It’s been out for a while now that Mike Shanahan, who made his reputation as an offensive guru, was involved with Redskins’ defense. In a pre-mortem shortly before Shanahan was fired the Washington Post reported that he called the “Cover-0” blitz that ended up costing the Redskins a 2011 game in Dallas. Jim Haslett recently said that we will “see more of what we want to do”, seemingly employing the royal “we” there in that he is now going to be able to do things his way.
And after agreeing to a contract to return to the Redskins, cornerback DeAngelo Hall said to ESPN 980 that Shanahan “liked to micromanage things” and that Haslett was “handcuffed” and the defensive coordinator will “unleash his full arsenal of play calls”.
That all sounds great. But what Haslett and Hall and others are assuming is that Shanahan’s input was mostly, or perhaps even entirely, detrimental to the team. We really don’t know what Haslett unleashed—or, per Hall, un-handcuffed—will do. It could be better than the Shanny-plus-Haz hybrid we’ve had on defense for the last four years. Or it could be has Shanahan was keeping Haslett from making some killer mistakes in key situations.
The pressure is on Haslett this year more than any other coach or player with possible exception of quarterback Robert Griffin III. Jay Gruden will have his hands full getting his offense installed. It will be on Haslett to improve a defense that ranked 18th in yards last year.
And, if he gets his way, he will have to work with largely the same group of players he had last year. Hall is back and Haslett said last month that he also wants Perry Riley, Brian Orakpo, and Chris Baker to re-sign with the team. While you can make a solid case for all of those players coming back, there will be little room for a fresh infusion of talent on defense.
And that would mean that any improvement will have to come from Haslett’s game planning and play calling skills. We will see if Haslett had the better approach all along or if Shanahan was right to step and save him from himself from time to time.