Just under two weeks ago, the Washington Redskins finally fired defensive coordinator Joe Barry. It was a move that just about every Redskins fan could see coming a mile away. Frankly, it was a move that many knowledgeable fans saw coming two years ago before Barry was even hired. How exactly could that be, though? After all, Washington is clearly not a town filled with wise and adept fortune tellers.
All you had to do to see that Barry would probably not be successful here was to look at his track record as a defensive coordinator in Detroit, where he oversaw two absolutely putrid defenses, with one of them being a huge part of the Lions historic 0-16 season. That's all you had to do to come to the realization that the Joe Barry in D.C. experiment probably wasn't going to work out well for the Redskins; no magic was involved.
Now of course, the failure of the Redskins' defense cannot reasonably be blamed entirely on Barry, because in the infinite wisdom of the men at the top of the organization (looking at you Scot, Bruce, Jay and Dan), the team has invested an extremely small amount of both their draft and salary cap resources on the defensive side of the ball.
While I understand that it would be completely irrational to expect a top flight defense in a case like this, I simply cannot accept a bottom-of-the-barrel two unit for two consecutive years. It was Joe Barry's job to get the most out of the talent that he had, and he was unable to do that. If the Redskins' brain trust knew that he couldn't accomplish that feat in Detroit, then why did they expect him to do it here? The fans looked at the numbers two years ago and saw this coming. Why didn't the Redskins?
So if the fan base didn't want Barry, then who was their ideal selection two years ago? I don't have any scientific data to back this up, but I'm pretty sure that the consensus answer to that question was: Wade Philips. Simply put, we wanted him because he had an excellent track record as a defensive coordinator.
Philips wound up running the Denver Broncos' insanely talented defense for two years and he did what his predecessors could not do with that unit: he got the most out of that talent. The results were two statistically historic defenses and a Super Bowl championship.
And so with the defensive coordinator position vacant yet again, it's time for us to look at the numbers and select the correct man for the job yet again. Hopefully, the Redskins follow suit this time and do the same.
Individual Candidate Track Records:
Below you'll find the yearly rankings in eight statistical categories (rushing yards allowed, passing yards allowed, third down conversion percentage allowed, defensive red zone efficiency, takeaways, points allowed, total yards allowed and defensive DVOA) for the candidates to become the Redskins' new DC in each of their years as a coordinator or head coach in the NFL.
Experience: 16 Years (9 DC, 7 Other)
HC/DC Win-Loss: 75-69 (.521)
|Greg Manusky Defensive Rankings|
|2007 - SF - DC||22||22||23||6||28||20||25||24|
|2008 - SF - DC||13||20||12||9||28||23||13||18|
|2009 - SF - DC||6||21||10||1||5||4||15||5|
|2010 - SF - DC||6||24||19||8||25||16||13||15|
|2011 - SD - DC||20||13||32||27||23||22||16||29|
|2012 - IND - DC||29||21||14||12||30||21||26||31|
|2013 - IND - DC||26||13||15||28||15||9||20||16|
|2014 - IND - DC||18||12||2||32||10||19||11||13|
|2015 - IND - DC||25||24||17||28||12||25||26||13|
Greg Manusky is interviewing for the job today. He is the in-house option and he has filled this role for Scot McCloughan before (San Francisco).
Manusky's teams have enjoyed by far the best winning percentage (.521) among all the candidates, and he has spent more time as a defensive coordinator (9 years) than all but one other coach on the team's list.
However, that extra experience didn't always appear to serve him well. Six of his nine top-five rankings came in one season (2009 with the 49ers), and he finished in the bottom ten in a category 15 more times than he finished in the top ten. His highest average ranking in any statistic is 16th in third-down defense; on the flip side, his lowest average is below 20.
Manusky isn't great in any one area, but he isn't terrible at anything either. That's not a bad option that presents by far the best combination of continuity and familiarity for the Redskins and Scot McCloughan.
Experience: 19 Years (12 DC, 1 Asst. HC Defense, 6 Other)
HC/DC Win-Loss: 78-130 (.375)
|Rob Ryan Defensive Rankings|
|2004 - OAK - DC||22||30||32||31||30||31||30||26|
|2005 - OAK - DC||25||18||26||6||29||25||27||20|
|2006 - OAK - DC||25||1||7||5||27||18||3||8|
|2007 - OAK - DC||31||8||14||11||21||26||22||22|
|2008 - OAK - DC||31||10||27||24||17||24||27||19|
|2009 - CLE - DC||28||29||18||4||31||21||31||30|
|2010 - CLE - DC||27||18||28||9||13||13||22||18|
|2011 - DAL - DC||7||23||22||23||16||16||14||16|
|2012 - DAL - DC||22||19||23||18||28||24||19||23|
|2013 - NO - DC||19||2||9||18||29||4||4||10|
|2014 - NO - DC||29||25||31||31||28||28||31||31|
|2015 - NO - DC||31||31||22||32||19||32||31||32|
|16 - BUF - AHC||29||6||19||11||23||16||19||26|
Ryan interviewed with the team yesterday. He has no real connection to the Redskins other than that he has a famous last name and is a bad defensive coordinator, two things that this franchise seem to be quite fond of.
He does have the most NFL and coordinator experience of anyone on the Redskins' list, but he is also the oldest and the unhealthiest of the bunch.
He has over five times more bottom-five than top-five finishes (50 to 9) in these categories and the only statistics that he averages a ranking above 21st in are passing yards and red-zone efficiency. Ryan also has the second worst average ranking in rushing yards, total yards and points and the worst average third-down ranking among all the candidates, which is just what the Redskins need in a coach (sarcasm font).
If for some reason you're still pulling for Rob Ryan then consider that his 50 bottom-five rankings in these statistics are just 16 fewer (66) than all of the other candidates have posted combined.
Experience: 14 Years (3 DC, 11 Other)
HC/DC Win-Loss: 11-37 (.229)
|Jason Tarver Defensive Rankings|
|2012 - OAK - DC||18||20||20||20||26||28||18||29|
|2013 - OAK - DC||13||28||28||22||21||29||22||26|
|2014 - OAK - DC||22||16||14||15||30||32||21||26|
Jason Tarver is tentatively scheduled to meet with the Redskins on Thursday about the position. Tarver was the 49ers' outside linebackers coach during Scot McCloughan's entire stint as the head of the team's personnel department.
At 42 years old, he is the youngest coach in the group. He also has the worst coordinator/head coach winning percentage of all the candidates (.229).
In three years as the Raiders defensive boss, Tarver could only muster a single top-ten ranking across all of these statistics combined. Instead, he posted bottom-five numbers in these categories 13 times. He never finished with a better ranking than 26th in points allowed and defensive DVOA. Tarver obviously has a lot of room to improve and the time to do so, but I don't see any indication that he actually would.
Experience: 11 Years (4 HC, 4 DC, 3 Other)
HC/DC Win-Loss: 45-83 (.352)
|Gus Bradley Defensive Rankings|
|2009 - SEA - DC||15||30||19||24||24||25||24||29|
|2010 - SEA - DC||21||27||24||13||25||25||27||29|
|2011 - SEA - DC||15||11||9||11||5||7||9||10|
|2012 - SEA - DC||10||6||17||5||5||1||4||4|
|2013 - JAX - HC||29||25||27||23||24||28||27||28|
|2014 - JAX - HC||27||22||23||8||24||26||26||20|
|2015 - JAX - HC||15||29||31||25||27||31||24||26|
|2016 - JAX - HC||19||5||8||13||30||25||6||13|
He interviewed for the job last Wednesday and is reportedly Washington's top choice. Bradley was the defensive coordinator for the Seahawks for most of McCloughan's second term as a personnel executive in Seattle.
Strangely enough, Bradley has the second least NFL experience of these men, while also having served as a head coach almost twice as long as the rest of them combined. His time as the head man in Jacksonville did not go well though; as he posted one of the worst winning percentages in NFL history in that role.
Unfortunately, for all parties, Bradley's track record doesn't quite match his hype as "the best defensive coordinator on the market." He has finished in the bottom ten of these stats just under twice as often as he's finished in the top ten (45 to 23). For every category that he posted a top ten in, he has at least double the number of bottom tens to make up for it. At least Bradley is somewhat proficient as a play caller in the red zone, an area that the 2016 Redskins struggled mightily in.
Experience: 14 Years (2 HC, 5 DC, 7 Other)
HC/DC Win-Loss: 50-62 (.446)
|Mike Pettine Defensive Rankings|
|2009 - NYJ - DC||8||1||1||5||8||1||1||1|
|2010 - NYJ - DC||3||6||10||25||8||6||3||5|
|2011 - NYJ - DC||13||5||4||16||5||20||5||2|
|2012 - NYJ - DC||26||2||12||25||18||20||8||9|
|2013 - BUF - DC||28||4||14||8||6||20||10||4|
|2014 - CLE - HC||32||8||11||5||4||9||23||11|
|2015 - CLE - HC||30||22||20||19||22||29||27||29|
Mike Pettine, who is one of the only candidates with no ties to Scot McCloughan, was the first man to interview for the position.
His 50-62 record as a coordinator and coach gives him a winning percentage of .446, which is the second best among the candidates; and he can make that claim even though he served as the head coach of the Browns for two seasons.
Pettine has strong average rankings in passing yards, third-down defense, takeaways, total yards and DVOA. In fact, the average is lower than 12 in each of those categories. That could make for a good fit considering that the Redskins have struggled in all of those areas. If there is an issue, it's that Pettine's defenses have struggled against the run in recent years. That is a problem that the Redskins know all too well.
Experience: 10 Years (1 HC, 10 Other)
HC/DC Win-Loss: 5-11 (.313)
|Jim Tomsula Defensive Rankings|
|2015 - SF - HV||29||27||16||20||31||18||29||27|
This is probably the biggest reach that we'll make today, because nobody has actually said that the Redskins are interested in hiring Tomsula as their "defensive coordinator". Instead, he is said to only be "on Washington's radar as that team fills out its coaching staff." He too has a connection with McCloughan, as he coached the 49er's defensive line for three of McCloughan's years in San Francisco.
Tomsula has the least NFL coaching (10 years) and coordinator experience (none) of any of these coaches. He also has the second worst winning percentage in the group.
In his only year as a head coach of the 49ers, Tomsula's defense finished 27th or worse in rushing yards, passing yards, takeaways, total yards and defensive DVOA. It was a very small size, but his rankings from that year give him the lowest average of the group of candidates in six of the eight stats that we are looking at. Pray that the Skins don't have to use him as some kind of a Jim Zorn-esque backup plan because nobody else wants the job.
Experience: 10 Years (5 DC, 10 Other)
HC/DC Win-Loss: 34-46 (.425)
|John Pagano Defensive Rankings|
|2012 - SD - DC||6||18||15||32||11||16||9||18|
|2013 - SD - DC||12||29||17||24||30||11||23||32|
|2014 - SD - DC||26||4||6||12||27||13||9||25|
|2015 - SD - DC||27||14||7||7||24||21||20||28|
|2016 - SD - DC||10||20||18||15||4||29||16||8|
John Pagano is the only other candidate that McCloughan has not worked with. He's been with the Chargers for his entire coaching career in the NFL, but it appears that he will not be retained. As far as I know, only Chris Russell has officially reported that the Redskins plan to bring Pagano in for an interview, but I don't want to doubt Russell too much here considering that he was the first one to mention Rob Ryan as a possibility.
Pagano has the third most NFL and coordinator experience and the third best winning percentage among these coaches.
His team's have not fared well in takeaways and Football Outsider's all-important DVOA metric, but they performed admirably in all of the other stats that we are looking at. Pagano has a top-three average ranking among the candidates in each of the other six statistics.
Rankings the Candidates:
Here are the average rankings for each candidate in all eight of the statistics that we looked at. The table is sorted by the overall average of each coach's average rankings across the eight stats.
As you can see, I also included Joe Barry's number. This way we can see what kind of upgrade or downgrade that the team might be signing on for.
|Avg. Ranks||Rushing||Passing||3rd D||RZ||Takeaway||Points||Yards||DVOA||Overall|
Here is the same data represented in a slightly different way. In the following table, the rankings that you see represent how the coaches' average rankings in the aforementioned eight statistical categories stack up against one another. For example, Mike Pettine's average ranking of 20.0 in rushing yards allowed (see the previous table) ranks fifth in the group.
|Avg. Ranks||Rushing||Passing||3rd D||RZ||Takeaway||Points||Yards||DVOA||Overall|
Rushing Yards- John Pagano comes out on top with the best average ranking in rushing yards allowed. His three top-12 finishes in that department were enough to counter his 26th and 27th place rankings in 2014 and 2015. This was easily Jason Tarver's best category. He came in fifth or worse in every other average ranking. The exact opposite is essentially the case for Mike Pettine's rankings.
However, if you throw yards per carry and rushing DVOA into the mix, then Pettine would actually jump up to third in terms of the overall average of those three rankings. Bradley and Tarver would move up to first and second and Pagano would fall all the way to fifth.
Passing Yards- Pettine's average ranking of 6.9 in passing yards allowed is the best number by any of the candidates across all of the eight categories. I suppose his six top tens and four top fives against the pass in his seven years as a coordinator and head coach probably had something to do with that. He also had the best average defensive pass DVOA and adjusted net yards per attempt.
Rob Ryan's second place ranking in the group is his best in any category; however, he drops down to fifth when you include the two efficiency stats that we just listed (DVOA and ANY/A). Pagano and Bradley move up to second and third in that instance.
3rd Down- Pettine, Pagano and Manusky have the top three average ranks on the money down, while Ryan and Tarver bring up the rear. This is Tomasula's best average ranking, but I can't really say anything positive about it, because he earned it on the strength of one 16th place finish in that statistic. The Redskins were historically bad in this area last season, so this should be an important facet of the candidate's resumes for the front office to focus on.
Red Zone- The Redskins weren't quite as awful in the red zone as they were on third down, but overall they were still pretty helpless when opponents found their way inside of the 20-yard line. So with that being said, put another feather in Pettine's cap. Gus Bradley sits behind him with the second best average ranking (15.3). I don't really feel like that being is best ranking is that impressive, though. Tarver and Tomsula remain in the cellar for yet another statistic.
Joe Barry would be there to keep them company if I was counting him. By the way, how bad is he? I mean, really? He had an average ranking of 25 or worse in seven of eight categories and he'd rank last or second to last among the candidates in all but one of the those stat rankings. Good riddance, Joe. I hope McVay and Philips enjoy all that energy and enthusiasm that you bring to L.A. That is, of course, your best attribute as a coach, because it's surely not results.
Takeaways- Okay, so that was a little harsh. Barry's teams did have a couple of really nice seasons in the takeaway department. But it's Pettine and Pagano sitting on top again for our group of coaches. Pettine had five top-eight finishes in takeaways in his seven years in charge of a defense or a team. Tarver and Tomsula are riding in the caboose again. Notice any trends here yet, people?
Points- How about now? Pettine, Manusky and Pagano in the top three, Tarver at the bottom and Bradley with his third finish in fifth.
There was no in between for Bradley who finished seventh and first in 2011 and 2012, but 25th or worse in his other six years. Actually that's how it is for just about all of Bradley's statistics, with 16 of his 23 top tens coming between 2011 and 2012 as the Seahawks' DC. His seven other top tens were completely scattered across the other six years. Remember that we've been looking at eight stat rankings per season, so that's 70% of his of his top performances in 25% of his seasons.
Rob Ryan and Jason Tarver were responsible for six of the bottom-ten rankings among the candidates in this category.
Total Yards- It's gold, silver and bronze again for Pettine, Pagano and Manusky. Pettine's three top-five rankings in points match the number of top fives in this category by all of the other coaches combined. Rob Ryan, Jim Tomsula and Joe Barry are the only ones that finished in the bottom five in this statistic. They did it a combined nine times across 18 seasons, with Ryan and Barry both being responsible for four of those showings.
DVOA- Apparently it's all Pettine, all the time. His 8.7 average in DVOA is the second best mark behind only his ranking in passing yards. The gap of nearly 10 between his 8.7 ranking and Manusky's 18.2 represents one of the biggest differences in average ranking in this entire study. Greg Manusky and Gus Bradley are the only other guys on this list with a top five in defensive DVOA to their names. They each had one, while Pettine's defenses accomplished that feat four times. Greg Manusky is the only other candidate that has not finished in the bottom ten of DVOA in 50% or more of their seasons as a defensive coordinator or head coach.
Overall- It should not come as a surprise to anyone that read this that Mike Pettine has by far the best track record of any of the Redskins' candidates to become the team's next defensive coordinator. He has the highest average ranking in seven of the eight statistics that we looked at and his overall average of 12.1 is more than five higher than John Pagano's second place mark of 17.3 Pettine's 33 top-five rankings across these statistics are one more than the other six candidates have combined (32).
After Pettine, John Pagano and Greg Manusky share a tier that could be described as uninspiring upgrades. Neither produce defenses that do anything extremely well, but they also rarely put out a product that is utterly terrible. That's much more than you can say for Joe Barry, hence the upgrade.
Gus Bradley had two great years with the Seahawks when John Schneider and McCloughan had just stocked them up with enough talent to power a potential dynasty, but outside of that he hasn't done much at all other than a small rebound by his last Jaguars' defense. He looks to be either too reliant on talent or extremely inconsistent.
Rob Ryan, Jason Tarver and Jim Tomsula all appear to be utterly horrible options for Washington. Each of them have a couple of categories where they hover around average; but by and large, their production has been absolutely horrendous. If there is anything good to be said about Tarver and Tomsula it's that we are looking at a small sample size (3 years and 1 year respectively). Rob Ryan doesn't have that excuse. He's only really had two good seasons in his 13 years running defenses.
The Redskins need to do what they couldn't do in 2015 and pick the right man to lead their defense. If they don't, then the next heads to roll will come from much more powerful people within the organization.
*All statistics are courtesy of CSN Mid Atlantic, ESPN, NFL.com, Over the Cap, Pro Football Focus, Pro Football Reference, Real Redskins, Redskins.com, Sporting Charts, Team Rankings and The Washington Post*