Redskins are Horton's 'never say never' chance

Brian Tinsman
January 24, 2019 - 10:48 pm
Source: Eric Schaffer one team's lead candidate for president of football ops.

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The Washington Redskins made a seasoned addition to the coaching staff on Thursday, officially welcoming Ray Horton as the new defensive backs coach.

Horton was a one-time hot name in the head coaching interview line, and brings 23 years of coaching experience and playing or coaching experience in five Super Bowls.

You can learn all of that from the team's press release and he has yet to talk to the media. So why did he choose to come here?

The Redskins are coming off a season in which the secondary melted down in the second half, with the team cutting outspoken safety D.J. Swearinger who was a Pro Bowl alternate. Top cornerback Josh Norman fellow safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix might also end up elsewhere this offseason. Montae Nicholson will almost certainly miss time after allegedly assaulting a man in Ashburn. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky recently sat in on interviews of candidates that could replace him. 

To put it lightly, this is not an enviable job.

The likeliest possibility is that Horton loves football and the Redskins were the only team calling. Last January, he interviewed with the Cowboys and left without a job. The Redskins could be Horton's last chance, and what a fitting place to do it.

Horton got his first NFL coaching job as the assistant defensive backs coach in Washington as a member of Norv Turner's staff in 1994. That was a different time, under a different coach, owner and general manager. Darrell Green isn't coming back and almost no one in the entire organization remains from that era. 

But Horton knows how to make an impression. He did so Pittsburgh, where, as a parting gesture before joining the Cardinals' coaching staff, he gifted his Mercedes to the team cook, Maurice “Mo” Matthews. 

"My philosophy is you take care of people who take care of you," Horton told Cleveland.com. "(Matthews) was a guy who would travel to (Steelers) road games on his own. ... He was the kind of employee that you’d want representing your team, whether it was the President, the CEO or the owner. And he happened to be one of our cooks.

"It was just something I thought would mean so much more to him than it would if I traded the car in to get a new one or something like that."

Horton seems like a genuinely nice guy, but can he make the Redskins a better team? That remains to be seen.

As a defensive coordinator, Horton had mixed results in stops in Cleveland, Tennessee and Arizona. In Washington, he'll focus on stopping opposing passing game, which is his area of expertise. As a secondary coach for the Steelers, Lions and Bengals, Horton's defenses had three top-five finishes in passing yards. 

The Redskins finished 18th against the pass last season and could completely retool the secondary this offseason. That's a tall coaching task, even with good players.

The NFL culture expects long hours, and Horton values time management in all aspects of life. While serving as a defensive coordinator in Tennessee, he coached the defense and ran the defensive scout team (running the opponents' defense) in practice. During the 2011 NFL lockout, he finished his pilot's license and spends the offseason playing golf and flying around.

After a season away from the game, Horton should be well rested. He didn't sound happy with retirement last summer, telling the Seattle Times: "I think I am retired, but you never say never."

The Redskins are Horton's "never say never" opportunity. Horton could be the Redskins' only addition to the defensive coaching staff. 

Let's hope Horton doesn't regret his stance on "never."

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