What's stopping Gruden from firing Greg Manusky

Chris Lingebach
September 18, 2019 - 10:22 am

Miscommunications in the Redskins secondary continue to yield big gains for opposing offenses. The defensive line isn't generating the pass rush expected of a unit that's been awarded three first-round picks in as many years.

Something is amiss along Jay Gruden's staff, a point clear enough that Gruden himself even admitted as much after Sunday's loss to the Cowboys.

Via Craig Hoffman: "We have a talented group on defense, and we're not reaching them," Jay Gruden said in what is a pretty self-damning quote about he and his staff. "We have to play better and we will play better. We have 14 games left and a lot of football to play."

The Sports Junkies on Wednesday discussed with JP Finlay of NBC Sports Washington the possibility that Gruden decides to make a change in season, or if he even could. That conversation revealed some telling aspects about the current construction of Gruden's staff.

"I keep asking, JP. Can Jay fire Manusky himself?" Eric Bickel asked. "Let's say they lose this week. Can Jay fire him himself?"

"I think he can," Finlay said. "I don't think he would."

"Are they tight?" Bickel asked.

"I don't know that they're tight, but I think they work together well and, I mean, Jay hired him and kept him," Finlay said. "Think about: We know who was calling in Todd Bowles for the interview – it wasn't Jay Gruden. And we know who was flirting with Gregg Williams – it wasn't Jay Gruden."

"I don't know that Jay wanted to make a big name replacement at d-coordinator," he said. "I think he likes having Manusky there, somebody that he doesn't have to look over his shoulder towards."

"I think a lot of the A.P. situation is Jay's extreme frustration with the front office," Finlay continued. "And I think there are lots of little squabbles like that all over that building right now. But if Jay wanted to get rid of his d-coordinator, you would think he has the autonomy to do so. I don't think he will."

"It seems like he's laying the foundation," Bickel chimed, "with some of his comments."

"I think if that move happens, it's coming from higher up," Finlay said.

So what might it take for a coaching change of some sort to occur, who's the first to go, and who's in line for a promotion? The Redskins, it's worth remembering, have multiple coaches on their defensive staff with coordinator experience.

"The concern is that (defensive line coach Jim) Tomsula came back because of Manusky and that he would leave if Manusky gets fired," Finlay said. "Honestly, if you get to 0-5, on some level, what difference does it make? I know the young defensive linemen love Jim Tomsula, but if you're 0-5 and your season's shot, and they feel that you've got to make a change at d-coordinator... I don't know that Tomsula would leave in season, because he's also really close with those players he's coached now for three years.

"But I think if Manusky goes, I think you've got Ray Horton might be your leading candidate. You can also go with Rob Ryan. If Tomsula stays, you can try to promote him, but I know that he wouldn't want to deal with kind of the media obligations that come with being the d-coordinator. They have experienced guys on that staff."

Finlay wondered whether it's by design that Gruden's hired defensive coordinators who "do not fit the profile of potential head coaches." 

"You can go back all the way to Jay's first year when he hired Joe Barry over Wade Phillips," he said. "Jay Gruden – whether or not he's done this on purpose, and I would think he probably has – he has hired guys that do not fit the profile of potential head coaches as his defensive coordinators.

"And, in a way, that gives him a little bit of protection that, hey, you're not gonna fire the head coach to make that guy that head coach, because certainly you're not gonna make Greg Manusky the head coach at this point."

"Now, maybe you could go with Bill Callahan, and Kevin O'Connell gets promoted," he added. "Then you look at like a Browns scenario, where it was Gregg Williams for a year and then Freddie Kitchens gets the job. That wouldn't shock me that that kind of thing happened in D.C., and you're looking at Kevin O'Connell next year."

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