Many wondered why head coach Jay Gruden and the Redskins retained defensive coordinator Jim Haslett after four subpar seasons under the recently fired Mike Shanahan.
But after looking deeper under the surface, it appears Haslett wasn’t free to be himself. Haslett himself has said that the Redskins’ defense will look a different this upcoming season, stating the outside linebackers will be turned “loose”.
Recently signed Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall may have explained it best,
“Defensively man, I just feel like we played so bad last year, we’ve got some unfinished business to definitely take care of,” Hall told ESPN 980′s “Inside the Locker Room” on Wednesday. “I’m excited after talking to Haslett about the possibility of him being able to just run his defense without anybody in his ear telling him what to call or what not to call. So I’m really excited to see Haz unleash his full arsenal of play calls.”
“I mean, he’s been in this league for so long for a reason. It’s not because he’s the best-looking guy; it’s because he can call plays and have a great defense. No disrespect to Mike Shanahan, he’s a great coach, but he liked to micromanage things. He kind of liked his hands on everything. Jay [Gruden's] kind of like look, I’m gonna let Haz kind of do his thing. Obviously if I see something that I feel like as an offense we can stop or we can’t stop, I’ll definitely let him know, give him a heads-up on some things to help us get better as team. But Haz is going to get to do what he does.
“And like I told Haz years ago, when I was kind of getting handcuffed as a player, I told him I understand you’re getting handcuffed as a coach,” Hall continued. “Imagine how I feel as a player being told that I have to do something a certain way, because I’ve always stressed to people that playing corner, it’s chess. It’s not let me stand right here and you catch this ball. I’m sorry, it’s not checkers, it’s chess, where you have to strategically play that chess match with your opponent. I have to play off, I have to fake like I’m going jam, I have to kind of mix and match with some of these top notch receivers to kind of keep them off balance.
There could be some merit to Hall and apparently others’ claims. As a defensive coordinator in New Orleans in 1996, Haslett’s defense ranked 13th in the league. In three seasons in Pittsburgh between 1997-99, his defense never ranked worse than 12th.
Still there is the downs before he arrived in Washington as a head coach in New Orleans and defensive coordinator in St. Louis. But there are a lot variables that play into the outcome and rankings of defenses.
The positive is that Gruden felt the need to keep him, and having one of the leaders coming out in support saying that the play calling was hampered by Shanahan, should at least give hope to the Redskins defense, and paint a picture as to why Haslett, and Raheem Morris stuck around after the coaching change.
Of course that puts a lot of pressure for this defense to succeed. I am one to wonder how good can this defense be still running the 3-4 base scheme. When you look at the roster, their are a lot of guys who fit a 4-3 scheme best, including the star two players outside linebackers Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo. And maybe a 4-3 scheme will help the development of young safeties Bacarri Rambo and Phillip Thomas by easing their responsibilities.
Imagining a drastic change in the defense may be hard to fathom, but for now we’ll have to go with Hall’s comments and the consensus vibe from inside the organization on how the shackles will be lifted off Haslett.