The Washington Redskins made a move on Thursday that could make or break the most important player in franchise history. Jay Gruden became the eighth head coach of the Daniel Snyder era in D.C. and arguably the most unique hire the team has made this century.
How Gruden and Griffin work together over the next 24 months will ripple throughout this organization for many years to come.
And yet instead of trying to get a feel for what the new coach could be bringing to the table, it seems the majority of you are much more concerned with who will serve as Gruden's top assistant on the defensive side of the ball.
Of the first 89 comments posted below my initial column on Gruden's hiring (which didn't even mention the defense), 41 (or 46 percent) were either about the D or the defensive coordinator position, which, according to Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports among others, will continue to belong to Jim Haslett.
I mean, I understand why there's a desire for change. After all, Haslett's unit finished in the bottom three in terms of points allowed in 2013 and was ranked in the bottom five overall in two of the three preceding seasons. That D has never finished above 13th when it comes to points or yards allowed since he was hired in 2010.
But this is the NFL in 2014, where quarterbacks and offenses in general decide who wins the Super Bowl. If we're talking big picture, or even medium-sized picture, who the Redskins assign to run the defense doesn't matter.
Like, at all.
The focus right now and going forward has to be on Gruden and Robert Griffin III, and to a lesser extent the scheme they'll run and the weapons who will surround the franchise quarterback.
You don't win in this league without a top-notch head coach and a superstar quarterback playing at said level. Period. Just look at recent Super Bowl winners:
Look at the New York Giants and New England Patriots. Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning. Bill Belichick and Tom Brady. When they met in the Super Bowl two years ago, their respective defenses were ranked 27th and 31st.
The Giants have won two Super Bowls in the last six years despite so-so defenses. Sure, they could rush the passer, but that was about it. And the Patriots haven't exactly possessed consistently good defenses, despite Belichick's presence. They've played in five of the last 12 Super Bowls, thanks almost entirely to Belichick and Brady.
Even the historically vaunted Baltimore Ravens defense was at or below the league average in terms of yardage and takeaways when they won the Super Bowl last year. John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco were the keys to success. Flacco isn't special, but he was during that run, throwing 11 touchdown passes and zero interceptions in the 2012 playoffs.
Year in and year out, some of the best teams in football—the Colts (Chuck Pagano and Andrew Luck, and Tony Dungy and Peyton Manning before that), the Packers (Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers), the Pats, the Saints, the Giants—contend despite their defenses.
|Year||Team||Offensive rank||Defensive rank|
|2011||New York Giants||9th||25th|
|2010||Green Bay Packers||10th||2nd|
|2009||New Orleans Saints||1st||20th|
|2007||New York Giants||14th||17th|
Pro Football Reference
Jim Haslett won't win this team a Super Bowl, but he also lacks the ability to prevent them from doing so. If you look at the numbers and blame him for what happened in 2013, you have to keep in mind that, on paper, this defense was just as bad in 2012 when the 'Skins won the division and hosted a playoff game for the first time this century.
When they went up in flames against Seattle in that Wild Card Game, it was because a severely hobbled Griffin couldn't perform and because the head coach made a decision he now admittedly regrets.
Haslett has never deserved the brunt of the blame anyway, unless he was the guy who decided to frontload contracts in the uncapped 2010 season, leading to a crippling $36 million salary cap sanction from the NFL.
The personnel hasn't been up to snuff. He lost his best player, Brian Orakpo, for virtually the entire 2012 season. And in 2013, opponents feasted on a secondary run by the guy many want to see replace Haslett. Tell me, if the coaches are at fault and Haslett should be fired, why should Raheem Morris end up with a promotion?
But none of it matters.
The focus right now in D.C. should be squarely on Gruden and Griffin. If they succeed, what the defense does won't matter. And if they fail, it'll matter even less.