Washington Redskins Need Defensive-Minded Head Coach

By Greg Bradshaw
The Star-Ledger-USA TODAY Sports

Now that the Mike Shanahan era is over, the Washington Redskins need to take some time to find their next head coach. I suggested that the Redskins consider Lovie Smith to become their next coach because of his defensive background. Unfortunately, Smith was signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to become their head coach after Greg Schiano was relieved of those duties after the season.

Defense is a major concern for the Redskins, who ranked 18th in the NFL in total defense this season. That was a vast improvement from being ranked 28th in 2012, but it doesn’t make me feel any more secure about the unit. Injuries ravaged the defense, robbing the Redskins of the depth they so desperately need to become a proficient team. Veteran inside linebacker London Fletcher, a stalwart for Washington on defense, will most likely retire before the start of the 2014 season. If that happens, the Redskins will lose a great on-field defensive leader in Fletcher who will be hard to replace.

While the offense struggled mightily this season, they have more talent to work with in quarterback Robert Griffin III, running back Alfred Morris, wide receiver Pierre Garcon and tight end Jordan Reed. Aside from cornerback DeAngelo Hall, whose three defensive touchdowns illustrate his penchant for big plays, the Redskins have few playmakers on defense. Right outside linebacker Brian Orakpo earned 10 sacks that didn’t matter in 2013, while left outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan battled a left knee injury that robbed him of his efficiency for most of the season. As for Washington’s secondary — aside from Hall’s exploits — no one is even worth mentioning. Maybe hiring a defensive-minded coach will address Washington’s defensive issues, though.

But who should that coach be? Washington interviewed current New York Giants’ defensive coordinator Perry Fewell (above, left), whose defense ranked eighth in the NFL this season. While Fewell doesn’t have head coaching experience, he did earn a Super Bowl ring as defensive coordinator with the Giants after the 2011 season. However, it’s hard to imagine the Giants letting their defensive coordinator leave to become head coach of a divisional rival.

Wade Phillips could also become a viable candidate. Phillips has the experience, with head coaching stints with the New Orleans Saints, Denver BroncosBuffalo Bills, Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans (on an interim basis). Phillips’ head coaching resume doesn’t radiate success, considering he only has one playoff win. Nevertheless, he has a keen defensive mind that could come up with viable solutions for the Redskins’ defensive issues.

Washington’s vacant head coaching position isn’t the most prime position on the market because of meddlesome team owner Daniel M. Snyder. After Shanahan’s failed stint, it’s unlikely that another successful, available head coaching candidate would consider joining the Redskins. Whatever direction Washington goes, it would be prudent for them to find a defensive head coach to get the best out of a limited unit. Only time will tell if Snyder will go that route in an effort to solidify his team.

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