MOBILE, Ala. — Jay Gruden spent over two weeks interviewing one defensive coordinator candidate after another. In the end, he found his man inside the building at Redskins Park.
Gruden and the front office eventually settled on outside linebackers coach Greg Manusky. It is not a sexy hire and they know it. Manusky has a long track record as defensive coordinator with San Francisco, San Diego and Indianapolis and has coached few top-tier defenses.
“I interviewed a lot of people, took a lot of time. Greg is obviously very familiar with our team and he has a lot of confidence in the players that we have,” Gruden said on Tuesday at the Senior Bowl in Mobile. “He coaches with a lot of passion and I want the defense to take on the personality of the coach and I feel like Manusky gives me the personality that I’m looking for.”
That is not a slight at Joe Barry, who was fired after the season. Or defensive backs coach Perry Fewell or defensive line coach Robb Akey. But it’s clear talking to Redskins players, those men struggled to connect with their position groups. And Barry was well liked, but too often players tried to do their own thing. Gruden wanted to put an end to that.
“I just felt a need for change, really,” Gruden said. “I just want to try to get a coach in here that is very sound fundamentally and guys will play hard for. Sometimes you just have to roll the dice and hopefully you make the right decision. And I just felt in my gut that I needed to make a change and that’s why we did it.”
While the base defense will remain a 3-4, Gruden is comfortable that Manusky can run multiple fronts. He almost has to in the modern NFL. Even Barry ran a base 3-4 only about 25 percent of the time. Spread offenses and multiple wide receivers, plus tight ends and running backs who can catch and make plays in space force defenses to adapt or perish.
Gruden acknowledged the defense needs help – both in the draft with young talent and in free agency, Manusky can’t be a miracle worker. He spent the past year working with Washington’s outside linebackers and is lobbying to keep that gig, too. The Redskins didn’t have an outside linebackers coach in Gruden’s first two seasons. All linebackers fell under the direction of Kirk Olivadotti, who remains on staff as the inside linebackers coach.
“When you see a guy as an outside linebacker coach and you see him coach with the energy and the passion that [Manusky] does you don’t really see him as a coordinator-type guy,” Gruden said. “I know he came as a coordinator, but until I interviewed him, sat down with him, saw his organization, how organized he was, how detailed he was with his fundamentals and his techniques. He just sold me.”
The Redskins hired Jim Tomsula as the defensive line coach on Monday. He worked under Manusky and GM Scot McCloughan in San Francisco. His brief tenure as 49ers head coach in 2015 ended in disaster and embarrassment and he was quickly fired after the season. But his reputation as a position coach remains in tact. Tomsula also interviewed for that spot with the New Orleans Saints.
“I don’t know if there’s anybody better and I think that’s a huge, huge addition to our staff,” Gruden said of Tomsula.
Gruden was less open about the status of assistant defensive backs coach Aubrey Pleasant, a well-respected young coach who multiple players said should have been the defensive backs coach the past two seasons. Whether that’s true or not, Pleasant is in demand and could land in Los Angels with the Rams and former Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay.
“Well we’re kind of at a – Aubrey is…we’re looking. We’re looking,” Gruden said. “Aubrey is working on a contract and there’s just kind of been a snag, hiccup right now so we’ve got to move on.”
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