November 19, 2019

Washington Redskins: The more things change… Bruce Allen meets the press

“We’re winning off the field,” Washington Redskins GM Bruce Allen.

In the absolutely most wishy-washy firing ever, the Washington Redskins and defensive coordinator Jim Haslett “mutually agreed to part ways,” according to the team’s press release. The wording of the press release couldn’t have been more ambiguous if they tried. But both GM Bruce Allen and coach Jay Gruden have a personal relationship with the now-departed Haslett, so the team’s statement is deferential to Haslett to allow him to “save face” on his way out of town.

“Jim and I have had discussions over the last few days and have decided that it’s best for everyone that we have a new Defensive Coordinator for the Washington Redskins. I wish him nothing but the best in the future,” said Gruden.

“Jay and I mutually agreed it’s time for the Redskins to have a new Defensive Coordinator,” Haslett said through the team’s release. “I want to thank Dan Snyder, Bruce Allen, Coach Gruden and all the players and fellow coaches for their efforts the last five years and I wish them nothing but the best.”

It is yet another example of this team doing bad business and allowing interpersonal relationships affect how they conduct themselves.

Haslett’s record speaks for itself, despite whoever might try to defend him in the local media. He needed to be dismissed — without prejudice — several seasons ago, but was retained and allowed the Redskins defense to suffer and flounder, instrumental in yet another double-digit loss season.

Allen met the press today — for the first time all season.

For the record, here was his statement on the arrangement.

“Jay and Jim had been talking the last few days. This morning, when they were talking, they decided it was the best way for both sides. I appreciate Coach Haslett’s work and what he’s done for the Redskins, but I think it was the right decision.”

Bruce, bubbie, if you think it was the right decision, why on earth didn’t you make??? Isn’t that, like, your job?

Allen’s remarks today were as wide-ranging as they were head-scratching. For the entire transcript, click here. But Allen talked around many subjects more than specifically addressing them.

He mentioned amorphous “change” several times, without including any specific ideas or details about such change. But several times he also indicated his faith in those already in place to affect that “change.”

“I think there is going to be changes. I know Jay mentioned that he’s going to make some changes and there’s going to be some other changes. But that’s part of the evaluation process right now. We’re looking for the solutions to get the team back on track. It seems like a long time ago when we won the division, and in football I guess it’s sort of like those dog years, it does multiply with each year. But, I’ve seen different people perform, I’ve seen the way people have evaluated talent, I’ve seen the way they’ve worked together, and I know this group will do it again.”

Allen identified what he thought was the recipe to fix the organization, identifying “good players, good coaching, good chemistry” as the secret. He ignored the ideas of good scouting, good drafting and good player development strategies, but hey, maybe we’re nit-picking at this point.

But Allen came up with some doozies today.

On the role A.J. Smith has played: “A.J. is a consultant. He lives in Del Mar, Calif. He’s somebody I’ve known for a number of years – we worked together 30-some years ago. When he got let go of the Chargers, I said, ‘If you have a few weeks a year and you want to come out, please do. Give us some insight into it.’ And so he’s sat in some meetings, and we’ve utilized his wisdom and experience.”

On whether Smith would be more helpful in DC rather than San Diego: “You know, the technology today, if you’re in Hawaii, you can watch the game tape as quickly as I can watch it here at Redskin Park. And, because we have telephones in Hawaii, we can have a conversation immediately after the game.”

On Jay Gruden’s first year as head coach: “He’s not the first coach in the history of this NFL to have a losing season in his first year and we are not the first team to have back-to-back losing seasons in the NFL. And it will happen again [in the NFL]. Do I believe he is the right leader? Absolutely. I believe he is the right leader and I believe the players believe that he is the right leader. We just have to make sure we augment the roster with the right players and give him the talent that he needs.”

And this winner: “I do think our Charitable Foundation does a fantastic job. We’re winning off the field, but we’ve got to start winning on the field.”

The punchlines write themselves.

This organization it rudderless at this point, and it doesn’t seem as if the person ultimately in charge has any clue that the man he’s tasked with making the changes to the football operations is completely and utterly ill-equipped for the job. Allen is a marketing man, not a football executive. Yet, he’s the one person over the past five seasons that has been in charge of football operations.

Mike Shanahan has come and gone. His son Kyle too. Jim Haslett and the team have “parted ways.” It seems like it’s just more of the same at Redskins Park.

Yet, the man making the decisions stays, with the owner’s well wishes and respect.

OPINION: Allen encapsulates Redskins’ woes with disaster press conference

Washington Redskins President and General Manager Bruce Allen took time this morning to speak with the D.C. media after his fifth season at the helm of the franchise.

If his late father, George, were on the Redskins’ Mount Rushmore for his services as head coach in the 1970s, the proverbial Hall of Shame would be too great of an honor for the younger Allen.

[Read more…]

Washington Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen’s Wednesday Media Availability

Here is the entirety of Washington Redskins head coach Bruce Allen’s media availability on Wednesday after the Redskins completed their 4-12 2014 season. [Transcript courtesy Redskins media relations.]

Opening statement:

“We just finished a frustrating season that had a few ups and too many downs. As Coach [Jay] Gruden talked about with you all on Monday, we’re going to take this time to start a full evaluation of everything and look into the way we acquire players, look into the way we coach players, looking at the way the players prepare in the offseason and in-season, and make sure we correct the problems that occurred and make sure they don’t happen again and bring in the right people. You know, I’d like to tell you there’s a secret ingredient in football, but there really isn’t. It’s getting good players with good coaching and good chemistry, a little luck with injuries, and that’s a successful formula. That’s what we’re going to start addressing.” [Read more…]

Current State of the Washington Redskins at Quarterback Going into the 2015 Offseason

Robert Griffin III's future with the Washington Redskins is up in the air. (photo by Brian Murphy)

Robert Griffin III’s future with the Washington Redskins is up in the air. (photo by Brian Murphy)

The Washington Redskins just completed another dreadful season, which continues a streak of terrible play on the field and dysfunction off. The biggest question going into the offseason is obvious — who will be the signal caller going into training camp, preseason, and eventually week one of the regular season?

That individual might be Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy, or a dark horse that is not even on the team yet. It is unlikely that the Redskins will use their No. 5 overall pick in the upcoming draft on Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota should they be available, but the team could pick a quarterback with one of their mid- or late-round selections.

Going into 2014, Robert Griffin III was the starter without a question, with Kirk Cousins playing the role of a serviceable backup, and Colt McCoy sporting a headset and being inactive. That is hardly how the season turned out as Griffin started seven of the nine games he appeared in, Cousins five of six, and McCoy four of five.

Controversy began before the season started as many believed Kirk Cousins was a better option under center than Griffin. Not only that, but many believed new head coach Jay Gruden thought it as well.

After a shaky performance at Houston week one, fuel was added to the fire. However, Griffin got the start against Jacksonville the next week, where he began a solid drive before suffering the dislocated ankle injury. As a result, Cousins was given the chance he was hoping for but did not take advantage of it. Cousins finished with eleven turnovers against ten touchdowns, with an 86.4 QB rating, before being benched against Tennessee in week seven.

With Griffin still on the shelf with his ankle injury, McCoy was given the reigns and he successfully completed the comeback against Tennessee. Those heroics gave McCoy the opportunity to return to his home state and start against the rival Dallas Cowboys on Monday Night Football.

In the Redskins most complete and best game of the season, McCoy restored hope to a lacking franchise and led the team to victory. Unfortunately for McCoy, and quite possibly the rest of the Redskins season, Griffin returned from injury was given back his job as the starting quarterback.

Griffin came back to start against Minnesota, Tampa Bay, and San Francisco and, quite frankly, stunk it up and looked like a complete joke. Griffin had a total QB rating of less than 80 and was sacked a whopping 16 times, a direct correlation to his lack of reading defenses and quickly going through his progressions.

This led to Colt McCoy being given an opportunity to continue his strong play from earlier in the season. McCoy continued his impressive performance against Indianapolis but was rewarded with one of the worst defensive showings of the year and a loss.

McCoy had a poor performance against St. Louis the following week and suffered a neck injury, and Griffin stepped back in midway through the game against New York after McCoy could not continue physically. Griffin was given the majority of the final three weeks to state his case and although he showed some improvement, he has not guaranteed himself the job heading into the offseason.

Gruden, who is likely — but not certain at this point — to be retained as head coach next season, has stated that “all three quarterbacks have shown the ability that they can play quarterback in the NFL, but all three quarterbacks have shown that they need some work”.

Moreover, as it is difficult to have three in competition because of the limited amount of quality reps available, Gruden would like to narrow it down to two and then one “to work and grind on him and develop him.”

The one thing we know for sure at this time is Colt McCoy will become a free agent on March 10 if he is not re-signed before then. With limited cap space available and the possibility of McCoy wanting more than the veteran minimum, money could play a role in determining those who will be competing for the lead signal caller job in DC.

We can speculate that Griffin has the current edge in the competition because of the speculative backing from Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder. This most likely stems from the stubbornness of upper management to admit a mistake for giving up so much for a possible bust at the position. However, this next season may be the last straw for Griffin regardless.

Adding to the intrigue is Cousins’ status, as reports surfaced Monday that he would prefer to be traded if not given a fair shot to win the starting job. Cousin spoke on a conference call to clear the air that he did not “demand” a trade. But preferring to play somewhere else is different than “demanding” a trade.

Still, it’s hard to see the Redskins trading Cousins, or receiving what they think might be fair market value for him.

The best guess going into training camp is that all three quarterbacks — Griffin, Cousins, and McCoy — will be in competition for the starting job, with the obvious undertones from the front office leaning toward Griffin.

After training camp evaluations, as well as evaluations of the film from all three from the past season, Gruden will quickly narrow the search down to two with a front runner. Gruden and offensive coordinator Sean McVay will most likely put all their efforts into shaping that one front runner into their starter as long as everything goes well.

However, as this fan base has sadly grown accustomed to, this may be far from the case.

Washington Redskins’ Bruce Allen and Jay Gruden discuss Richmond training camp

The Washington Redskins team President/General Manager Bruce Allen and new head coach Jay Gruden addressed the media earlier this week regarding the team’s training camp in Richmond, VA.

Allen began the press conference with a lengthy opening statement:

“Good afternoon. This has been a great experience once again in Richmond. I think we ought to start with thanking some people and staff. Mayor [Dwight C.] Jones and his staff did a great job for us. Gov. [Terry] McAuliffe’s hospitality and enthusiasm was great for us. Bon Secours’ staff did fantastic job again. Our Charitable Foundation really had a great two or three weeks here… I wanted to thank Coach [Bill] Belichick and the New England Patriots for coming out. That work was invaluable for us from an evaluation standpoint. I think the way we managed the crowds was a lesson that we learned from last year. It was great for the fans and the players.

“I want to thank Coach Gruden – Jon Gruden – who came out for the high school football clinic. We had over 100 high school head coaches from Maryland, D.C. and Virginia, and I believe West Virginia as well… for being our keynote speaker. This camp has always been about preparing the team, but also about reaching back to the community. What I mentioned earlier, our Foundation, [we] feel that our 31 events that we had, we impacted over 20,000 kids in this community and we’re proud of that. Our Redskins Salute, to the military, we had over 1,000 military folks in here for camp and that was fantastic. But as far as the football is concerned, I think Jay did an excellent job – him and his staff – of building that camaraderie. We had spirited practices. There’s good competition on this football team right now and the work with the Patriots and the work that we got against ourselves hopefully is going to propel us this season. I don’t think there’s any doubt that we got better at camp. The key is to make sure we keep getting better when we get back up to Redskins Park.”

When Allen was asked about what he would like to change regarding holding camp in Virginia next year, he joked about the weather but did say that he wanted to have a meeting to try to figure out how they can try to do it better for the team and for the fans.  As always, the media asked about the Washington Redskins’ salary cap situation, and Allen responded that it was about “$2 million of cap space”, which he admitted it was close.  He cited that due to unfortunate injuries during the 2014 NFL Season that will “eat it up”.  Allen also spoke about making adjustments and looking at different options after the third preseason game of this year.

Allen spoke about the importance of having a drama-free camp, and how the atmosphere has changed with his new coach from previous seasons, with the obvious reference to the past several seasons contentiousness between former head coach Mike Shanahan and franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III.

“Well, many of the players and many of the coaches weren’t here last year, so they’re unaware of the drama unless they read the newspapers. We just wanted to focus on getting better every day, and that’s been Coach Gruden’s motto from the beginning. When you focus on today’s events and today’s meetings and today’s practices, you sort of lose all of that drama. And the guys were all competing for jobs and I think the seriousness of their competition really overweigh everything else.”

Allen was pressed to make a comparison between Gruden and Shanahan’s camps.

“I don’t really like the comparisons. I think this was an excellent camp. I think adding the New England Patriots to it and Coach [Bill] Belichick’s staff really made the players focus more. We got in some great work with them. Coach Gruden’s meetings are as intense as you see it on the football field in trying to make sure that we’re trying to get better in the meeting room. I think that’s going to help our team.”

Now on to the more fun stuff for Washington Redskins fans — speaking with new head coach Jay Gruden.  As most fans know, Gruden was the offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals from 2011 — 2013.  In those three years, the Bengals made the playoffs each season.

In January 2013, Gruden was interviewed by the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, Philadelphia Eagles, and San Diego Chargers for their vacant head coaching positions.  Although he didn’t land one of those jobs, that left him available for the Washington Redskins to hire this past January.

In the same press conference that Allen spoke in, Gruden was asked more about the individual players and his experiences at training camp as a head coach for the first time.  The first questions were about tight end Jordan Reed’s illness, which Gruden replied  that Reed was doing much better and expected him to be a full-go for the rest of the week.

Gruden was also asked about linebacker Ryan Kerrigan and wide receiver Santna Moss taking the “veteran’s day off”.  Grunden responded, “Yes, yes.  Moss has been running a lot and needed a day to get his legs back under him but nothing is injured or anything like that. Same with Kerrigan and same with Kory [Lichtensteiger].”

Gruden spoke about if it was beneficial for the players to work together away from Ashburn:

“I think it was. I think it was a great experience for everybody, it was for me and I felt like the team came together like you’d hoped they would in training camp, studying like this. Practices were crisp.”  Also asked if the  practice routine will remain the same at Redskins Park, he said, “Pretty accurate, yeah. Times of meetings might change, no more night meetings probably, but as far as practice and the grind of studying football and practicing football it’ll be the same.”

When asked if he was prepared for the attention surrounding the Monday Night Game this week against the Cleveland Browns, Gruden simply said:

“It’ll be exciting. There’s a lot about Johnny Football that’s exciting to watch – him as a player and as a rookie. All we’re going to do is focus on ourselves though moving forward – what we’re going to do, how we’re going to prepare and really starting Friday, it’ll be the first time we start to really game plan for an opponent, get them used to game planning and how we’re going to do it, how we go about it during the regular season. So, we haven’t looked at Cleveland yet. I haven’t, but I will starting tomorrow and Thursday, and we’ll start to game plan. But, it’ll be an exciting event, Monday Night Football here. Of course my brother is coming so that’ll be fun.  But really I want to make it more about our guys – how we perform, how we come out under the lights and the excitement, and show them what we can do.”

Gruden was asked about if has a plan for starters’ playing time on Monday against the Browns: “Not yet. We’re going to go through the rest of the week and practice. We have Thursday, Friday, we’ll be in some pads and then Saturday, we’ll taper off. I’ll see where we are from a health standpoint and we’ll go from there, but I expect them to play a little bit more than last week.”

The last thing Gruden touched on rookie Brashaud Breeland addressing his teammates for his citation for marijuana possession just twelve hours before the team finished up in Richmond.

Gruden addressed the media today:

“I addressed it with him. We’ll keep the conversation between us, but he’s well aware of what he has to do to get it fixed and we’ve got to just move forward and hopefully he learns from a terrible mistake.

It’s disappointing. He’s a young kid and he’s had a great camp and it’s a little hiccup, bump in the road for him that he’s got to learn from that a lot of kids go through at his age. So he’ll learn from it and we’ll all move forward from this, hopefully.”

Asked if Breeland faces disciplinary action, Gruden said, “Yeah, we’ve talked about it. We’re going to talk about it, how we’re going to discipline him, what we’ll do in-house and we’ve got it all taken care of. Bashaud understands the severity of what he did and he’s going to have to face the consequences with the citation that he got and move forward.  I let him practice because he’s on the team and he was allowed to practice.”

Breeland Addresses his Washington Redskins Teammates

Bashaud Breeland addressed his Washington Redskins teammates following his citation for marijuana possession. Breeland ruined an otherwise drama-free camp just twelve hours before the Skins finished up in Richmond.

The Redskins organization has said they are aware of the situation, but would rather not comment. Breeland has had discussions with head coach Jay Gruden and GM Bruce Allen following the citation and has said he will accept the consequences that follow his actions.

I’m happy that Breeland stepped up to the plate and addressed his teammates following his mistake, and I’m equally as happy that his Redskins teammates had some harsh words in response to whatever Breeland told them (those comments have not been made public). The most frustrating aspect of this situation by far is Breeland’s potential. Breeland has enjoyed a solid camp, and should push Tracy Porter for snaps as the slot corner. Breeland also has the potential to become DeAngelo Hall’s long term replacement, but this is not a good start to his career with the Redskins.

The rookie Clemson product is now my new favorite to have his locker in between Ryan Clark and DeAngelo Hall’s. Clearly no matter how impressive his early play has been on the field, Breeland has a lot of growing up to do. Having two veteran leaders who happen to play in the same position as you will only help Breeland’s transition to being a professional.

Breeland will likely avoid suspension, but he will now find himself on the NFL’s radar, and random drug testing  will be in his future. For Breeland and the Redskins’ sake, I hope this is a one time incident that will be long forgotten a few years down the road.

Washington Redskins enter NFL Draft with high expectations

Washington Redskins GM Bruce Allen and Director of Player Personnel Scott Campbell addressed the media on Tuesday in advance of Thursday’s NFL Draft.

The Draft Process

On Campbell having a more visible role through this process than in the past:

CAMPBELL: “I’m not real comfortable with that. It’s really not my style. I’m really a behind the scenes [guy]… and really a lot of people have asked me how things have changed through my time here, the 13 years I’ve served as a college director, a personnel director, and now overseeing the whole department. In preparations for the draft, my role has really been the same it’s been in terms of preparation. A lot of people don’t realize we start three weeks after the draft, my preparation begins for the next draft when I attend the BLESTO meetings and then on through the summer and the fall. It’s a long year for us, and I prepare the same way I have since I’ve been here.”

On having a minicamp prior to the draft:

ALLEN: “I think it was great for us with the new coaching staff for them to be able to see the players that are coming back from the previous years. From the personnel standpoint, it was wonderful to see the new players performing in the burgundy and gold. As far as the draft, it really doesn’t do anything to the draft. Scott didn’t change any of his grades on the players who are in this upcoming draft based on what happened in our minicamp. They’ll have the same grades. It was very effective. I think it’s a great rule in the NFL that a new head coach gets that bonus minicamp, and for us, with the draft moving back as they did for a couple weeks, it allowed us to fit it in easier before the draft.”

On how Campbell builds his calendar and decides which prospects to visit during the season:

CAMPBELL: “Mainly, as I mentioned before, three weeks after the draft I’ll start getting ready for the next draft. That’s what the BLESTO service that we’re a part of, that’s where I’ll get scouting reports from our BLESTO service. From there, I pass it on to our area scouts that spend the summer with the names. I don’t give them the reports with the grades, but they will formulate our own grades from that list. My goal is to try to see the top 150 players in the country every year. That’s coast to coast, so I’m traveling over the top of these guys based off of our scouts combined with the BLESTO reports. Then, in terms of how I do the scheduling, it’s really a lot based off of school restrictions only letting you in certain times of the year. I’ll try to match those restrictions up with certain games that I want to see. I’m basically a ghost here at Redskins Park from the middle of August to after Thanksgiving.”

On how big of a role the Senior Bowl, the Combine and pro days play in the overall evaluation of players:

CAMPBELL: “All these things that are going on – the pro days, the Combine – they’re all parts of puzzle. They’re pieces of information that you add to confirm or maybe change your mind on certain players. I’ve always explained that the scouts do it differently than the coaches do because we go through the fall and scout these guys in person at practice and games, do the tape before they’ve done the pro days and the Combines. So, we’ve already formed some opinions on some players and then we start to gather the information – confirming this guy is fast, he’s not fast, he’s strong, he’s not strong as you get more information. But you don’t just go into the Combine and discover players there. I think you just you add it and cultivate it, and the pro days is the same thing.”

On integrating a new coaching staff into the scouting process:

CAMPBELL: “I think the biggest thing [is] you start to get a feel for what a new staff – particularly the head coach, the coordinators – what they like, what their systems are, what players fit their systems, what they’re looking for, and you gather that informally just talking to them in their offices. But you really find out, I found, through the draft meeting process and the free agency meeting process. When you’re actually together in the room as a group and you’re expressing your feelings about the players and they’re expressing their feelings, over and over and over, through time [those] relationships develop and you start to understand what’s important to Jay, to Sean [McVay] and Jim [Haslett]. It takes a little bit of time, but I think through the meeting process, you really get to zero in on what’s important to them.”

On if Campbell’s voice in the draft process has changed with the new coaching staff:

CAMPBELL: “I think it inspires the scouts and that’s exactly what you want – to be involved in the process. It’s not just about me. It’s about all the scouts getting together, us building a consensus Redskins grade at the very end along with when Jay gets involved and the coaches that we all feel good in the room that’s all come together and we’ve got that final Redskin grade and a player that we can be happy with.”

On how the change in coaching staff affected Campbell’s approach with players he scouted last season:

CAMPBELL: “To be honest with you, not very much. Having spent 27 years in the NFL and having a father that traveled around the country from stop to stop, one thing I’ve learned is you’ve got to evaluate the player and get all the information so that if something changes in your scheme for instance, if you go from a 4-3 to a 3-4, I have no control over that. You don’t want to say ‘Oh my gosh, I wasn’t even looking at 4-3 players.’ You evaluate all the players. You have all the information on them in terms of their pluses, their minuses, where they potentially could fit so that the adjustment would not be very hard at the end.”

The Draft Strategy

On the most important position to address:

ALLEN: “The draft is going to be a great way to add to the team. We’ve been active in free agency, so we feel there’s no gaping holes on the roster, but as we look at our team, we really look at where our roster is in 2015 and 2016 as well. It allows us the flexibility to make sure that we follow the draft board that’s been set up with everyone’s communication, so we’re not looking at a particular position as we address the draft.”

On how the players in this draft stack up to previous drafts:

CAMPBELL: “Well, I think a lot’s been documented and written in terms of this draft and it’s quite true when you start studying and talking about the depth of the draft. People have asked me which positions – obviously the receiver position jumps out in terms of  the depth and the quality not only at the top, there’s some premier guys at the very top, but I think on down through the whole draft, you’ve got quality players and not just at one specific position. I think it’s pretty good quality throughout. You certainly will feel good about the players you’re taking and the prospects there that will be there in the middle rounds.”

On if the team would like to acquire more picks:

ALLEN: “In theory, the answer is easily yes. Where we’re picking, and you can look at all the mock drafts that you want, I think the most mock drafts have probably the top 15 players that is all similar. When you get down to our neck of the woods, there’s great variation. If we have a player that has a first-round grade that falls to us, it will make us less likely to trade out of there. We have several players who have about the same grade on them and if that’s the case, and we get the opportunity, we would move.”

On the possibility of moving up:

ALLEN: “During the draft, and once again to follow up on the process, in the draft room, [Director of Pro Personnel] Morocco Brown and [Vice President of Football Administration] Eric Schaffer are involved in checking the temperature of other teams to see what trade possibilities are available. We’ll listen. I can’t imagine that there aren’t going to be other teams that have more picks that are going to be trying to get into the bottom of that first round than we have. So I think it’s unlikely, but we’ll listen to other people’s offers.”

On redefining characteristics Allen looks for in players and what he’s looking for in general:

ALLEN: “Where we were at at the end of year was well-documented, disappointing. What we’re looking for is people who love football and want to play football and want to win with the Washington Redskins. Whether it was in free agency or this draft, we’ve done a very good job, we feel, of digging into the heart and soul of the prospects. In free agency we feel good about it, and we’re hoping to add to this team through the draft with some other very hungry football players.”

On taking a less talented player over a more talented player if he has a “fire in his belly”:

ALLEN: “I think the ‘fire in the belly’ was for the head coach, mostly… We hope not. Scott can probably address it better, but the grade that a player has on him, his final grade, takes into consideration all of his physical talents and the desire that we feel that he has to play.”

On if the team will bring back previously suspended safety Tanard Jackson now that he is expected to be reinstated by the league:

ALLEN: “He’s been conditionally reinstated by the NFL. Later today, he’ll be taking his physical exam. If he meets all of those conditions that the NFL has laid out for him, and after meeting with him, we might give him a chance, yes.”

On how Jackson’s reinstatement will affect how the team looks at safeties in this year’s draft:

ALLEN: “No, it won’t affect the draft at all. When he was suspended, we understood he had to comply with a lot of rules and regulations that the league and the [NFL] Players Association have agreed to. I think it’s a compliment to him – I have not talked to him yet because he’s really not reinstated until later today – it’s a compliment that he still has a desire to play, so I look forward to talking to him and having the coaches talk to him.”

On if Allen could pick one position where he could draft someone to help the team:

ALLEN: “Great angle to come from, but any time you do that and say that you have one position – and we’ve had this dialogue in our draft rooms, conversations – you’re an injury away from having a need. It’s very comfortable to say that we have three quarterbacks, but you’re one injury away from needing a quarterback and it applies to every position. So we feel we’re going to be able to follow the draft board and go with the highest ranked player that we have. Obviously there’s going to be some ties and then you’ll lean toward a position that you might not have depth on for 2015 or ’16.”

On if the team will take the best player available:

ALLEN: “We’re going to pick the player who has the best grade understanding, as Scott said, if you select a receiver in the second round, there might be another receiver in the third round, in the fourth round, and I don’t think I’ve ever seen an NFL team draft seven rounds of the same position.”

On how Campbell evaluates defensive ends transitioning to outside linebacker:

CAMPBELL: “You factor some of that stuff in, but the most important part of converting a defensive end to outside backer or the outside backers that are already in a 3-4, the No. 1 priority [is] can they rush the passer? How athletic are they? From there, how strong are they against the run? And then probably third is how they are in coverage. You’ve been watching us, you’ve been watching the games – it’s limited in what the outside backers’ responsibilities are compared to the inside backers. That’s kind of how I rank the importance of each part of evaluating that position.”

On how clear cut the “best player available” approach is on draft day:

ALLEN: “Well, the arguments have really taken place already, although we were in a good debate with Jay, Scott, myself, yesterday, and trying to stack people. You can have several players and I’ll just say with a ‘B’ grade and they all have a ‘B’ grade but now you have to stack the ‘B’ players. All of the position coaches are great agents for their position and they’ll come around and – [Defensive Backs Coach] Raheem Morris is famous for campaigning and he might put a bumper sticker on my car in the morning and things like that. But really the debates have already taken place. It’ll be somebody once Scott has already stacked them on top of it of what player at that time fits us.”

General topics

Opening statement:

ALLEN: “Good morning, everyone. Part of today’s press briefing, we want you to know we have several hundred of our Redskin fans who are listening from home or at work to this press conference. We think it’s a new idea of a way to keep our fans involved and it’s my understanding that they’re going to be able to ask some questions… I’m not great on the technology, but they’re listening to us. Today we’re going to try to inform you on where we’re at today. We’re going to do our best job not to lie to anybody today [laughter]… If we mislead 31 other teams then it’s successful. With that, our draft process has been over the last few weeks somewhat intense, but I think with this extra time it sort of feels a little awkward because Scott and his group have been ready to go for some time. It’s allowed us to maybe do some double and tripling and quadruple checking of the talent, but I feel comfortable that Scott and his group have done a great job and have been able to inform all the coaches and other people on any questions we might have. Obviously the coaches have been involved in all the scouting meetings and we’re ready to go. With that, let’s try some questions.”

On if the team feels it is coming off a 3-13 season or feels like it is in a better situation:

ALLEN: “Well, that’s a fact, what you said, so that’s where we’re at. I believe we’ve added to this football team. The fact that we don’t have a first-round draft choice is because we have a quarterback. As you can read or see around this league, the search for quarterbacks is always the premier position. We feel good about where we’re at with Robert [Griffin III], especially getting an offseason in this year and working with our new coaches. We feel comfortable that all three of our quarterbacks [Griffin III, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy] can win a game for us.”

On if the team has received trade inquiries for quarterback Kirk Cousins:

ALLEN: “No, no conversations. As I said, we have three quarterbacks who can win for us and we’re happy to have Kirk on the team.”

On Allen saying previously he expected to have 20-25 new players on the roster this season and if that is reason for trepidation:

ALLEN: “No, I feel comfortable with that. When you change staffs in the NFL, that adds to the turnover. There’s new thoughts and new ideas and it’s a cleaner slate. Where we were at last year was based on a number of reasons. The talent that we brought in is talent that the personnel department wanted and the coaches wanted. I think if we can do well in this draft that having 25 new players is probably going to be a realistic accomplishment.”

On if the team pursued wide receiver DeSean Jackson because they would not have to pay the No. 2 overall pick:

ALLEN: “That didn’t factor in. Acquiring DeSean was just we saw a player we thought had rare talents and, unfortunately, we got to see those rare talents performed against us several times. He was just a good addition for our football team that we think can help us win games.”

On the recovery timetable for defensive end Stephen Bowen:

ALLEN: “The timetable hasn’t changed. We’re going to have a better feel probably later in June, but he is progressing well. He’s done everything that the doctors wanted him to do at this point in time and he’s here every day working his butt off.”

Redskins sign DeSean Jackson; take big risk with potential for huge reward

The first thing that pops up on search engines when you go to look for DeSean Jackson, newly signed wide receiver for the Washington Redskins is “DeSean Jackson gang signs”. The next thing you find is the litany of “addition by subtraction” columns by nonplussed Philadelphia sportswriters.

So this move isn’t without its share of inherent risk.

DeSean Jackson is an extremely talented football player. He’s got game-changing speed both in the passing and return games. He destroyed the Redskins at every opportunity — the Skins just didn’t (and still don’t) have anyone with the outright athleticism capable of guarding him. He’s impossible to defend on the outside in single coverage.

Jackson is a three-time Pro Bowl player and the first to be selected at two different positions in one season. In 2010 he was named as both a wide receiver and return specialist. He is 27 years old — in the absolute prime of his career.

So what’s the problem?

He is reported to be divisive, owns a bad attitude, an inconsistent work ethic and a lack of chemistry with Eagles second-year head coach Chip Kelly. On top of all that, some of his buddies from back home in L.A. are alleged gang members that have been connected to a pair of homicides in 2010.

In no report that I can find does it mention that Jackson had any involvement whatsoever in those homicides, or that Jackson’s association with these alleged gang members is anything more than casual.

Still, the associations with his buddies from home linger and cause a distraction whenever any discussion of Jackson is mentioned. Jackson has denied having any involvement in gang activities and is not currently under investigation (at least publicly) for any wrongdoings.

“I would like to make it very clear that I am not and never have been part of any gang,” Jackson said last week in a statement following the NJ.com story about his gang ties. “I am not a gang member and to speculate and assume that I am involved in such activity off the field is reckless and irresponsible. I work very hard on and off the field and I am a good person with good values.”

But the distraction lingers.

The distractions are so harsh that the Eagles simply waived Jackson last week, with no compensation whatsoever, rather than deal with the constant distractions. This is an organization that signed another player to a multi-year deal that was captured on video using a racial slur.

So this deal does not come without its share of inherent risk.

Skins GM Bruce Allen and new head coach Jay Gruden know what they are getting themselves into. There’s no ambiguity about the associated risk.

But the reward is potentially huge.

Jackson will pair with Pierre Garcon and free agent Andre Roberts to give the Skins a receiving corps unmatched in Washington since the days of the Fun Bunch and The Posse. Jackson himself is a singular talent in the bunch. He has averaged 17.2 yards per catch in his career. Let that sink in for just a second. The Skins haven’t had anyone average over 17 yards a catch in a season since 2005.

With Robert Griffin III having so many weapons available to him on the field, Gruden’s offense should find success spreading the ball around.

It’s up to Allen, Gruden and the rest of the Redskins front office to mitigate any off-the-field stuff that comes along in the package. What could possibly go wrong there?

Big risk. Huge reward.

Redskins fire Shanahan — Bruce Allen press conference transcript

“Has he taken a step back? He’s still one of the great fans.” Redskins GM Bruce Allen, on owner Daniel Snyder.

Washington Redskins general manager Bruce Allen met with reporters Monday afternoon after dismissing Mike Shanahan as head coach and releasing most of the coaching staff. Below is a transcript of his entire comments (courtesy Redskins Media Relations).

List of coaches not retained: Keith Burns (special teams), Larry Coyer (advance scout), Richmond Flowers (offensive quality control), Matt LaFleur (quarterbacks), Mike McDaniel (wide recievers), Kyle Shanahan (offensive coordinator), Bob Slowik (linebackers), Bobby Slowik (defensive assistant), Bobby Turner (associate head coach/running backs coach ), Aubrey Pleasant (offensive assistant), Richard Hightower (special teams assistant).

Executive Vice President/General Manager Bruce Allen

Opening statements:

“Good afternoon. Obviously this is a painful day for me and the organization. It is fitting though, after a painful season, that these type of press conferences and events happen.

“Four years ago we thought we did the right thing. We went out and met with Mike [Shanahan]. We wanted a proven coach who had a good record and we felt could lead our football team, and in discussions with Mike, he was always honest with us. He said he wanted to make sure he had the same type of control and staffing that he had in Denver and we agreed to that. Unfortunately today our results aren’t what we had hoped on that day, and that’s why we’re here.

“Today [Owner] Dan [Snyder], Mike and I met at 9:00 and we relieved Mike of his duties. It was a cordial, professional meeting. We talked about the future of the team and the direction that we both want it to go. After that I’ve been meeting with all the assistant coaches individually and telling them of their status. Later today [Senior Vice President] Tony [Wyllie] will give you a list of coaches who have also been relieved of their duties. The other coaches will depend on the next head coach – if they fit into the schemes and the system that the new head coach wants to implement. Later today I’m going to meet with a couple more of our staff members and we’re going to start to formalize the coaching search.

“I know there’s been speculation throughout the last weeks and maybe even months about what is going to happen and the reason we waited until now versus all of the previous comments of if we were going to make a change during the season was because we wanted Mike to have the ability to right the ship. We wanted to end that losing streak. For every play on this team and for everybody in the organization, for every fan out there, we wanted to get a win. We came close in the last few weeks, but as is the frustration over the last four years, we played some good quarters, some good halves, but we didn’t play complete games.

“As I said a moment ago, our head coaching search will start tonight. Because of league rules, we’re not going to try and publicize who we’re going to try and talk to. I know there’s going to be rumors out there as we meet people, and we’re going to try and keep you updated on a regular basis. We’re going to try and do this as quickly as possible, but more importantly we want to do it correctly. We want to pick the right coach, the right leader for this franchise that can inspire this football team, that can lead this team and teach them the fundamentals that are so critical in the game, who understands the value of time, because in the NFL right now time is really, really critical to manage. You don’t have much time in the offseason with the players. You don’t have much time during training camp with players. So to understand the value of that time is going to be important, and to have someone with some urgency to accomplish the goals that we’re looking for for this franchise.

“To sit here and talk about Mike Shanahan leaving us is difficult because we’re all 3-13. We accept that. We understand it. The Washington Redskins will win and lose as a football team. Period. That’s who we are, and we understand some of the mistakes that were made and we are going to take the next several months and figure out all the mistakes that were made in order to learn from them. [Cornerback] Josh Wilson gave me a great Christmas present, pretty telling, it was a book and it said ‘Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.’ We learned too much this year, maybe, but we’ve got to learn to go in the right direction and that’s what we’re going to do.”

On who will have control over player personnel moving forward:

“The control will be mine, and it will be working with our personnel department. The personnel department of [Director of Player Personnel] Scott Campbell and [Director of Pro Personnel] Morocco Brown actually do a very good job at what they do. We are going to redefine some of the characteristics that we’re looking for in players. Obviously when we have a new head coach there will be some schematic adjustments that we will make, but that power will be with me.”

On the reports and rumors around the franchise late in the season:

“Part of that was – let me use the right word – distasteful to hear. Within in the Redskins — and I do like that the players say it’s on us, it is on us, it’s on all of us from people in the front office to people on the football field to people in the locker room, it is on us — and to see those anonymous sources and the back-biting and different comments, I think it’s very important to know that a lot of it was untrue, but at the same time it was distasteful. Any coach, any organization knows in pro sports you need to eliminate distractions. Instead we created our own distractions and it distracted from our play on the field and we will do our best to alleviate any of those issues in the future.”

On if they will redefine front office roles:

“No, we’re going to keep everybody in their role and we’re going to make sure they can focus on their job that they have to do. They’ll be involved in the interview process. They will be involved as they have been in talking to some of the coaches today. We feel comfortable with them. It doesn’t mean we might not add somebody to the personnel department, but we feel we have a good personnel department that has been interviewed for other positions and we’re comfortable with it now.”

On if the next head coach has to be someone that has won as a head coach before:

“It really is an open list. It will have NFL coaches, it will have college coaches on it. Some have head coaching experience, some don’t, and I’m really looking forward to meeting some of the people who I haven’t met yet. I’ve seen them from afar and I want to hear what their dreams are, what they can do, the fire in their belly to coach the Washington Redskins, to inspire the kids on this football team.”

On reports of fractured relationships within the organization:

“That’s part of the rumors that are out there. Mike has always been professional and we always had an easy dialogue when discussing issues. I don’t think there was a fractured relationship. I think that the intensity of trying to do the right thing all the time maybe was too much for everyone at times, but I think the relationship was good, as it was in our meeting this morning. Mike and Dan have a very good relationship as people, and I think that’s going to continue in the future.”

On if he is concerned about instability after another coaching change:

“In the NFL right now, stability is a strange word. I think we need to put that up at a league meeting, ‘What is stability?’ There’s eight head coaching changes last year, eight the year before, no reason to believe there might not be eight again. Last year half the offensive coordinators in the NFL changed teams, so I think we’ve had a pretty good run with four years. Unfortunately, three of the years were losing records and those are the results. The great thing about sports is we play with a scoreboard. We don’t have to wait for a quarterly report to tell us how we did in sales or any of that. We know immediately, and the distasteful and the painful part was we were 3-13. We lost 13 times.”

On if continuity not breeding success is a problem that goes deeper than the head coaching position:

“No, not at all. You can look at teams that turn around in one year — I think the greatest example is Philadelphia and Kansas City — [Kansas City] Coach [Andy] Reid did a great job with the Chiefs. He just left Philly and they didn’t perform well but the new coach came in and led them to the division title. If we find the right person, we will have the stability that we all want in the NFL.”

On if the team is better off now than it was before hiring Shanahan:

“In ways, yes. The frustration of the season is there is a nucleus for success. We saw it. We saw it just a year ago. And the nucleus is here, and we have some of the right foundational principles to win. We just have to learn to take advantage of all 60 minutes in a game and close the deal. We had way too many giveaways this year. I don’t think there’s anything that speaks to our season as much as our first-quarter record. We had the worst in the league net point differential, minus-79 points, in the first quarter, so obviously that made the games even more painful when you’re trying to come from behind at times. I feel we have an opportunity because of the nucleus of the team, the spirit of the team. I think through all of the different issues that came up this year – some true, some untrue – the team did stick together. The core of this team believes in each other.”

On when the decision to relieve Shanahan was made:

“I would say probably after the Dallas game it was near 99 percent, but the most important thing after the Dallas game was to try and beat the Giants, and we felt that Mike and his staff gave us the best chance to beat the Giants the next week. Unfortunately that didn’t happen and that’s why we’re here today.”

On why fans should believe the next head coach will succeed after previous coaches have not:

“I can’t speak for the prior years. I can speak for Mike’s years, and Dan was very supportive of all of Mike’s wishes and ideas, as he has with the different thoughts that I’ve had from time to time. This is the Washington Redskins. This is a very high-profile team. When the Dallas Cowboys or the Washington Redskins are in first place it’s a lot of news, and when they’re in last place it’s a lot of news. I think coming into this environment, knowing that there is a nucleus, I think it will be a very attractive position to coaches.”

On if he learned anything specific from mistakes made in his time here:

“We met this morning in the personnel department to make sure that we documented every pick that we’ve made and we’ve documented every free agent that we’ve discussed or gave a bad grade to that is performing well right now in the NFL. So we’re studying the personnel at this point.”

On how responsible he feels for this season and the record over the last four years:

“I feel very responsible. I think I said that at the beginning that everyone here feels responsible, and in my position it’s what creates the pain because I can see where we want to go, I can feel where we want to go, and I know that the players have that same drive. So I feel responsible for it. We’re all accountable for our record. That’s the great thing, once again, about sports. I’m 3-13 as is Tony Wyllie over here.”

On what the head coaching job has to offer to candidates:

“As I just said a little bit earlier, the attractiveness of coming to one of the flagship franchises in the NFL is exciting to coaches. The coaching profession is one that I have tremendous respect for and I think it has some of the highest highs and some of the lowest lows of any profession out there, and sometimes you find coaches who can’t wait to have a tough situation of taking over a last-place team. I think if you would ask coaches a lot of times would you want to take over a first-place team or a last-place team, in football, they’d say last place. Unfortunately we’re there, but I do think it’s going to be a great opportunity for a coach.”

On his role in the organization moving forward:

“My job is to put the Washington Redskins organization on the right track and to continue to build the foundation for this team to win and it is my job to find the next head coach for the Washington Redskins.”

On if his role will include control over personnel decisions:

“That’s all part of it.”

On if he will be looking for specific offensive or defensive schemes in the new coach:

“I think I’m going to look for the person who can describe what they want to do the best. It could be a 4-3, it could be a 3-4. It’s the person who has the understanding and the knowledge of what he wants to teach the players. As I said at the beginning, we’re going to look for someone who is a leader first and it could be on the offensive side of the ball, defense or special team. There have been a couple special teams coaches who have made great head coaches. We’re going to keep an open mind and look forward to them telling us how they’re going to make the Washington Redskins successful – have that fire in the belly that I discussed about being excited and what they can do to make the Redskins win.”

On how much Snyder’s involvement has changed in recent years:

“Once again, it’s tough for me to discuss what he did before I came here, because I wasn’t here. He’s been very supportive of everything we’ve wanted to do. Has he taken a step back? He’s still one of the great fans. I think – and I’ve seen some of the reports, if you knew how much Dan Snyder wants to win – I mean, he wants to win more than life itself – and he has given us the support and the resources to do what we think is necessary to help us win. It showed a year ago and this year it didn’t, but it’s our job to do the execution. It’s not Dan calling the plays. It’s not Dan picking the players. It’s the people he’s hired, it’s our job to actually turn this team into a winner.”

On his reasoning for not restructuring the front office:

“I see some people who have to be given an opportunity to succeed. I think Scott Campbell running a college draft will be as capable as any personnel director in the NFL. I know what Morocco Brown can do in free agency. I’ve seen the grades of the players he’s given in free agency. To blame them, I think, would be unfair to not giving them an opportunity to succeed. Our front office will win and lose as the team does. We believe that we have the right people in place. You saw it last year. This year, you saw – not the complete opposite, because we lost eight versus winning seven in a row. We’re very confident where we’re going to go with them.”

On if something is inherently wrong after finishing in last place in five out of the last six seasons:

“Not in the NFL. Not in sports. I can’t change history. You’d like to, but you can’t change history. It’s all about today and where we’re going in the future. I think when we provide the right type of leadership, the right type of foundation for a new coach and a new team, that’s what’s going to matter. I can’t change what happened yesterday. We are going to have the chance to change the future and that’s what our task is and we look forward to it.”

Closing statement:

“It is a difficult day. In talking to the coaches, it’s very painful, and I respect all the work that they put into it, but the results weren’t there. It’s now our job today with the nucleus that we have to change our fortunes in the future and we think we can do that. I want to thank you, and as I said, we’re going to try and keep you updated during this process so the fans know what we’re doing with the coaching search. Thank you.”

Washington Redskins GM Bruce Allen fires back at NFL in light of cap docking

Monday afternoon, the NFL issued a statement that the Washington Redskins would be docked $36 million against the salary cap over the next two years as a result of front-loaded contracts during the uncapped season of 2010. Later Monday, Washington Redskins GM Bruce Allen issued the following statement:

“The Washington Redskins have received no written documentation from the NFL concerning adjustments to the team salary cap in 2012 as reported in various media outlets. Every contract entered into by the club during the applicable periods complied with the 2010 and 2011 collective bargaining agreements and, in fact, were approved by the NFL commissioner’s office. We look forward to free agency, the draft and the coming football season.” [Read more…]

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