In Nov. 1989, the Philadelphia Enquirer published an article about a Mohawk-sporting, 23-year-old, special teams “bomb-squadder” that had recently taken over as the Redskins’ starting middle linebacker in the wake of an injury to Neil Olkewicz, who had been the incumbent starter for more than a decade.
That player—the one that approached “every down in a snarling rage,” hitting himself in the head with his forearm after missed tackles—was Greg Manusky, who the Redskins hired as an outside linebackers coach on Jan. 22. Manusky’s football zealotry hasn’t waned much in the quarter century since the 1989 season, and general manager Scot McCloughan believes his enthusiasm will serve the Redskins linebacking corps well.
"He’s a great guy. He’s half-crazy. He’s perfect for the position,” McCloughan said Wednesday while speaking to reporters at the Senior Bowl.
Head coach Jay Gruden didn’t have an outside linebackers coach on his staff last season. Defensive coordinator Joe Barry and linebackers coach Kirk Olivadotti, who will coach the inside backers this season, worked with all four linebacker positions in Barry’s 3-4 scheme.
McCloughan expects the linebackers to benefit from the new coaching position not only because Manusky, 51, is the right man for the job but also because it affords the players more individual attention. Olivadotti and Manusky can work with a sharper degree of specificity among the particular subset of linebackers under their tutelage.
It took outside linebacker Preston Smith some time to find his footing during his rookie season. As the season went on, he continued gaining momentum. He became a major force for the Redskins defense, particularly as it pertains to the pass rush. Smith went on to record eight sacks, two more than any other rookie in the league. McCloughan believes that the addition of Manusky could be especially beneficial for Smith’s continued development.
“As a rookie just figuring it out, it’s not easy for those guys,” McCloughan said. “Being able to have a coach that can work with him, especially that we hired Manusky now, [Smith]’s just going to keep going and going.”
This won’t be the first time McCloughan and Manusky have worked together. Both were with the San Francisco 49ers—McCloughan as general manager and Manusky as defensive coordinator—from 2008-10. Manusky spent the 2011 as the San Diego Charger’s defensive coordinator before moving on to hold the same position with the Indianapolis Colts. He was fired on Jan. 5 after four seasons.
“I was very lucky to be with him for a couple years in San Fran as a D-Coordinator,” McCloughan said. “He had success in Indy before he came to us … he’s another guy that’s going to, every day, show up and help guys become better football players and better men."
Manusky may be the newest addition to Gruden’s coaching staff, but he’s no stranger to the Redskins organization. In addition to spending the first three seasons of his 12-year playing career with the Redskins from 1988-90, he held his first coaching position with the team as a linebackers coach in 2001.
Dan Roth is a freelance sportswriter and Breaking Burgundy contributor. Follow Dan on Twitter @danrothdc.
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