On Wednesday, an unsourced report claimed Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan had stripped defensive coordinator Jim Haslett of his play-calling duties in the fourth quarter of the Rams game last week, turning them over to defensive backs coach Raheem Morris.
Just one day later, Jason Reid of the Washington Post has reported that Haslett—who is in the final year of his contract—was signed to an extension through the 2013 season. Details of the contract were not available.
In addition to Haslett, Shanahan also told reporters that special teams coach Danny Smith had been signed to an extension through 2013. After receiving more than enough criticism following five blocked field goals from last season and two blocked punts in as many games to start this season, some believed Smith to be on the hot seat. He was also in the final year of his contract.
“If I didn’t feel very good about Jim and I didn’t feel very good about Danny, I wouldn’t have extended them,” Shanahan said. “I feel very good about those coaches. They’re excellent football coaches.”
The news out of Redskins Park doesn’t necessarily mean that Haslett and/or Smith will have their jobs come next year, as an extension is anything but a free ride. But it instills confidence in each of them through the next 14 games of the season. Very rarely do players or coaches enjoy treading through the final year of their deals without direction moving forward.
It also tends to put the original report of Haslett’s stripped play-calling duties to bed—at least temporarily.
On Wednesday’s edition of the Sports Fix with Kevin Sheehan and Thom Loverro on ESPN 980 radio in Washington, Redskins beat reporters Rich Campbell and Chris Russell both denied reports that play-calling duties were re-assigned in the final quarter of the team’s loss to the Rams last Sunday. Russell even went as far to say that a veteran in the locker room—one that he trusts very much—called the report bogus.
Again, because a contract extension is far from a guaranteed job through the specified year, the news about both Haslett and Smith isn’t nearly as significant as it should be. Even after the loss of Brian Orakpo and Adam Carriker, Haslett knows that a defense ranked No. 28 in the league won’t cut it in Washington.
And the same goes for Smith. Another blocked punt or special teams miscue, and team owner Dan Snyder would have no problem taking care of the dollars and cents and hiring a new coordinator—although Smith’s job seems a bit safer.
While the unsourced report from Hogs Haven has been downgraded by beat reporters and local media, it wouldn’t be surprising to learn that it’s true. From the beginning of the Rams contest, the Redskins defense looked overly soft in coverage. Huge cushions in the zone-blocking scheme allowed Rams quarterback Sam Bradford to stand tall in the pocket and pick from a plethora of open receivers. Meanwhile, fans threw hard objects at their television screen in frustration.
Although the defense improved in the latter part of the game, the Redskins defense was anything but tolerable.
Rams receiver Danny Amendola had only three receptions in the second half, but that was after pulling in a dozen catches through the first two quarters. All-Pro running back Steven Jackson was sidelined with a groin injury after the first quarter, but sixth-round rookie Daryl Richardson still had 83 yards on 15 carries. Bradford would end the game with 310 yards and three touchdowns. The Redskins defense simply made the Rams offense look high-powered.
After being fired in Tampa Bay following a 17-31 record in three seasons as the Buccaneers head coach, Raheem Morris immediately became a hot commodity on the assistant-coaching radar. Before his head-coaching gig, Morris was known for his knowledge on defense at both the professional (Tampa) and collegiate (Kansas State) level.
Equipped with a questionable secondary before heading into the draft and free agency, Shanahan and the Redskins took notice. There were obvious ties between Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and Morris after working with each other in Tampa, as well as general manager Bruce Allen’s familiarity with Morris following his own time with the Bucs.
Seemingly before anyone had a jump on Morris, the Redskins were wining and dining him with a pitch to come to Washington.
The interesting part of that report, however, is that the dinner consisted of Morris and the Redskins brass. Presumably so, Jim Haslett isn’t part of the “brass” in Washington. Which then begs the question: Why would Morris’ potential boss not be part of the hiring process?
Make of it what you will, but there’s a lot to take and shake from it all.
When the Redskins hired Morris, did they think of him in the long term as possibly becoming the team’s defensive coordinator? Probably. No one expects 56-year-old Jim Haslett to do this forever. However, the more intriguing question would be: What amount of time constitutes the “long term” for Shanahan and the Redskins?
For the Washington Redskins, the drama never sleeps.