Cavanaugh, 60, served as quarterbacks coach under coordinator Sean McVay each of the last two seasons. McVay left his post earlier this month to become head coach of the Los Angeles Rams.
Washington also announced the hiring of former NFL quarterback Kevin O'Connell as Cavanaugh's replacement. O'Connell spent the 2016 season as an offensive assistant with the San Francisco 49ers and previously served as the Cleveland Browns' quarterbacks coach (2015).
Mike Jones of the Washington Post reported head coach Jay Gruden, not Cavanaugh, is expected to handle play-calling duties. Gruden, who served as the Cincinnati Bengals' offensive coordinator before coming to Washington, called plays during his first season as coach. However, McVay was given that responsibility in 2015, helping lead to an offensive breakout over the last two years.
Washington ranked third in total offense and was fifth in Football Outsiders' offensive metrics in 2016. Quarterback Kirk Cousins put together his second consecutive strong season, setting a franchise record with 4,917 passing yards and throwing 25 touchdowns.
"I think [Cousins] really improved his game a lot in the last couple years. And a lot of it has to do with Matt Cavanaugh and Sean McVay," Gruden said after Washington's Week 17 loss to the New York Giants, per JP Finlay of CSN Mid-Atlantic.
Cavanaugh, an NFL quarterback from 1978 to 1991, has a quarter-century of coaching experience, mostly in the pros. He previously served as the offensive coordinator for the Chicago Bears (1997-98) and Baltimore Ravens (1999-2004).
After following Dave Wannstedt to the University of Pittsburgh for four seasons, Cavanaugh returned to the NFL in 2009. He subsequently coached the quarterback position with the New York Jets, Bears and Washington.
As told to Ian O'Connor of ESPN.com, Cavanaugh famously lobbied the Ravens to draft Tom Brady when he was in Baltimore. The Ravens drafted Louisville's Chris Redman instead, and Brady went on to a future Hall of Fame career in New England.
"If we'd taken him," Cavanaugh told O'Connor, "we probably would've won a couple more championships. But it's not about me. I would've loved working with him, and it's rewarding that I felt I did a good evaluation on him."
Washington will have a number of questions to answer offensively this offseason, starting at quarterback. Cousins, who played 2016 under the franchise tag, is set to become a free agent. Top targets DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon are also scheduled to hit the open market.