WASHINGTON — The Redskins are elevating outside linebackers coach Greg Manusky to defensive coordinator for the 2017 season, the team confirmed Monday.
There are reasons to like the hire, as outlined here by Brian McNally. But there are also many reasons to find the hiring uninspiring, not the least of which is that Manusky was a position coach for the Redskins defense last season, helping coach a defense that was among the league’s worst.
He coached the outside linebackers, which featured stud pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan and his 11.0 sacks, and Trent Murphy piled up 9.0 sacks while Preston Smith added 4.5. Those are impressive numbers, especially when compared to the 9.5, 3.5 and 8.0, respectively, that trio managed the season prior. But that is the most talented group on the Redskins defense, and each of those three players was drafted — by the Redskins — in the first two rounds, so how much of their success is due to Manusky’s coaching versus their natural talent and previous coaching?
More than anything, the sense is the hire was not especially creative. He’s a retread, having previously served as the defensive coordinator for the San Francisco 49ers (four seasons), San Diego Chargers (one season) and Indianapolis Colts (four seasons), and he comes with countless ties to Washington’s current coaching staff and front office.
As Grant Paulsen, of Grant and Danny, wondered several times before the hiring, if the Redskins liked Manusky so much, why did it take this long to promote him? It’s different when the candidate is unaffiliated with the organization. When the candidate has been part of the coaching staff for a year already, it would seem that a quick hiring process would be in order.
Of his nine seasons as a defensive coordinator, his defenses never finished in the top 10 in points and finished in the top 10 in points twice. His best unit was perhaps that of the 2009 49ers, which finished 15th in yards, fourth in points and fifth in takeaways, and it was in the top 15 in rushing yards, rushing touchdowns, yards per carry, passing touchdowns and interceptions.
His defenses have finished 20th or worse in yards four times and points five times.
Clark Judge, of the Talk of Fame Network, joined The Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan Monday morning to discuss a variety of stories around the league, and he touched on each of the Redskins’ newest coordinators — Washington also promoted quarterbacks coach Matt Cavanaugh to offensive coordinator.
“Greg Manusky, you know, I’ve been places where he’s been,” Judge began. “I respect him as a coach, but as a coordinator, if you’re going from Joe Barry, fire him, I would think that you would have something else in place. It just seemed like this was like: ‘What are we doing? OK, I guess we’re gonna take Greg here.’ I’m sort of underwhelmed by it, to be honest with you. I think he’s had limited success, and I’m trying to be as kind as possible, as a coordinator. I do trust Jay Gruden, he knows what he’s doing there, I like what he’s doing there.”
“I’m skeptical, to be honest with you. I’m just trying to be as diplomatic as possible.”
That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, though he didn’t necessarily have anything terrible to say about Manusky. When the Junkies talked to Chris Wesseling later in the morning, they received a very similar lack of endorsement of Manusky. When asked if he, too, felt the Manusky hire was “underwhelming,” the answer was affirmative.
“Yeah, I’d be underwhelmed too,” Wesseling said, adding he doesn’t know “a ton” about Manusky.
For what it’s worth, Redskins inside linebacker — meaning he didn’t often work directly with Manusky but is familiar with him as a coach — Mason Foster later joined Grant and Danny (minus Grant), and he had generally positive things to say about his new coordinator.
“He brings a lot of energy to the defense,” Foster said. “Always happy, always got a smile on his face, real upbeat. I think the guys on the team, everybody really got along with him, because he played. He played this game for a long time at a high level for a long time, and guys respect that. I’m excited, man, it’s a great thing for us and I think he’s gonna do great things.”
Foster noted that Manusky’s playing experience comes in handy, as he often contributes little tips to defensive players during the game.
Manusky could end up being an excellent defensive coordinator, but there is plenty of criticism to be found for the hiring process. As for whether it works out, only time will tell, but the somewhat mundane choice likely keeps the team on a short leash with fans. Fan opinion likely does little to sway team decision-making, but the calls for the jobs of Manusky and, to a greater point, head coach Jay Gruden will start to get loud quickly if the defense is lackluster next season.