The Washington Redskins are 4-16 in their last 20 games — that is bad. I laid the blame on a few key members of the organization to provide context for what we are trying to do here: Fix the team without changing the ownership.
However, it is the hardest thing to do. Bad ownership doesn't go away easily, and it trickles down into bad decision making with hires, picks and signings. The Redskins have drafted their rookie (and franchise) quarterback without much cost of future draft capital and set for a rebuild while simultaneously stepping into the development phase of team-building. With a healthy amount of space — and a lot more to garner with some good contract decisions — Washington is well positioned to add talent and be competitive in a floundering NFC East.
But first, the Redskins have to get the right head coach.
Head Coaching Search
I don’t have to justify firing the head coach. It has already been done, and we can move on to the options that should be available to Washington.
Ex-Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer
Urban Meyer is the ideal candidate. No, he has never coached at the NFL level. Yes, he is going to be sought after by every blue-chip college program and will have his pick of jobs for the foreseeable future. But Meyer must be approached as this team’s first option because he is the one coach in the breadth of possibilities that will work well with a young starting quarterback
Dwayne Haskins is what matters here: nothing else. Rumors swirled Jay Gruden never wanted Haskins, and if that is true, Gruden was fired the moment Haskins was drafted. You cannot have a head coach who is not invested in maximizing a rookie QB. It is the quickest path downhill and why the Redskins are picking third overall right now.
Meyer recruited Haskins, coached Haskins and broke Drew Brees’ Big Ten record for most passing touchdowns (40) with Haskins.
Meyer is also a big money draw for the ownership — that matters for Dan Snyder, no two ways about it — and has a massive base of existing NFL players who he has generated a relationship with on the recruiting trail and in Ohio.
The primary concern is likely his assistant coaching staff. He will need to be paired with defensive coaches with NFL tenure, and while Meyer is respected he is not going to have the same NFL coaching connections of a more veteran assistant coach or coordinator. How much does will that really concern Washington relative to the advantage of maximizing Haskins?
Ohio State head coach Ryan Day
Ryan Day has also been with Haskins, maximized him and built an offense for him. He does not have the allure and tenure of Meyer, and with only one year of head coaching experience at the college level, the Redskins would be taking a huge risk on a young guy. But the best hires are big risks on young guys, and Washington has been hiring NFL redux for years — it might time for new blood.
While Day is not my second call after Meyer, he is one of the top coaches in the college ranks and will likely be one for the next several years.
Kansas City offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy
You can’t blame the Redskins for looking for an Andy Reid disciple. He ripped up their franchise for 15 years as head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, and his previous offensive coordinator is now doing much of the same. Doug Pederson and Matt Nagy have both delivered for their teams as head coaches following schooling in the Reid offense, and now the Redskins are reportedly interested in the most recent study: Eric Bieniemy.
Bieniemy would bring space and pace that should maximize the current athletes. His spread approach will have familiar archetypes to what Haskins ran at Ohio State, but the roster is going to need some help. Washington will need more athletic linemen to execute the screen game, and at least two, if not three, new wide receivers to get the requisite speed to win in space and one-on-one match-ups.
All we really know about Bieniemy is he comes from a tremendous tree and there are positive examples of Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinators translating well. In terms of hiring an NFL X’s and O’s guy, you can’t get much better. What is he like as a leader and communicator? How will he integrate with the front office? These are the questions the Redskins will try to answer in interviews.
Three Contracts To Renew
Guard Brandon Scherff
This is the big 'un, right?
Brandon Scherff is going to get paid in the offseason, and he knows it. Scherff reportedly denied an extension from the Redskins over the summer and the gambit paid off. When the Eagles made Brandon Brooks the highest-paid guard in November, they set a benchmark for Scherff's camp. He passed up about $13 million per year, and Brooks went up to $15 million per year — Scherff will push for that, or more.
Has Scherff been as good as Brooks, or Zack Martin who is at roughly $14 million a season? Not recently, but the body of Scherff's work is tough to argue with. He has been one of the NFL’s top guards over his five-year career and will become the priority for protecting Haskins next season.
Spotrac sets Scherff's value at less than $13 million, which I think is optimistic. I expect him to demand at least $14 million on the open market. The Redskins should have over $50 million in cap space available in the immediate 2020 timeframe, so they can bear that load — and they should. Scherff is the best free agent they can sign this year, and elite guards are very impactful.
Guard Ereck Flowers
Ereck Flowers? Ereck Flowers indeed.
The greatest argument for retaining Bill Callahan on the staff in any capacity is the growth and development of a seeming first-round bust in Flowers.
Flowers, the top-10 pick at tackle for the New York Giants in 2015, has floundered on the outside for multiple seasons, but a kick into guard at Washington has completely revitalized his career.
He has enjoyed his best season for the Redskins — at times playing better games than anyone else on the line. He should keep a tether on the starting job if he is brought back at a relatively cheap price point unable to succeed anywhere other than where he is right now.
I never thought Flowers would be getting a second contract, but here we are.
Defensive tackle Tim Settle
I struggled with this one: I think Jon Bostic, Vernon Davis and Chris Thompson were all options here but I landed on Tim Settle.
Over the last few weeks, Settle has taken roughly 30 percent of the snaps, which isn’t a starter’s role, but he is the only viable backup to Da’Ron Payne at the nose. Treyvon Hester was an Eagles practice-squad player and Caleb Brantley was a Cleveland Browns bust.
Settle is able to eat space on the interior when Payne needs to leave the field, which protects Washington from putting guys like Jonathan Allen into the interior when he is better outside of the guards. Settle is not a bank-breaker, but he is good in the role he needs to bein. I think he will be easily secured.
One to let go
Josh Norman: Pay him $15.5 million to be bad, or cut him for $12.5 million. Any other questions?
Three Free Agents to Sign
Robby Anderson (TDN Analyst Kyle Crabbs)
Robby Anderson, who seems to always be on the trade market and is never valued by NFL teams as he is valued by the New York Jets, may finally escape the thumb of Adam Gase. If he does, he will be a hot commodity — speed threats and deep ball specialists always are — and the Redskins should certainly be interested.
Anderson wins in much the same way as Terry McLaurin does: speed, looseness and ball-tracking. But McLaurin has a route-running ability that Anderson doesn’t, which allows him to be more impactful in the intermediate areas of the field. Anderson helps unlock McLaurin, who doesn’t need to be the designated deep threat and run out of gas by the fourth quarter.
Bradley Roby (TDN Analyst Joe Marino)
I love this one from Joe Marino.
The Redskins haven’t had a traditional and effective nickelback since Kyle Fuller left in the Alex Smith trade, and they desperately need help over slot receivers. Bradley Roby has been a boon for a Houston Texans secondary that has been decimated by departures in recent years. His skill may drive up his price tag to a point the Texans don’t feel they can keep — they have the money for the secondary, but you never know.
If he is available, Washington should use the money it will save from cutting Norman to potentially go after him, either working him on the outside or in the nickel depending on how the Redskins draft.
Eric Ebron (TDN Analyst Benjamin Solak)
Both Jordan Reed and Vernon Davis are entering free agency, and both continue to deal with health issues heading into their mid-30s. Jeremy Sprinkle, a Day-3 pick in 2017, has been Washington’s starter for much of the season. While he isn’t awful, he isn’t a TE1.
Eric Ebron has not much been at that position in the past year or so — the Indianapolis Colts locked up Jack Doyle before they addressed Ebron — but he does have better receiving ability than Sprinkle. Ebron doesn’t need to be a world-beater, and won’t be signed to a large contract as one, but he should bring a more dynamic option to the position.
The Redskins are out their second-round pick this year as a result of the Montez Sweat trade, so their first-round selection matters a lot. If they don't get it right, they will be hard-pressed to find a starter at all in this class — even with the quality draft they put out last year in the late rounds.