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Redskins Need Deeper Search For Defensive Coordinator

January 12, 2017
When Washington Redskins general manager Bobby Beathard told owner Jack Kent Cooke who he hired as head coach in 1981, the latter's response was, "Who the hell is Joe Gibbs?"

The thinking should be the same nowadays, as the Washington Redskins search for a defensive coordinator. Forget a retread or failed head coach. Find a young riser like offensive coordinator Sean McVay. Look beyond friends and family to find the next great talent. 

Now, Cooke nearly fired Beathard and Gibbs after a 0-5 start, so patience is needed. The kind that owner Dan Snyder lacked in 2001 when deciding to fire then-head coach Marty Schottenheimer after a 0-5 start despite a dramatic 8-8 finish. 

While former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach Gus Bradley and former Cleveland Browns head coach Mike Pettine, both of whom were interviewed by Washington recently, certainly have long resumes, and Bradley is part of the Tampa-2 gang of Redskins president Bruce Allen, the team should search the ranks of assistant coaches instead. New ideas are needed to revamp an awful defense with only a few pieces. Rather than an old coach trying to fit a defense to his style, look for a youngster who can work with available talent with some new angles. 

The Redskins need a millennial. Well, not quite that young, but at least a Generation Xer who isn't sniffing even early retirement. 

Unlike past years when the Redskins' front office was incapable of finding a coach who wasn't a known entity (see Zorn, Jim), general manager Scot McCloughan knows the league. It's natural to want to hire those you've worked with in the past, which is why head coach Jay Gruden hired Joe Barry instead of Wade Phillips as the defensive coordinator in 2015. McCloughan is smart enough to look deep into coaching trees, though.

While Bradley would be a decent hire, it's not inspiring. Bradley's reputation rose with the tide in Seattle when new talent improved his first two years as defensive coordinator, which saw the Seahawks defense go from finishing among the bottom third in 2009 and 2010 to ranking among the top 10 his final two seasons. Sure, talent makes everybody look better, but it's the coach who succeeds with less that is more impressive. 

In Jacksonville, Bradley's defenses were awful, and he went 14-48 in his six years. The Jaguars too often ranked in the bottom of most defensive categories. 

Bradley would likely want a 4-3 base defense, which many fans would hail. But, the team doesn't have enough personnel along the defensive line and offers more at linebacker. That isn't to say Bradley wouldn't play 3-4 at times, too, but the next defensive coordinator has to find a way to stop the run and play a 4-3 effectively. 

Pettine led Cleveland to 7-9 in 2014, which is like winning the Super Bowl for that franchise. But a 7-4 start then went 3-18 before Pettine was fired after the 2015 season. That sounds a lot like Zorn's 2008-09 tenure as head coach in Washington with 6-2 and then 6-18.

Pettine's real reputation comes from four years as defensive coordinator for then-New York Jets head coach Rex Ryan. Basically, it was two good years and two bad years. Where Ryan left off and Pettine began is uncertain, but ultimately, Pettine is not inspiring enough to say he's the perfect choice in Washington. 

One good thing Pettine does is let players work to their strengths rather than be forced into a role. That was a big mistake the Redskins made with linebacker LaVar Arrington in 2005. Pettine gives star players some freedom to compensate for lesser players around them. 

Who is this young rising star the Redskins should hire? I don't know. That's for a knowledgeable general manager like McCloughan. Hopefully, it's someone that elicits "Who the hell is …?"