If you want a good look at what's going on inside the mind of Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden these days, look at what's going on with his new coordinators.
The Redskins, following a rather lengthy interview process, have reportedly promoted linebacker coach Greg Manusky to defensive coordinator.
This choice came more than two weeks after the Redskins passed on retaining Joe Barry, who served as coordinator for a defense that ranked 28th last season, and following several interviews with potential candidates. Manusky, sporting a resume that includes three previous stints as defensive coordinator and one season on Gruden's coaching staff, was the only in-house option interviewed. The NFL Network first reported the Manusky promotion.
This would mean both new coordinators were with the team last season. Quarterback coach Matt Cavanaugh is expected to take over as offensive coordinator following Sean McVay's exit to becomes head coach for the Los Angeles Rams.
We can all argue if promoting from within is a better move than bringing in new blood and no doubt we will. Some won't like the retread aspect seeing as Cavanaugh and Manusky have both served as coordinator for multiple NFL teams. There's certainly no buzz with these choices. There's no debate over the need for more talent on defense.
Such discussions would bury the lead.
Jay Gruden, it would appear, knows this is his win-or-else season and he's not looking for exotic choices off the menu. It's all about comfort.
Technically Gruden's five-year, $25 million contract expires after the 2018 season, but typically a head coach doesn't reach lame duck status. Extension or pink slip. Washington is coming off back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since the 1990's. It also didn't make the playoffs. Should the same fate befall the Redskins in 2017, then Gruden would have missed the postseason in three out of four seasons. Whether you take a 30,000 foot view of the situation or breakdown the details from ground level, that specific detail more likely leads to asking ESPN if they'd like a second Gruden as analyst.
Don't expect notable changes with the offensive plan seeing as 1) It's Gruden's and 2) the Redskins ranked third in yards and 12th in scoring last season. The real question with Cavanaugh involves who serves as play-caller. The head coach has so much happening that focusing heavily on play calling is viewed by some as simply too much for one man. It arguably was when Gruden did both jobs in 2014. McVay took over the past two seasons. Seeing as the red-zone attack rarely sizzled - 29th in the NFL - and the run-pass balance wasn't always optimal, it's not unimaginable to think Gruden wants back in or at the very least becomes even more hands on.
As for the high-energy Manusky, 50, maybe he's the default choice once Wade Phillips and Gus Bradley passed. Maybe they passed because Gruden's future beyond this season is uncertain. Maybe he's the right choice regardless.
Manusky also meets the requirements of entering the job without training wheels, though his previous rankings as coordinator are rather middling. He also enters a second straight season in Ashburn, familiarity with what's happening. Gruden is tasked with overseeing everything, but he'll make his mark on offense, assuming pending free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins returns*. With Manusky as opposed to an outside hire like Mike Pettine or Rob Ryan, there's no need to catch up on the players, the culture.
(* If Cousins isn't back, logic suggests Gruden should ask for an extension or exit immediately.)
He's also not a hot head coaching candidate who upper management might see as a viable alternative should Washington start slow next season, though Manusky and general manager Scot McCloughan have ties dating back to their days with San Francisco.
Neither of these reported promotions are sexy headline grabbers. That's not what comfort is all about, but in his win-or-else season, that's what Jay Gruden seemingly desires.