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The 5 O’Clock Club: Bill Callahan is reported to have full roster control - why is that news?

It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

Washington Redskins v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The 5 o’clock club is published several times per week during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

J.P. Finlay reported earlier this week that Bill Callahan had demanded full control of the Redskins roster as a pre-condition of accepting the gig as interim head coach.

[Callahan] made clear he would only accept the role if he had complete control of the 53-man roster and what players he started. The Redskins agreed to Callahan’s terms, partly out of necessity because the team had made clear former head coach Jay Gruden would be fired.

This report spawned a number of followup articles. Here’s an excerpt from a CBS Sports article that followed Finlay’s report by just a couple of hours:

This is quite the change in philosophy than how the Redskins were operating under Gruden as Finlay points out there were instances where he did not have full control of the roster. One example of that Finley gives is Gruden wanting to cut safety D.J. Swearinger early in 2018. The Redskins brass said no and he was only released later in Week 16 after making public comments against the defensive coaching staff.

Both articles went on to cite instances of Bill Callahan’s apparent control, including the the addition of fullback Michael Burton, dramatic changes in the makeup of the practice squad, the demotion of Colt McCoy and the re-elevation of Case Keenum.

The CBS article dragged out the Bill Parcell’s line about the guy cooking the food being allowed to shop for the groceries, but — really — does that actually apply here?

After all, wasn’t Parcells talking about control over the draft and the end-of-preseason roster cuts as the really critical decisions that he wanted control over?

Is it all that shocking that Bill Callahan would want, or that the Redskins would grant, total roster control for the 11 games left in the 2019 season? I mean, it’s not like they’ve turned over the 2020 draft to the guy.

Still, in the case of the Redskins, there are some reasons why this move seems newsworthy.

  1. The Redskins have a history of not allowing coaches total roster control. Marty Schottenheimer was fired over the question of control. Mike Shanahan seemed frustrated by it. Jay Gruden seemed to fire off passive aggressive comments on a semi-regular basis that hinted at his frustration at his own lack of control.
  2. Bruce Allen is notorious for being unwilling to stay out of the football side of things.
  3. Most importantly, the Redskins under Dan Snyder — and especially since 2012 — have a reported history of interference at the quarterback position. There have been reports at various times that RG3 was drafted at the insistence of the owner and over the objections of the head coach, that the owner was unhappy about the decision to select Kirk Cousins in the same draft, that the owner’s close personal relationship with RG3 undermined the coach’s authority and led to a schism with Kirk Cousins after he replaced Griffin and played well, that Gruden had to fight to play the guy he wanted (Cousins) over Griffin, who had cost a ton of draft capital and had more marquee value. Some people have suggested that Bruce Allen traded for Alex Smith without consulting anyone else, least of all Jay Gruden, and that Dan & Bruce forced the pick of Dwayne Haskins Jr. this season in the face of resistance from some personnel people and coaches, including Jay Gruden.

If we’re being honest, it’s this last point — the history with quarterbacks — and the current situation where Dwayne Haskins appears unready to play at the level of a starter in the NFL, but where the Redskins franchise already has a lost season on its hands that makes this a headline-producing story.

Any coach trying to win games in the short term in an effort to keep his job might be tempted to keep Haskins on the bench in favor of Keenum, while an executive from the front office with a longer-term view is likely to want to see the rookie on the field getting valuable experience. The remaining games of 2019 provide a type of extended and highly competitive 2020 pre-season... a chance to get a look at players on the roster who might not see the field (Dwayne Haskins) if the team were still competing for a spot in the playoffs.

Wednesday saw reports surface that Callahan has already decided to start Dwayne Haskins, even if he hasn’t said so publicly.

That said, in the words of J.P. Finlay:

[D]on’t be shocked if Callahan steps to the podium next week and names Keenum his starter. It might not make sense for the organization’s plans in 2020 or beyond, but Callahan has been adamant that his goals are wins this season.

Keenum or Haskins, whoever gets the call, the decision came from Callahan.


How newsworthy is the report that Bill Callahan has total roster control?

This poll is closed

  • 28%
    (63 votes)
  • 45%
    meh... mildly interesting
    (102 votes)
  • 26%
    Not at all
    (58 votes)
223 votes total Vote Now


How shocked would you be if Bill Callahan decided to start Case Keenum against the Jets, naming Haskins as the backup again?

This poll is closed

  • 9%
    Incredibly shocked — this is a virtual impossibility
    (21 votes)
  • 24%
    very surprised
    (56 votes)
  • 32%
    I might raise my eyebrows, but it wouldn’t surprise me much
    (75 votes)
  • 30%
    Not shocked at all
    (70 votes)
  • 3%
    I’m certain that’s what he intends to do
    (8 votes)
230 votes total Vote Now