While the introduction of Donovan McNabb, the numerous 30-year-olds in the backfield, and enough receivers to sink a Navy ship is an intriguing part of the Washington Redskins this season is interesting, it’s the new 3-4 defense operated by Jim Haslett that should have us all enthralled.
As Redskins fans, we’ve been slightly misled by NFL rankings over the previous 10 seasons. Although the Redskins defense has ranked in the top 10 in yards allowed per game for eight of the last 10 seasons, they’ve averaged a miserable 33 sacks and minus-3 turnover ratio in each of those seasons. See the concern?
The Redskins have gone with some big name defensive coordinators and some not-so-big-name coordinators, but often times with the same result. Whether you look at the seasons with Ray Rhodes, Marvin Lewis, Gregg Williams, or Greg Blatche running the defense, none of them could force turnovers.
As sad as it is, the Redskins’ best turnover ratio over the past decade was back in 2001 when Kurt Schottenheimer led the defense and posted a plus-6. Their worst? In 2002, Marvin Lewis and the Redskins posted a frickin’ minus-14 turnover ratio. Pathetic.
Within the same time frame, the Redskins have gone through umpteen coaches, all with different associates and assistants. And although four different coaches in 10 years sounds a little ridiculous (because it is), it doesn’t make sense that no one thought of reconstructing the gameplan or implementing a new scheme.
This season, the Redskins have a front office and coaching staff that finally gives us fans a sense of confidence and control. For once in the last 10 years, the Redskins have a real general manager that knows how to check, balance, and get the deals done. As well as a coaching staff that is intelligent and/or proven with respectable assistants. Let’s get excited!
Beyond the actual on-field talent of the Redskins defense, we should note the coordinator who’s running the show. Jim Haslett was a second round draft pick of the Buffalo Bills in the 1979 NFL Draft. Haslett won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 1979 and went on to play linebacker for the Bills until 1985.
Upon his retirement as a player in 1987, Haslett served as an assistant for the University of Buffalo. In 1993, Haslett received his first professional gig when he became the linebackers coach for the Los Angeles Raiders. He then went on to become the linebackers coach in New Orleans in 1995 and was promoted to defensive coordinator in 1996.
Haslett was then named defensive coordinator of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1997. He coached with Pittsburgh until 1999 when he was then introduced as the new head coach of the New Orleans Saints in January of 2000. Haslett led the Saints to a 10-6 record in his first season as head coach and earned the franchise’s first-ever playoff win.
Haslett earned NFL Coach of the Year honors for turning the Saints around after their dreadful 3-13 season just the year before.
In 2005, Haslett’s sixth season with the Saints, the city of New Orleans was handed a major setback as a result of Hurricane Katrina. While many of the southern states were marred by our country’s worst natural disaster, so was the New Orleans football organization. The Saints stumbled to 3-13 and Haslett was fired at the close of the 2005 season.
Haslett was named the defensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams in 2006 and was promoted to interim head coach in 2008. But because many things haven’t gone right in St. Louis for quite some time, Haslett was not brought back for a permanent head coaching position. He led the Florida Tuskers of the UFL to a Championship loss in 2009 and finally wound up in D.C. after a phone call from Mike Shanahan.
It would be hard to argue that the Washington Redskins don’t have legitimate playmakers on the defensive side of the ball.
Whether you’re talking about iron man veteran London Fletcher, who is apparently ageless and made of solid steel but is somehow overlooked; or the massive but non-conditioned mammoth Albert Haynesworth, the defense has some pieces to work with. Add in some mutant athletes like Brian Orakpo and Andre Carter, and you have a pretty nice pot brewing.
The secondary may not be anywhere close to tops in the league, but we can feel pretty confident that Carlos Rogers can cover and DeAngelo Hall can make big plays. Backing them up would be a decent group of safeties with LaRon Landry, Kareem Moore, Reed Daughty, and Chris Horton. Eventually though, the secondary is as good as the pass-rush.
And we shouldn’t forget about some of the role players like Phillip Buchanon, Rocky McIntosh, Adam Carriker, and Ma’ake Kemoeatu.
So here we are with the new 3-4 scheme and a more-than-capable group of players to operate. Some may be skeptical of the new defensive look, but you have to trust the new team. Mike Shanahan brought Jim Haslett to DC for a reason, and that was to generate chaos and create turnovers. Over the past 10 years, the 3-4 scheme has been popular amongst Super Bowl Champions, and that tends to have a pretty nice ring to it.
In 2010, the Washington Redskins defense will be what keeps our playoff hopes alive. Understandably so, the offense’s potential this season is exciting for obvious reasons (cough, cough, McNabb). But a defense that creates turnovers may have been what this team has been missing for so long.
Whether or not this article is accurately predicting the future is yet to be seen. But the fact of the matter is that holding teams to under 300 yards per game is not the key, it’s taking the ball away from them. And the Redskins are prepared to become stone cold thieves in 2010.