On the heels of another disappointing season, the Washington Redskins announced Wednesday morning that they have “mutually agreed to part ways” with defensive coordinator Jim Haslett.
Haslett spent five seasons as Washington’s defensive coordinator, first under Mike Shanahan and then under current coach Jay Gruden. In a statement released by the team, Gruden said he met with Haslett this week and they decided it would be best for the defensive coordinator to leave the team.
“Jay and I mutually agreed it’s time for the Redskins to have a new defensive coordinator,” Haslett said in a statement. “I want to thank Dan Snyder, Bruce Allen, Coach Gruden and all the players and fellow coaches for their efforts the last five years and I wish them nothing but the best.”
Haslett and his agent, Peter Schaffer, did not immediately respond to requests seeking additional comment.
In his first press conference in more than four months, general manager and team president Bruce Allen said Wednesday that the futures of Haslett’s assistant coaches have not yet been determined. Those decisions will ultimately be made by Gruden, according to Allen, and the team will begin identifying defensive coordinator candidates this week.
“Coach Gruden is meeting with all of the assistant coaches, and he had just been with Jim the last two days, specifically, and will make those determinations,” Allen said. “We’ll start the defensive coordinator search later today and start exploring some names and bring in some people for interviews. But Jay will make those decisions later.”
Several players, including linebackers Keenan Robinson and Will Compton, took to Twitter on Wednesday to publicly thank Haslett for believing in them and giving them their first opportunities to play in the NFL. Defensive lineman Chris Baker said he is sad to see the 59-year-old coach go.
“I built a good relationship with Haz over the times that I’ve been here, from the time when I was on practice squad to the time when he gave me my first start this year and depended on me to be a big contributor to the defense this year,” Baker said in a phone interview. “He believed in me and gave me my first big chance in the NFL, so it’s sad to see him leave.”
Gruden previously coached with Haslett in the United Football League and he had publicly defended his defensive coordinator as recently as Monday, describing the team’s numerous injuries on defense as a challenge for any coach to overcome. When asked directly if he would recommend retaining Haslett for the 2015 season, Gruden said, “I would recommend keeping him, yes.”
The first-year head coach said decisions to dismiss or retain any assistant coach would be made in agreement with Allen and Snyder, the team’s owner. But when Allen was asked about Haslett’s departure Wednesday, the general manager characterized the decision as Gruden’s alone.
“Jay and Jim had been talking the last few days,” Allen said. “This morning when they were talking, they decided it was the best way for both sides. I appreciate Coach Haslett’s work and what he has done for the Redskins, but I think it was the right decision.”
During Haslett’s five years in Washington, the Redskins allowed 25.6 points per game and did not finish higher than 21st in the league in that category. They also allowed 5.7 yards per play, routinely ranking among the NFL’s worst defenses.
This season, the Redskins finished 20th in yards allowed per game (357) and tied for 29th in points allowed per game (27.4). They lost two defensive starters to season-ending injuries, however, placing cornerback DeAngelo Hall on injured reserve following Week 3 and outside linebacker Brian Orakpo on IR after Week 7. Eight of the team’s 11 defensive starters missed at least one game because of injury.
“Coach Haslett had his hands tied a little bit this year,” Gruden said Monday. “We had a lot of injuries, a lot of issues to our defense, the personnel that not many people have had to go through in this NFL season or in the history of this league, playing with as many different guys at as many different key positions throughout the season. I don’t know what the numbers were but I’m sure they’re up there with a record amount of players that had to start and play in this defense.”
By the end of the season, the Redskins were fielding players who began the month of December as free agents or members of the practice squad, from cornerback Justin Rogers to linebackers Trevardo Williams and Jackson Jeffcoat. Safety Ryan Clark said he didn’t know the first names of some players when they first appeared in a game.
Clark was one of several players who repeatedly spoke up on Haslett’s behalf this season, especially as his future became murky late in the year. On Wednesday, Clark demurred when asked if Haslett’s departure was surprising or disappointing.
“Haz has been through it before. I’m sure he’ll be okay. I wish him the best as he moves on,” Clark said in a phone interview. “I’ve said my piece. It is what it is. It’s part of the business.”
• Zac Boyer contributed to this report.