"Yardage? People look at that. That’s kind of for losers. That’s not the object. The object is to get the ball back for the offense, let them score points."
Those were the words of Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett during a radio interview on ESPN 980's Inside the Locker Room on Feb. 13—an interesting stand given Haslett's track record as he prepares to enter his fifth season in Washington.
It seems like just yesterday fans were calling for Haslett's head—and for good reason. It was early November 2012, and the Redskins were heading into their bye week at 3-6 following a pathetic loss to the Panthers at home. Barring some crazy turnaround, many of us weren't giving Haslett past December.
But the Redskins would go on to win their next seven games and clinch the NFC East. Although turnovers created by the defense had a lot to do with the Redskins' sudden change of pace that year, it never felt like we should be thanking the defensive coordinator. Haslett was bailed out by Robert Griffin III and a potent offense.
Now, coming off yet another disappointing season in which the defense couldn't stop a team of peewees, Mike Shanahan is out as head coach. Haslett surprised some by sticking around, and the Redskins still have a ton of work to do in order to correct the defensive side of the ball.
Fortunately for Haslett, speculation regarding Shanahan's micromanagement and unnecessary input on defense, combined with the coordinator's professional history with new head coach Jay Gruden, has allowed him to stay on board and run the defense. But no more excuses. It's put up or shut up for Haz, and you can't blame the doubters for doubting.
Although Haslett likes to talk about turnovers, his defenses have ranked an average of 17th in interceptions the last four years—a ranking that was helped drastically by a No. 3 finish in 2012. Before that, Haslett's defense had only cracked the top 10 in interceptions once in the previous eight seasons and only five times in his entire 17-year career.
While Haslett seems to be respected in NFL circles, his resume doesn't exactly back it up. His defenses have been mediocre to poor in terms of yards and points allowed, and his career rank in overall takeaway-giveaway ratio hasn't been much better.
The Redskins have holes to fill on both sides of the ball, but the defense remains a huge concern given departing players and critical free agents who will require decisions here in the coming months. Can we assume Haslett will have a say in those matters in his new commanding role? Is that even preferred?
Redskins fans can sit back and relax for now, waiting to see what Haslett can do now that he has full control. But that shouldn't imply a long leash. His career numbers don't instill much confidence outside of longevity, and his average of 25.1 points allowed per game during his time in Washington leaves fans no choice but to demand a more effective defensive coordinator.
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