemen isn’t that great.

    • bowlregard - Jan 3, 2015 at 2:00 PM

      As far as paying players, he’s got Snyder at his back on that score this time around.

    • skinsgame - Jan 3, 2015 at 11:26 PM

      People keep throwing his age around as if it’s a detriment. He’s seen more football and in a professional capacity than anyone else in the franchise. Where that is concerned, I’d rather have a wise old, shrewd geezer than some unproven, whimsical wannabe. Age is an asset in a position like that. Do you want a guy that can go clubbing with prospects? What does his age impede?

  8. gurnblanstonreturns - Jan 3, 2015 at 11:01 AM

    Hey, AJ could help out quite a bit – somebody has to rearrange all these deckchairs.

  9. mr.moneylover - Jan 3, 2015 at 12:02 PM

    We knew that most the players he wanted back was not that good…perry riley is bad orackpo was a non factor so was chris baker and we still looked bad and until we get rid of the clowns then we wont go nowere…they gave perry Riley a 3 year deal so as chris baker so I guess we stuck with them clowns and they gave tracy porter a two year deal these players getting free money and loving it…darrell young want to win ryan kerrigan want to win rg3 want to win breeland want to win desean jackson and p.garcon…if they draft good and pick up some good undrafted players then we will win

  10. Skinzfan - Jan 3, 2015 at 12:21 PM

    From what I’ve heard and read, if AJ Smith really is given the role it sounds like he’s getting, Wade Phillips will be the frontrunner. He’s been a solid DC, right? His son is the TE coach.

    • mr.moneylover - Jan 3, 2015 at 12:31 PM

      Wade Phillips is a good defense coordinator I think he was the one who drafted jj.watt…but he know is defense I think hes a defense guru right along with the rex ryan and others…them players not gonna slack now in practice he will get them in shape

  11. mr.moneylover - Jan 3, 2015 at 12:36 PM

    I think redskins players was out of shape I think some was not in football shape…and I think thats why jay gruden told them they better come back in the greatest shape of they career…all I seen was players gasping for air after a play or when its high tempo

  12. polofourme - Jan 3, 2015 at 12:37 PM

    Absolutely NOT!…this guy doesn’t even want to be here. He lives on the West Coast and is not even here on a full time basis….he has no interest in being with the team on a permanent basis…and I would add, he would be a minor improvement over Allen in the personnel department but his record with SD and a few other teams is hardly the stuff that legends are made of. And to say he is better than Allen is setting an incredibly LOW standard. Almost like anyone but Allen….is NOT the answer. What the team needs is a REAL GM who is dedicated to the team, who has a track record of success or is a young up and coming front office guy who only needs an opportunity to make his mark. If I have said it once, I have said it a dozen times, we had a great GM candidate with the team up until last year. He was a key personnel guy who knows the team and its roster, that was Morocco Brown. He was with the team for around 8 years working his way up the front office and many in the NFL think he was being groomed to be a great GM but when Allen took over the GMs spot and Brown was passed over, he was forced out and CLE grabbed him the moment he was free….we had a GM and lost him. Instead we get a loser like Allen and then are told a guy who doesn’t even want to be here can help rebuild the roster…how totally and completely absurd is that? In Washington its just the norm….and I am getting sick and tired of this BS.

    • mr.moneylover - Jan 3, 2015 at 1:23 PM

      Hes away cause hes just a consultant thats not a big role in the organization…he is better then allen and has a better track record then allen…

    • murphsman - Jan 3, 2015 at 2:31 PM

      Then why are you still commenting and still following the team so close? And if you really know what they need so much, why don’t u call up Danny and offer your services? Might as well get paid if you’re such an expert. Lol

    • kenlinkins - Jan 3, 2015 at 7:08 PM

      As someone who lives in Ohio, I can tell you that many believe that Morocco Brown is doing a great job in Cleveland and he was not the one sold on Johnny Football and said so (he wanted a WR due to J. Gordon’s problems). The Browns faded down the stretch due to depth problems caused by injury after a very good start. After another good draft the Browns will give Baltimore, Cincinnati and the Steelers a run for the division in 2015 and Morocco Brown will be a large reason why.

      • gonavybeatarmy - Jan 3, 2015 at 10:33 PM

        Nothing personal because I hope the Browns continue to improve, if for no other reason than I dislike the Ravens so much and want them to one day not be able to have two automatic wins each year against Cleveland. That said your point about Morocco Brown, is untrue.

        Morocco Brown was not employed by the Cleveland Browns during the 2014 NFL draft. The NFL draft occurred on May 8-May 10, and Brown was not hired by Cleveland until May 29, 2014. Therefore, Morocco Brown was not in a position to dissuade the Cleveland Browns from drafting Manziel.

        The savior label being tagged on Brown by the media and fans seems premature.

        • skinsgame - Jan 3, 2015 at 11:29 PM

          Thank God I’m not the only one wondering why everyone is all over Morroco Brown. He’s probably a fine man but, he’s not done enough to warrant the accolades he’s suddenly getting.

        • gonavybeatarmy - Jan 4, 2015 at 12:54 AM


          Agree. There is zero objective evidence to indicate that Brown is some football sage that we will regret losing for the next several years. Unfortunately, the Skins have been so bad for so long that media members can promote and perpetuate most any narrative to fans irrespective of accuracy or veracity and it takes on a life of its own.

          The Skins did allow Baalke and Schneider to get away several years ago, which is very unfortunate. And perhaps ultimately Morocco Brown will be strike three. But that’s complete conjecture on the part of the media. The media has no clue of Brown’s knowledge or ability. They know he’s kind of young and he worked up the organization. But he could also be just another medicre guy drawing an NFL paycheck.

          Here’s what we do know:
          1) Brown interviewed in 2013 for a front office job with the Cards and they didn’t hire him. And they’ve been pretty good at acquiring talent over the last few years.
          2) Morocco Brown was the Director of Pro Personnel for the Skins, analyzing potential free agents from other teams. His background is not primarily on the draft.

        • kenlinkins - Jan 4, 2015 at 6:07 AM

          I never said Mr. Brown had anything to do with the 2014 Browns Draft. He made his WR comment later in Aug when the Browns were looking for WR’s to add to the roster after seeing so many good rookie WR’s in preseason games and in his interview for the job.(I also understand Mr. Brown was asked in his interview about the S. Lauvao signing by the Redskins, his answer was “I guess the GM didn’t believe my grade on him). My point was that he was Open and Honest with the Cleveland GM, something he couldn’t do here. Time will tell if the Redskins did the right thing by allowing Mr. Brown to leave, but after 11 games Cleveland was 7-4 and looking good. I believe that Mr. Brown and Mr. Farmer will make a good team and that results are already showing with Cleveland.

  13. kenlinkins - Jan 3, 2015 at 7:01 PM

    Logic should tell you that A. J. Smith is NOT the answer for the Redskins problems. His last few years at SD saw his earlier success start to trail off. IMO he was hired as someone to run a sanity check on GM Allen after the owner was not totally sold on Shanahan being the main reason for the 2013 failure (Danny unwilling to hand over the team to GM Allen alone if Danny was going to stay out of the business of picking players, even Danny had to know it was more then just the concerns with RG3). No one seems to know for sure just what he supplied the Redskins in 2014 as he never seemed to place his name on any of the moves made (if he disagreed why didn’t he quit and why would he consider a large role now)! He did not make any real commitment to the Redskins staying in SD all year and I can not recall any reports of things he was working on (and with a team that has more leaks than my lawn watering hose that is something in itself). The tag team of Allen and Smith has given the Redskins a lost year as the Redskins not find themselves in the same position as last year (i.e. no QB development, no pass rush, poor O-Line / DB and Special teams play) minus about $25 million the team could of banked for Free Agents in 2015 (which would have given the Redskins about $45 million). If you want more of what you saw in 2014 then I guess A.J. Smith is your man, but if you are looking to get the Redskins into the Play-offs before 2017 I would suggest that the Redskins look else where, maybe someone who is more willing to clean house and bring in new blood / fresh eyes / new ideas!

  14. murphsman - Jan 4, 2015 at 12:27 AM

    Rich-once again, thank you as always for the insight. 2 things. First of all, I didn’t realize those 4 players were that bad. You would think Riley would learn something playing alongside Fletch for a few years. Secondly, ESPN called interviewing Phillips an “interesting” choice. Does Houston run a 4-3?

  15. Joe Greene - Jan 4, 2015 at 7:46 PM

    No, a million times no.

    This idiot ruined SD as much as he built them up. His best moves were undrafted FAs, he was terrible handling coaches, and he traded 3 picks to move up for Eric Weddle. He got noticeably worse as his tenure continued on. Archives

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