Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden is on the clock.
With Joe Barry's dismissal Jan. 5, Gruden has now fired his second defensive coordinator in three years, and the head coach will be the next fall guy if the Redskins fail to make the playoffs in 2017. While Gruden is the third straight Washington coach to reach his fourth season with an owner that once flipped them every two years, no one has reached five.
Barry was the fall guy for an 8-7-1 season. It doesn't matter it was only one-half game worse than last year when the Redskins won the NFC East. It also doesn't matter that the team spent 64 percent of its salary cap and last two first-rounders on the offense, while the defense featured cornerback Josh Norman and a lot of other guys. Those are secondary reasons why Barry failed to last three years in Washington.
Barry didn't have a lot to work with, but then he didn't get a lot done, either. The team was 28th overall in yardage allowed both seasons under him. While there was a solid midseason stretch of not allowing a second-half touchdown in five straight games, there were also too many late collapses and downfield plays.
And when players are yelling at a coach on the sidelines over calls and complaining in the locker room, then something significant is wrong. If the team doesn't succeed, then that coach is out.
Barry was a friend of Gruden in the small world of coaching. Nobody else was willing to hire Barry as coordinator after his 2008 Detroit Lions went 0-16. Indeed, Barry's hire over Wade Phillips was poorly received by Redskins fans. All Phillips has done since is win a Super Bowl before ironically becoming unemployed again Jan. 2, when Denver coach Gary Kubiak retired.
That the Redskins must look for a coordinator when everyone knows it might be a one-year gig, should Washington not return to the playoffs, means finding a second-tier prospect. Nobody with options takes such a risky job.
But the hard part for Gruden is that now he's next on the owner's hit list, should Washington not succeed next year. It doesn't matter he has managed two straight slightly winning seasons, the first by a Washington coach since Norv Turner in 1999-2000, and even then Turner was fired before the second season's end at 7-6.
The Redskins are impatient once more. After tasting a touch of success, they want more. And there's nothing wrong with that. But the team needs players more than coaching moves to do so.
Washington could draft seven rounds of defensive players in April and no one would complain. If quarterback Kirk Cousins is re-signed, the offense has enough to contend -- even without a prime running back or if free-agent receiver DeSean Jackson leaves. But the defense still lacks a consistent pass rush, can't stop the run and permits too many deep completions.
In other words, the defense is a mess. It needs a Hazmat supervisor, not a coordinator.
Barry wasn't the entire problem, but he was also short on solutions. Now Gruden needs to choose his third defensive coordinator wisely, because it may decide whether the coach remains employed himself.