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Need to Know: Position coach hires add gravitas to Redskins’ staff

Jan 29, 2015, 5:56 AM EDT


Here is what you need to know on this Thursday, January 29, 40 days before NFL free agency starts for the Washington Redskins and the rest of the NFL.

Question of the day

We’re changing up the format of Need to Know for the offseason. Every day I’ll give an in-depth answer to a question submitted by a fan on my Twitter feed, via the Real Redskins Facebook page, or in the comments section here. On Twitter address the questions to me at @Rich_TandlerCSN with the #NTK hashtag. There will be a comment thread set up on the Facebook page and if you’re asking your question here, put “for NTK” at the start of the comment.

Today’s question is from Twitter:

I asked Gruden in early December if they were planning to hire a quarterbacks coach for 2015. After reiterating the reason why he decided not to bring one in originally, that he and offensive coordinator Sean McVay both would work with the QB’s a lot and he was concerned about too many voices getting into their heads, Gruden said that it was very much a possibility. So the decision to get a coach specifically in charge of quarterbacks was made about 12 games into the season and we saw it finalized yesterday when they signed Matt Cavanaugh to coach the quarterbacks.

It’s not unusual for a first-year NFL head coach to underestimate the workload that is added when making the step from coordinator to the top job. And while they routinely get warned about how big the leap is it’s not uncommon for rookie coaches to take on more than they can handle. Gruden did that here and in bringing in a quarterbacks coach he clearly learned a lesson.

But I think that in the bigger picture, looking at both sides of the ball, Gruden learned another lesson. Given his relatively light NFL resume, he needed some experienced help, some gravitas on his staff. He brought in Cavanaugh, who has 17 years of NFL coaching experience including winning a Super Bowl ring as the offensive coordinator of the 2000 Ravens. To coach the defensive backs he brought in Perry Fewell, who was the defensive coordinator of the 2011 Super Bowl champion Giants. Offensive line coach Bill Callahan has experience as a head coach with the Raiders and at Nebraska.

You could argue that all three of the position coaches are overqualified for their current jobs. It appears that Gruden knew that he needed help and brought in some heavyweights. The head scratching exception here is at defensive coordinator, where he decided on Joe Barry, with just two unsuccessful years as an NFL defensive coordinator on his resume, instead of Wade Phillips, who virtually defines gravitas as a defensive coordinator.

But Barry was his guy from early on in the hiring process. Gruden knew it was an important hire because a first-time head coach rarely gets a chance to hire a third defensive coordinator (Gruden essentially hired Jim Haslett last year when he made the call to let him stay on). If Barry is not successful Gruden likely will go down with him.


—It’s been 32 days since the Redskins played a game. It will be about 227 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL Combine 20; NFL free agency starts 40; 2015 NFL Draft 91

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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  1. shermanp79 - Jan 29, 2015 at 8:14 AM

    I mentioned it yesterday that I feel much better about Barry with everyone else being brought aboard to the staff. We definitely have some serious experience among the hired assistants. This staff may be the strongest this team has put together in a long time. So both Gruden and Barry have guys to lean on for advice. I liked the Gruden hiring last year. I felt he could get this team turned around. I feel even better now. It’s clear he is willing to do what it takes to improve. Him admitting he needed some help is a great thing. It looks like the organization has lived up to doing everything to get this team winning. I still feel Fangio would of been a better hire, based on experience but it was Gruden choice, since these other choices are so strong, maybe Barry is just a better fit for him. This staff will go into TC much better, it should translate to the players on the field.

    • mr.moneylover19 - Jan 29, 2015 at 9:16 AM

      I call it the underrated staff…lol…jay gruden bringing in coaches thats gonna teach these players the mental aspect of the game….he got rid of the mike shanahan staff completely now they can teach these players and build a solid team

    • knightwchmnknightwchmn - Jan 29, 2015 at 10:29 AM

      …and don’t under-estimate the hire of a new strength and conditioning coach yesterday!! Injuries have been a plague for this team the past several years… not little injuries either – ones that last 6-8 weeks or end seasons!! Better conditioning could be the key…

      • Rich Tandler - Jan 29, 2015 at 10:45 AM

        Don’t overestimate the impact, either. Injuries are at least 95% luck, probably more.

    • Tony - Jan 30, 2015 at 1:11 AM

      It wasn’t his choice. Skins wanted Fangio, he chose the Bears.

  2. gasngo14 - Jan 29, 2015 at 8:35 AM

    Patience is the key towards these coaches, it has taken years to develop this mess of a team so we can’t expect them to turn it around overnight!

  3. mr.moneylover19 - Jan 29, 2015 at 9:07 AM

    Jay gruden was spending most of his time working with the QBs instead of the whole team…now he gets to focus on different postions to see if they getting the job done…another great hire with alot of experience…he took the jets to two AFC championship with mark Sanchez under center he was currently working with jay cutler but as what ppl already said nobody cant fix jay cutler and his crazy decision making

  4. renhoekk2 - Jan 29, 2015 at 11:09 AM

    I’m blown away by what I’m reading on here. Gruden hires a couple of experienced position coaches so now that turns Gruden and Barry into great coaches. How does that work? I’m reading Best Staff in a long time. underestimated staff. What? Three of the most important coaches haven’t proven a thing. Gruden HC, McVay OC, and Barry DC. Unless all three are going to suddenly sit back and do nothing while Cavanaugh, Callahan, and Fewell do all of the real coaching, I don’t see how how the three main characters suddenly turned into world beating coaches. Are the three position coaches good hires? Yes. Do we suddenly have a great coaching staff? Hardly.

    • hk2000 - Jan 29, 2015 at 12:58 PM

      Exactly what I was thinking! It’s never good when the top man is the lesser of all his subordinates. Gruden is the weakest link on the staff.

      • Penz - Jan 29, 2015 at 3:16 PM

        Christ, give the man a chance. Almost everything the fans and media demanded happen after the season finished has happened, when was the last time time Skins did that?? Lets enjoy the fact that out team finally seems to be moving in the right direction and not nitpick and moan about every little thing.

        • Brandon - Jan 30, 2015 at 9:45 PM

          Give him a chance? We can’t do that. We demand instant gratification and then demand immediate change when it doesn’t happen. And then when Snyder acts like a lot of the fans and makes yet another change, we complain that he has no patience. Redskins fans have become almost impossible to please.

  5. kenlinkins - Jan 29, 2015 at 1:13 PM

    Rich: What do you think happened between game 8 (Redskins at 3-5 and looking like they were about to get to 5-5) and Game 12 (Redskins at 3-9 after losing 2 close games w/ 49ers / Vikings and beat badly by T Bay and Colts)? Any idea where coach Gruden placed the blame for not getting to 5-5 or 6-6? I still can not put my finger on what changed after game 10 or 11, but IMO there was a big change in the head Coach at 3-7 and 3-8. Archives

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