After watching the question that Marshall put forth this week, I got to thinking a little bit outside of the box. We here at Hogs Haven like to get creative from time to time and it's no fun to respond with some boring answer. Most people would naturally think of an aspect of the team such as the running game or Special Teams (well not as far as our team, anyway). Others would think of a particular position group like RB's or the offensive line. Those are fine answers, but I happen to think another aspect of our team has shown to be crafted even better than a particular position group or something of the like. The coaching staff.
As fans and folks who frequent this blog, we all love football and the Redskins, but when thinking about the team, a lot of people think about the players. But what about this coaching staff? I think it can be argued that the staff was truly crafted this year in a way that will maximize our talent now and into the future. That starts at the top with Dan Snyder.
It's unpopular to write about Dan in a positive light, but with regards to this coaching staff I feel compelled to. Snyder's owned the team for a long time, and it's taken him a long time to figure this out, but I believe we're truly seeing signs of him learning. Dan took another actual person and put him in charge. Of course he did that with Mike Shanahan a few years ago, but this time he's done it the right way by taking someone who is qualified to be an NFL General Manager and actually put him in charge and then got out of the way.
Bruce Allen hired a Head Coach who he was familiar with and could trust. He took a young guy with no NFL head coaching experience and not only believed in him, but was the buffer to Dan Snyder to convince him that this was the correct path. Early returns (yes, I know it's only been three games) indicate he was right. He sought someone who was not only qualified, but who could come in and work with Bruce and create an atmosphere of people that are comfortable working with and around one another. This is about the polar opposite of what we had on the team last year and is just what the doctor ordered. It's also important to note that Jay Gruden was a QB. He's the perfect guy to be brought in here and work with RGIII and Kirk Cousins and get the most out of these guys moving forward.
Jay Gruden then assembled a really good staff, and he went about it in an interesting way. Rather than just clean house, Jay thought outside the box about what kind of staff he would need. He didn't have any notions of forcing his way on a team built by his predecessor. Instead, he decided to promote Sean McVay to OC. Sean had been here for a couple years as the TE Coach and knew the players. They knew him. He had experience with what has worked and what has not worked with these very same players for a few years prior to Jay's arrival. Again, creating comfort and open communication. This would allow for a seamless transition from Shanahan to Gruden. Gruden and McVay realized the strengths of the team and molded their ideas around what they'd experienced in the past plus what had been successful for this group of players before. The running game that had worked so well for so long went unchanged. A WR Coach (Ike Hilliard) who should have never been let go here was brought back and look at what he's done with the young rookie Ryan Grant already.
On the defensive side, Jay thought it best to keep Haslett around. Again, this is an unpopular opinion here, but I'm going to write it anyway. Keeping Jim Haslett around as the DC has multiple benefits. For one, as your offense learns an entirely new system, half of your team can continue in the verbiage and style that they've been learning and continue to improve and play faster. Jay had a working relationship with Jim in the past and knew his character as a man and his style as a coach. He knew they'd be compatible, thus fostering and furthering the open communication and positive working relationships in the building that are crucial to winning and a positive atmosphere/environment. Also, Jim Haslett has been a HC in this league. Recognizing the benefit of that takes great wisdom and humility on the part of our HC. Jay Gruden is aware that he is new and may new help, guidance, and someone to ask questions to. Having someone with the experience of Jim Haslett, regardless of how you feel about him as a DC, is invaluable to establish the basics while becoming a first-time HC.
Jay's also done a great job of backing off with regards to the areas of the team he doesn't specialize in. He trust his coaches. Everyone likes when their superior trusts them with their job. Imagine how Jim Haslett felt last year when Mike Shanahan was meddling on his side of the ball with no real strong background in defense. He must feel so free to be able to coach defense how he sees fit now. And what's the first thing Haslett wanted to do? Bring in Brian Baker and Kirk Olivadotti. Brian Baker has been the star position coach so far for the Redskins, revamping the way our pass rushers get after it, and Olivadotti is another guy who should have never left in the first place. Talk about an upgrade at your LB Coach positions.
I think the environment and culture being bred in the building up in Ashburn is important. I think the guys at the top, from Snyder to Allen to Jay Gruden, have all done an excellent job in crafting this staff. I think we can win with these guys and I think we're on the right track. Our team has looked much improved over last year and obviously it has a lot to do with the roster. But taking that dumpster fire that was here last year and improving on it the way it looks like things are going this year takes a special coaching staff. We're moving up. It's because the Redskins have crafted an excellent coaching staff.
So I, no Marshall asks you, "What has been the most well crafted aspect of the Redskins so far?"