Chris Russell Chris Russell


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Redskins Hope to Fuel Secondary with Fewell
by Chris Russell
Jan 27, 2015 -- 5:31pm
ESPN 980

An off-season of change at Redskins Park  continued on Tuesday when ESPN 980 and other media outlets reported that former New York Giants Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell was hired as the new defensive backs coach under Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry and Head Coach Jay Gruden. 

Fewell replaces Raheem Morris who next week will reportedly become the new Defensive Coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons and Dan Quinn. Quinn is currently preparing the Seahawks defense for the Super Bowl while Atlanta secures a staff for him. 
Morris and Quinn have a relationship dating back to their days on the Hofstra coaching staff and are both from New Jersey. 
The Redskins and Falcons have not confirmed any of these transactions, becaue of NFL rules and procedure. 
Jordan Raanan of first reported the story on Monday that Fewell was meeting with the Redskins and  joined me on ESPN 980 that evening to discuss Fewell's style. 
"Perry Fewell is a great guy, a really good guy. Very personable..a really bubbly personality, has a ton of energy, always smiling kind of deal and players really like playing for him," Raanan told me on ESPN 980. "Players really respect him." 
"They had their problems and they were shot by injuries, but they always played for him. Perry Fewell is a great teacher.... I think this an ideal spot for him to be a position coach. "
Fewell, a former coordinator and interim head coach with the Buffalo Bills won a Super Bowl on Tom Coughlin's staff in 2011. 
His Giants defense was decimated by injuries this year, losing rising star corner Prince Amukamara (in early November) and free agent acquisition Walter Thurmond during week two for the season. ,
They were 29th in yards per game, 28th in yards per play, 30th in rushing yards per game and dead last in the NFL in rushing yards per play. 
Perhaps just as important, considering his role with the Redskins, Fewell's defense was 18th in passing yards per game allowed and 28th in passing yards per play. 
Not very good to say the least. 
The Giants defense did rally to the cause with 47 sacks (2nd in sacks/pass attempt) and they were sixth in the NFL in "interception rate" category. 
They were fourth overall on third down defense, ninth in red zone defense and fourth in goal-to-go situations. 
Quite honestly, it might be the strangest combination of rankings and statistics that I've ever seen. It doesn't make a whole lot of sense how you can be so good in some areas and so bad in other areas. 
New York had 17 interceptions and nine fumbles recovered. Many will remember their dominant performance against the Redskins putrid offense in week four at FedExField. 
One other benefit to landing Fewell for the Redskins is his intimate knowledge of schemes and familiarity with what the Giants are running on offense. He might have an edge when Washington will have to match up against Odell Beckham Jr. and Victor Cruz next year. 
Morris, a much better coach than Redskins fans will ever believe or give him credit for, will be missed for his infectious enthusiasm and the way players related to him. 
Fewell might not be Morris in that area, but he is without a doubt a more "proven track record" coach (which has to please fans) compared to Morris, who lost out on the defensive coordinator spot to Joe Barry and was looking to find a new home. 
It seems like Morris found the best situation for his career to grow and Fewell found a good landing spot on the east coast and at a place that he is very familiar with. 
Chris Russell - -

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Redskins Release Baker, Barry Takes Over
by Chris Russell
Jan 21, 2015 -- 2:26pm
ESPN 980

The Redskins continue to mold their organization for 2015 and potentially beyond. 

On Tuesday, they hired Joe Barry after Vic Fangio decided to go to Chicago. Barry, the former San Diego Chargers linebackers coach was officially hired in Mobile, Alabama at the Senior Bowl. 
Wednesday, brought another change. Outside Linebackers coach Brian Baker told ESPN 980 via text that he is not being retained by Barry, Jay Gruden and the Redskins. 
Clearly, Joe Barry has a right to hire a new staff and he probably has somebody in mind or already in place from his time with the Chargers or other coaching staffs that he has been a part of. 
Baker coached the outside linebackers and pass rush specialists in 2014 before converting to work with the defensive line group in December after Jacob Burney was injured in a fall at Redskins Park. 
This is a big loss for the Redskins. There's no way they can dispute that. Baker, was hired by Jim Haslett to help unleash the hounds and help the pass rush become dominant. 
It didn't exactly work as good as they wanted it, because Brian Orakpo was hurt in week one (dislocated finger) and then suffered another dislocation on his other hand (week three), before an ankle sprain leading up to the Arizona game. The final straw was Orakpo tearing his pectoral for a third time in his career and missing the final eight plus games. 
Baker then had to quickly amp up and prepare rookie Trent Murphy to play a huge amount of snaps after the Redskins were able to use him in a part-time role and in different ways. Murphy, made his starting debut in the Monday night win in Dallas and was terrific against the run, while knocking down a pass. Six days later  in Minnesota, he had a sack. 
The huge concern that Redskins coaches had about Murphy was his run defense. He was by all accounts very solid in that area. Certainly, credit goes to Murphy but Baker has to get some of the credit for his work with the Stanford product. 
Down the stretch, Baker, while working with the defensive line, still assisted with the outside linebackers and that led to Jackson Jeffcoat and Trevardo Williams having a couple of stand-out moments. 
Then there was Ryan Kerrigan. Look, nobody would question that Ryan Kerrigan has a lot of talent. However, in his first three years in the NFL, Kerrigan had a high of 8.5 sacks from an easier (theoretically) side to rush from. 
In 2014, Kerrigan had 13.5 sacks, five forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and was one of the very few bright spots. Kerrigan lit up Mark Sanchez on a third down early in the Philadelphia win, forcing a fumble and recovering it for the turnover. On the first series of a disastrous day in Indianapolis, Kerrigan, in front of his family and friends, blew around the right tackle and sacked Andrew Luck. He caused a fumble and the Redskins had a turnover and a good start. 
My buddy John Keim of ESPN & ESPN 980 had a nice breakdown in December on how Kerrigan has improved as a pass rusher and what he has been working on while under the watchful eye of both Baker and Jim Haslett. 
If coaching matters as much as everyone says it does, there is no bigger "proof is in the pudding" example than Kerrigan's huge step forward in just one year of working with Baker. 
Kerrigan told ESPN 980 via text, "I'm really gonna miss having Coach Baker around. He and I had both a great working and personal relationship," Kerrigan said on Wednesday. "He pushed me on the field and in the film room and really helped me to improve as a player." 
Baker, a Maryland product, grew up in Baltimore. He didn't want to leave and he didn't want to have to move his family again. He wanted to be with the Washington Redskins. 
The next time people advocate coaches to get fired because that is the easy thing to do, I hope you will think a little bit about moves like this and how they affect not only one person, but a lot of people. 
A lot of good people. Good family men. Good football coaches. Brian Baker is a perfect example of just that.
In my opinion, the Redskins are in worse shape today than they were yesterday. 
Chris Russell - - 

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Redskins Spurned by Fangio, Hire Barry
by Chris Russell
Jan 20, 2015 -- 4:13pm
Joe Barry
Vic Fangio is not coming to Washington. Not on Tuesday morning as was 'expected' to happen by Jason LaCanfora. He's not coming Tuesday evening or Wednesday or any time soon for that matter. 
As we reported late on Monday night, a source involved in the discussions said LaCanfora's report was "not accurate."
Today, as in Tuesday morning, that was proven to be true as Fangio chose the Chicago Bears over the Washington Redskins. 
The Redskins as expected hired Joe Barry as we had mentioned on Monday they would if Fangio went elsewhere. 
Barry has run the linebackers unit under John Pagano with the San Diego Chargers since 2011, reportedly as Pagano's right-hand man for the last few years. 
Before his time with the Chargers, he coached the linebackers at USC for a year and was hired by Raheem Morris in 2009 with the Buccaneers. 
Barry was the coordinator of the Detroit Lions in 2007 and 2008, a historically bad football team. The Lions were winless in 2008. 
He is the son-in-law of Dallas Cowboys defensive coordinator, Rod Marinelli, so that will make for an interesting storyline for at least the next year. 
Barry is an extremely unpopular choice by Redskins fans, but that matters not to the Redskins. They zeroed in on Barry from the start and while they absolutely were open to hiring Vic Fangio, I believe the man they wanted more than any other was Barry. 
Why? "Energy, system and passion," one source said to me who would know. 
They don't care that Barry is looked upon as a mercy hire or one of nepotism, as some have alleged.  Barry coached with Jay and under Jon Gruden in Tampa, where of course Bruce Allen was. 
The Redskins are right. That's a silly charge. It's actually beyond silly. It's asinine. Coaches, executives and general managers know a lot of people in the NFL. It's a large yet small enough fraternity that many travel in the same circles. 
That does not mean that Barry is the right choice or will turn out to be great. As was the case and will be the case for the rest of eternity , it will all depend on the commitment to building and winning on that side of the ball. 
The Redskins have done a terrible job in this area while trying to do everything they could to out-score people and have failed miserably.  They failed Jim Haslett and now they have to avoid doing the same to Barry. 
Quite honestly, they could bring in Santa Claus to be in charge and it wouldn't matter. The Redskins need to revitalize their defensive line, which is old, highly paid and starting to break down (Jason Hatcher, Barry Cofield, Stephen Bowen).  Jarvis Jenkins is an unrestricted free agent.
Their secondary is either young and inexperienced or old and mostly unproductive. Not to mention, their best overall cornerback,  DeAngelo Hall is coming back from a double Achilles tear on the plus side of thirty. 
The Redskins invested in their pass rush this past year, which is fine. The problem? They had virtually no choice but to pay the franchise tag for Brian Orakpo and he was never healthy before being lost completely for more than half of the season. 
They also spent a boatload on Hatcher.  The former Cowboy  was very good when he was healthy,  but was banged up most of the year and then missed the final four games. 
If you are going to invest money in a pass rush, it's hard to do it the way the Redskins did it and expect 16 healthy games from each and an 'unleashed' defense. 
The Redskins need balance on all three levels of their defense with the hope that consistent pressure will make it easier on the back-end. They don't need to over-invest in one unit or one particular area. They need to spread the resources. 
For Joe Barry's sake. For Jay Gruden's future. For the sanity of many. 
Chris Russell - - 

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Waiting on Fangio, Pendergast Added to Mix
by Chris Russell
Jan 19, 2015 -- 9:29am
ESPN 980
A source close to the situation told ESPN 980 on Sunday evening that Fangio was in the "thinking process." 
He has other options. He reportedly met with Chicago before Washington. He could also potentially be in the mix in Atlanta, where current Seahawks defensive boss Dan Quinn is reportedly trying to organize a staff while now preparing for the Super Bowl. 
That group included Kyle Shanahan, according to Adam Schefter. Shanahan did not return a text message on Sunday evening. A person close to Shanahan was surprised when told of the news, so who knows exactly what the deal is. 
Trust me, it's a possible option. The Redskins are NOT Fangio's only choice. He's a smart guy and understands that he has leverage. 
It was also revealed on Monday morning that the Redskins had interviewed Clancy Pendergast for their defensive coordinator position. Adam Schefter reported it first. ESPN 980 confirmed this and was told the interview occurred a week ago. 
John Keim of & Mike Jones of the Washington Post pointed out (I forgot about this) that Bruce Allen said the team was going to meet with a candidate that day. Apparently, that was Pendergast. 
Keim also details a great story (via Bruce Feldman and FOX) that I completely missed about Pendergast's connection to Jon Gruden, which led him to Jay, which also led him to visit last July with Jim Haslett.
Why? Pendergast was the coordinator at California and USC over the last few seasons before being out of coaching in 2014. He has extensive experience defending Chip Kelly's offense and the Oregon attack. He helped Haslett and the Redskins to whatever degree and it worked. 
The Redskins defense bottled up the Eagles running attack in a week three loss in Philadelphia, but of course the secondary (after losing DeAngelo Hall)  and linebackers (Perry Riley specifically) collapsed in the loss. 
Pendergast is a guy that most have not heard of and would obviously be met with a ton of criticism. Whatever. The guy is an experienced coach. His rankings and stats are what they are , but at 47, he fits the ideal age profile that the Redskins are looking for. 
Washington wants their staff to be on the younger side and energetic. Charisma is something that is important to them. I've watched this staff work over many practices in the last year. They have unique drills and the coaches are often involved physically in the teaching and concepts. 
Pendergast was with USC for just a year because of the coaching instability there, but spent three with Cal running a 3-4 scheme. Ed Orgeron, then USC's interim head coach told Feldman "Clancy was fantastic" and "his strength is game-day calling." 
He has plenty of NFL experience working with the Kansas City Chiefs, Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys and Houston Oilers as a position coach, and he coordinated the Arizona Cardinals defense from 2004 -2008. 
He's perhaps best remembered for being fired by then Arizona head coach Ken Whisenhunt about a week after the Cardinals Super Bowl XLIII  loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. It's important to note that Whisenhunt inherited Pendergast after Dennis Green was fired, so that doesn't mean that Pendergast is not qualified. 
He probably won't get the job, but it was a great information session and the Redskins are able to take ideas from those they meet with and apply them. Trust me, the Redskins have learned a lot during this process. 
***Being that it is far from a guarantee that Fangio will choose the Redskins, the leader in the clubhouse is clearly Joe Barry. That doesn't mean he will absolutely get the job, because there are no absolutes in this business. 
He is energetic and passionate, as it was described to me. One person pointed out something I conveyed last week on ESPN 980 that Fangio had a ton of talent and pieces to work with in San Francisco, but that was not the case for defensive coordinator John Pagano and Barry, who is Pagano's top assistant in San Diego. 
Barry has helped mold two young linebackers in Manti Te'o and Jeremiah Attaochu who they drafted in the 2nd round last year as a raw pass rush specialist from Georgia Tech. 
You have to believe me on this (won't you?). STATISTICS from 2007 and 2008 with a horsecrap Detroit Lions team with one legitimate NFL player MEAN ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! 
NOTHING. I can't make this any more clearer. 
Also if Barry is hired and Fangio chooses elsewhere, he would likely retain Raheem Morris who players like and again, has a ton of energy. 
**One final note, ESPN 980 has learned that the Redskins will focus on hiring a quarterbacks coach (as has been reported by Keim and others) after the coordinator situation gets cleared up. 
A couple of possible candidates? John DeFilippo from the Oakland Raiders and a James Madison product. Marcus Arroyo, who was just released by the Tampa Bay Bucs after originally being hired as their quarterbacks coach this year under Jeff Tedford, he wound up coordinating their  offense because Tedford got sick and was allowed to leave for the CFL. 
Also, one other name to keep on your radar screen is Brian Callahan, who has been an offensive assistant with the Denver Broncos. He's also Bill Callahan's son which doesn't hurt his cause. 
Chris Russell - -

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Hello Bill, Goodbye Chris
by Chris Russell
Jan 15, 2015 -- 4:41pm
ESPN 980

The Redskins have moved on from Chris Foerster and have hired former Dallas Cowboys & New York Jets assistant and offensive coordinator, Bill Callahan. 

Callahan's contract expired on Monday after the Cowboys were eliminated in Green Bay. The move was first reported by Ed Werder of ESPN. 
It is reported to be a three-year deal and Callahan's signing signifies a few important things. 
1. Chris Foerster will officially be leaving the Redskins. Since 2010, Foerster had been in charge of the Redskins offensive line, a unit that surrendered a large amount of sacks, but as I have pointed out (along with many others), the sack issue is far from being just on the offensive line. 
Fans mostly blame it on the offensive line. Those that understand all elements of the game understand that the quarterback shares a large part of the blame, sometimes running backs whiff in pass protection, and at times receivers simply do not get open. 
An NFL coach reached out both John Keim of ESPN and myself unsolicited via text to compliment Foerster.  
Of course, a compliment of that nature is far from a popular one, but the coach who said it knows Foerster very well. It's hard to imagine that he would just be trying to make a friend look good. 
Whether or not, Foerster is the "best o-line coach in the NFL" is not really important or debatable.  
The bottom line is the Redskins are losing a good coach, who had universal respect from most if  not all of his players.
Foerster is reportedly heading back to San Francisco where he was before joining the Redskins. 
2. The acquisition of Callahan  signifies a few things. 
The Redskins aren't playing around as Jay Gruden was very clear about. He promised change and they are making it. 
Callahan, is not only a offensive coordinator and offensive line coach with the Cowboys, but he also was an assistant head coach with the New York Jets from 2008-2011, and a former head coach of the Nebraska Cornhuskers from 2004-2007 and took the Oakland Raiders to the Super Bowl in his first year (2002) replacing Jon Gruden before his players and the Oakland organization imploded. 
The Cowboys were 3rd in yards per play, 2nd in rushing yards per game, third in rushing yards per play, 2nd in passing yards per play and 16th in sacks per pass attempt in 2014 with Callahan working with that group. 
They were 2nd in the NFL on third down, 2nd in the red zone, 3rd in goal-to-go percentage and 2nd in average time of possession in the NFL. 
It helps to have stud left tackle Tyron Smith, first round pick Travis Frederick and fellow first round pick, Zach Martin added to the fold over the last four years. 
Callahan will inherit no such thing in Washington, with Trent Williams and Kory Lichtensteiger as by far and away the Redskins two best offensive linemen but no sure thing at either guard spot or the right tackle position. 
One under the radar benefit is that Callahan and Wes Phillips will work together as they did in Dallas. When you coach the tight end position, you work hand-in-hand with the offensive line coach (Callahan) especially if you have a running background. 
3. It's funny how Redskins fans have absolutely no issue with Callahan's hire, despite his connections to the Gruden's and Bruce Allen, simply because he has not worked in Tampa. Yes, Callahan's teams have run the ball effectively when given the opportunity to do so, but this was the first year since his time with the Jets that Callahan's offensive line were plowing massive holes. 
The other important element to note on the Redskins running scheme is they will incorporate more power schemes under Callahan than they did under Foerster, who coached four of his five years in Washington under Mike Shanahan. 
As John Keim and I discussed the other night on ESPN 980, you started to see a increase in this area in Jay Gruden's first year and I would expect to see more. 
A coach very familiar with Callahan's schemes in Dallas, confirmed that "he did both," despite the perception that they were mostly or exclusively a zone blocking run scheme. 
Chris Russell - - 

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Redskins to Tab Barry?
by Chris Russell
Jan 14, 2015 -- 11:34am
ESPN 980

Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network reported on Wednesday morning that the Redskins were planning on hiring Joe Barry as their new defensive coordinator. 

Ian is a very reputable reporter so I have no specific reason to dispute that but all I can do is add that when I contacted a high ranking Redskins source who would have knowledge of the situation, that person texted ESPN 980 to say "no decision been made." 
That doesn't mean Barry won't be the choice, but it could mean that they are likely going with Barry unless something changes to sway their mind. 
That something may be the fact that Vic Fangio is one step closer to being allowed to talk with the Redskins for the position. With the 49ers choosing Jim Tomsula over Fangio, Adam Gase and Mike Shanahan, it is hard to fathom how Fangio would want to stay in his same position after getting leap frogged by somebody that was essentially coaching under him and with him.   It appears that he won't be. 
The Redskins initially wanted to talk to Fangio, but the 49ers said no on New Year's Day, as we first reported. 
As you could imagine, all of the good public relations that the Redskins garnered from letting Jim Haslett go and hiring Scot McCloughan are starting to be tarnished with charges of "nepotism" and "the old buddy network" and the constant connections that Bruce Allen has with coaches that worked in Tampa. 
In case you don't know by now, Barry, is 44 years old and is the current linebackers coach with the San Diego Chargers. 
Unfortunately for Barry, he is more known for his time as the defensive coordinator of the Detroit Lions who were winless in 2008 and the coordinator of a statistically awful defense. 
Barry had very little talent to work with, something that should absolutely be pointed out, but for a fan base that cares about one thing and one thing alone (track record) this is the worst possible hire. 
Even worse than Raheem Morris, and would be a photo finish.  That's the fans view. 
Not all fans feel that way, but the only one so far that I've found that doesn't have a major problem is Carol Hilz, a Redskins supporter in Southern California.
Redskins fans are not only happy because of Barry's track record but also the Tampa ties to Allen which have yet to yield anything positive and the fact that the only time Barry has been a defensive coordinator in the NFL, he was hired by his father-in-law. 
You know, Rod Marinelli. As in the Dallas Cowboys Rod Marinelli, who just agreed to a contract extension to stay in Dallas and lead the Cowboys defense. 
It's only fair for me to point out (because I don't believe that a very short track record or any track record guarantees or means anything) that Barry has done a nice job in San Diego under an aggressive defensive coordinator, John Pagano, with limited talent. 
The Chargers were (9-7) this year, but did not make the playoffs. The defense, led by Pagano, with Barry under him coaching the linebackers, ranked ninth in yards per game. 
They were 21st in yards per play, and really struggled to stop the run at 26th per game and 29th per play. San Diego's pass defense was very good and was fourth in the NFL in passing yards per game allowed. 
Want more bad news, they were 29th in "interception rate" and 29th in sacks per pass attempt. 
Again, numbers are just numbers. 
Interviews are important. Philosophy is important. Relationships and knowing how somebody works and thinks is more important to those in the NFL. 
That's what the Redskins are getting if they hire Barry. It looks like they will, but it is not official yet. 
It probably will be, and if/when it was, the Redskins will have put a pin in the balloon of their very productive off-season. At least if the fans  and your customer's opinion counts for anything. 
Chris Russell - - 

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