COMMENTARY| At the end of the Washington Redskins' embarrassing 3-13 season, fans were ready for the team to clean house. Both head coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan were quickly let go, but the much maligned defensive coordinator, Jim Haslett, curiously was retained.
Why did the team choose to keep him?
Since Haslett's first year with the Redskins, the defense has ranked 31st, 13th, 28th, and 18th in yards allowed per game and 21st, 21st, 22nd, and 30th in points allowed per game. At its best, the defense was average and at its worst it was one of the worst in the league. These numbers also show no steady improvement. In fact, while the yards allowed fluctuated, the points per game got progressively worse during his tenure.
None of the stats indicate Haslett has done a good job with the defense, so why, when the Redskins decided to clean out their coaching staff, was Haslett kept on?
The answer is the Redskins' new head coach, Jay Gruden.
Gruden and Haslett worked together before in the UFL when Haslett brought Gruden on to be his offensive coordinator . Building those types of relationships within the coaching community matters.
"Obviously [Haslett] got a lot of flack from how the defense performed this past year," said former Redskins Lorenzo Alexander , "but the NFL is a relationship business. He and Jay Gruden coached together in the UFL, so when you have that type of relationship it's a no-brainer he would keep him around."
You may be telling yourself this doesn't make sense since Gruden was not hired right away. Why would his relationship with Gruden matter if the Redskins were not sure who their new head coach would be?
Though the Redskins interviewed a myriad of various candidates for the head coaching position , it now seems clear that general manager Bruce Allen knew he wanted Gruden all along.
Gruden worked for Allen in Tampa when he was a part of his brother's staff. In addition to Haslett, the Redskins also retained secondary coach Raheem Morris and promoted Sean McVay to offensive coordinator, both of whom worked with Gruden in Tampa . It's no coincidence that Allen chose to keep so many coaches that Gruden already knew.
So we know the why, but it still does not answer if Haslett was the right choice.
Gruden has defended his decision to keep Haslett saying , "I've gone against his defense. I know what he's about, and I know the scheme he plays is very difficult. He's done great against Dallas, and he did well against Philadelphia the second time around, and in the second half of the year they played well. They were put in a lot of difficult situations."
Haslett's familiarity with both the Redskins organization as well as Gruden will ease the defense and the team's transition, but that's the only real benefit. He has shown nothing in the past four years to suggest he is the right man to turn this defense around.
Since Shanahan was fired, stories have come out saying he changed the defensive game plans and even at times stepped in to call defensive plays , thus hamstringing Haslett. Now that Haslett has autonomy over the defense and is no longer handcuffed by the salary cap penalty, Haslett can finally build this defense and run it the way he envisioned.
This is totally ridiculous.
It is not a stretch to believe Shanahan would stick his nose in the defense and take some control, but it seems very convenient to blame him for the team's defensive struggles. It's hard to believe the defense would have been dramatically better had Shanahan not interfered.
Also, remember how adamant Shanahan was about bringing the 3-4 defense to the Redskins ? So, now that he's gone, the Redskins are finally free to bring in the personnel they need to successfully run the 3-4? That doesn't make any sense. Shanahan would have been the last person to stand in the way of bringing in the right personnel.
Blaming the former coach for everything is very easy, but not necessarily accurate.
Clearly, Haslett is coming back because of his relationship with Gruden and not because of anything he accomplished with the Redskins. Based on what he's done with the team thus far, there's little reason to think he will suddenly be successful under now with a new head coach.
JJ Regan is a freelancer for Comcast SportsNet Washington and Baltimore and is currently earning his master's in journalism at American University. Follow him on Twitter @TheDC_Sportsguy
- American Football
- Sports & Recreation
- Jim Haslett
- the Redskins
- Kyle Shanahan
- Mike Shanahan
- Jay Gruden