Why Greg Manusky Could Succeed as Redskins Defensive Coordinator

WASHINGTON — Redskins general manager Scot McCloughan shook his head and smiled.

Asked about new assistant coach Greg Manusky a year ago at the Senior Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, McCloughan was ready: “He’s a great guy. He’s half crazy. He’s perfect for the position.”

At the time Manusky had just been added to the coaching staff and that description jived with everything written about him as a player during his 12-year NFL career and what Redskins players came to know during his first year with the team.

He coaches with an edge. The outside linebackers learned that quickly. Manusky was a chatterbox, constantly working with players in his position group during drills. He is profane and funny and pushes players to get better. But multiple Redskins also used the same word to describe Manusky: genuine.

That took some of the edge off his big personality. Whether it translates into better success in 2017 remains to be seen. Manusky alone can’t change everything. The expectation is he will keep inside linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti and assistant defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant. That gives the staff at least some continuity and three people who know the personnel inside and out.

But the other coaching pieces around Manusky are critical as well, several anonymous Redskins players said on Sunday. Fired defensive coordinator Joe Barry was liked well enough. Players insisted he was a good coach who didn’t necessarily have the best pieces around him on staff. That speaks to a level of dysfunction with former defensive backs coach Perry Fewell and defensive line coach Robb Akey. Is that on those coaches, who were also fired along with Barry, or on the players? Hard to argue it isn’t a little bit of both.

Pleasant is well respected, often described as a rising young star and, according to several sources, probably should have been the defensive backs coach the past two years. Olivadotti has been around Redskins Park forever. He knows the drill.

The rest of Manusky’s staff? The front office was close to a deal Sunday night with defensive line coach Jim Tomsula, maligned as San Francisco 49ers head coach for one year in 2015. But he’s also worked under Manusky and McCloughan before and is a respected position coach who worked for years in San Francisco. Then Washington needs to add an outside linebackers coach to replace Manusky. That position didn’t exist during Jay Gruden’s first two years as head coach in 2014 and 2015.

If Pleasant is kept on staff and promoted — he has drawn interest from former Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay and the Los Angeles Rams — there is a low-level assistant position behind him. That isn’t exactly a total overhaul so there is some level of trust from Gruden that Manusky can blend this coaching staff and get more out of the personnel than Barry did.

But that also means those coaches need some help. The Redskins have nine draft picks in 2017, including No. 17 overall in the first round, and will almost certainly target defensive linemen and safeties. And Washington should have plenty of salary-cap space to work with thanks to $15 million in rollover money from 2016 and a cap that will increase to around $168 million. That puts a free-agent addition in play, too.

All of that will help. But it’s up to Manusky to make the pieces fit. If he can’t, then Gruden will be in trouble in the fourth year of a five-year contract. If he can, then the Redskins should have a legitimate shot at reclaiming a postseason berth.

Follow Redskins reporter Brian McNally on Twitter

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