WASHINGTON — The Redskins have promoted outside linebackers coach Greg Manusky to defensive coordinator, according to two NFL sources with knowledge of the move.
Manusky, 50, takes over for Joe Barry, who was fired after the season. With long ties to general manager Scot McCloughan and a year on staff, Manusky was chosen over five remaining candidates who had interviewed.
It’s an important decision, especially for head coach Jay Gruden. Manusky will be his third defensive coordinator in four seasons. Gruden inherited Jim Haslett in 2014 and hired Barry the next year.
But that didn’t work out and now entering his fourth season of a five-year contract, Gruden needs Manusky to improve the defensive side of the ball quickly. Washington took a step back in 2016 with an 8-7-1 record and missed the playoffs.
Manusky possesses the raw energy Gruden wanted from Barry. He also has a long track record as a coordinator after serving in that role for four seasons in San Francisco (2007 to 2010) when McCloughan was the general manager there and four more years with the Indianapolis Colts (2012-2015).
Manusky was also defensive coordinator for the Chargers in 2011. He was added to Washington’s staff last winter to coach the outside linebackers, a position that had not previously been filled.
Washington showed an obvious inclination toward Manusky when it fired Barry and three other defensive assistants on Jan. 5, but kept Manusky, Kirk Olivadotti and assistant defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant on staff pending the hire of a new coordinator.
A report last week by FOX Sports had Pleasant interviewing with the Los Angeles Rams and former Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay, who is now the head coach there. But Washington hopes to keep both Pleasant and Olivadotti on Manusky’s staff.
Few position coaches are as fun to watch interact with players. Manusky is profane and energetic and always, always on. He had internal support from some defensive players and key members of the front office and Gruden grew to know him over the past year. That trust is critical going into a make-or-break year.
“He’s one of my favorite coaches,” Redskins outside linebacker Trent Murphy told 106.7 The Fan’s Chris Russell and Craig Hoffman on Sunday afternoon. “I’m pretty excited to keep working with him…As a player and coach he’s one of those tough SOBs. There’s just no other way to say it.”
Don’t expect a total overhaul in defensive philosophy, though Manusky will likely be more aggressive in play calling. He has still primarily coached a base 3-4 defense, but is comfortable in either scheme.
The Colts made a change when Manusky’s group finished 26th in total defense in 2015 and 25th in points allowed. His best season was in 2009 with the 49ers – ranking 15th in total defense (326.4), fourth in points allowed (17.6) and fifth in forced turnovers (33). Other notable rankings: The 49ers were 13th in total defense in 2008 (326.0) and 2010 (327.8), the Colts in 2013 were ninth in scoring defense.
Manusky interviewed on Jan. 17. He was one of seven coaches brought in by Washington, including Mike Pettine (Jan. 9), Gus Bradley (Jan. 11), Rob Ryan (Jan. 16), John Pagano (Jan. 18), Jason Tarver (Jan. 19) and Dennis Thurman (Jan. 20). Bradley eventually took the defensive coordinator position with the Los Angeles Chargers. In the end, the Redskins decided to stay in house and keep at least some continuity on the defensive side – an important move for the players who have become used to change.
“Honestly, to me, its one of the most important parts of the game and it’s such a travesty in the NFL that there’s so much turnover year in and year out in almost every organization,” Murphy said. “It makes it really tough for places to build upon what they did the year before and to build and build with keeping players and keeping coaches. Some of the organizations that have done that have had the most success. I love that we’re keeping at least some pieces.”
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