With the Washington Redskins firing former Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry today — along with the defensive line coach, secondary coach and strength and conditioning coach — speculation has already begun on who should and will take over as the head of Washington’s defense. Let’s have a look at some of the early names being bandied about.
NOTE: While some media outlets have suggested names like Paul Guenther and/or Vic Fangio, that is extremely unlikely to happen. Guenther has stated his intention to return to Cincinnati in 2017 and Fangio’s job in Chicago appears to be safe.
Gus Bradley – He succeeded brilliantly as the defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks, but his tenure in Jacksonville as head coach of the Jaguars was mostly disastrous, as the team was terrible every single year. However, in 2016, it was the offense that failed, with the defense improving significantly to a ranking of sixth overall, yielding only 321.7 yards per game. (The Redskins defense was ranked 28th overall, giving up 377.9 yards per game.) Some Jaguars players felt Bradley’s system constrained them, but it certainly worked well in 2016 and the Seahawks players were mostly very enthusiastic about Bradley. There is a connection with the Redskins, in that Bradley ran the defense in Seattle while Redskins GM Scott McCloughan was a senior assistant in the front office. A complication is that it is widely reported that Bradley will be the defensive coordinator for Anthony Lynn, if Lynn gets a head coaching job with the Buffalo Bills or anywhere else.
Greg Manusky – In addition to being a former Redskins inside linebacker and the current coach of outside linebackers in Washington, Manusky was the defensive coordinator in San Francisco while McCloughan was the GM. The 49ers had some good defenses under Manusky, so if the Skins decide they want a change, but also some continuity on their defensive staff, Manusky could get the job. He does have experience.
Wade Phillips – The man many Redskins fans wanted to coach the defense in 2015, Phillips seemed almost equally enamored with the idea of taking the job. However, Gruden passed over Phillips, who went on to coach one of the greatest defenses in recent years with the Denver Broncos. Even though Denver fell from Super Bowl champs to 9-7 and out of the playoffs in 2016, Phillips still coached his players to the 4th-ranked overall defense in the NFL. He’s been coaching in the NFL since 1976 so he isn’t a young man, but he can coach the 3-4, as well as pretty much anything else you can throw at him. No defensive mind in the NFL has more knowledge and experience than Phillips, who appears ready to leave Denver with the retirement of head coach Gary Kubiak. Hiring Phillips would be enormously popular with the Washington fan base, but it might also be the smart thing to do. An additional factor here is that Phillips’ son Wes is the tight end coach for Washington.
Rex Ryan — He is loud and proud, loves attention and very much wants a new head coaching job that he won’t get in 2017. For those reasons alone the Skins may shy away from Ryan, who would probably generate more attention than head coach Jay Gruden. Ryan’s defenses have been inconsistent as of late and he has not made the playoffs since 2010. However, he has led some truly superb defenses in the past and he knows how to coach the 3-4 defense, which is the base defense in Washington.
Steve Wilks – Secondary coach for the Carolina Panthers, Wilks, who is African-American, has been an NFL coach since 2005, when he spent one season on the staff of Joe Gibbs. Wilks was promoted to assistant head coach in Carolina in 2015, just before the Panthers’ 15-1 season. He also helped develop Josh Norman from a little-known draft pick into a star cornerback. Things went south for the Panthers defense in 2016, but it is hard to blame Wilks, who had to coach three rookies as his top cornerbacks.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 5, 2017
A complicating factor is that Wilks is so highly-regarded that he might get a head coaching job. Even if he does not, Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott might get a head coaching job and Wilks would be the overwhelming candidate to replace him in Carolina.