- The Washington Times - Monday, January 23, 2017

Scot McCloughan, Greg Manusky and Jim Tomsula were seed planters the last time they were together.

They were gathered in San Francisco from 2007-09. McCloughan was vice president of player personnel, before moving into the general manager role in 2008 and 2009. Manusky was defensive coordinator in San Francisco from 2007-10. Tomsula was the defensive line coach before, during and after.

Their first season together, the 49ers’ defense was 25th in total defense. It moved to 13th a year later, 15th a season after that. Then, a run began: 13th, fourth, third, fifth, fifth.

The trio was disbanded by then. McCloughan had moved to Seattle, Manusky to San Diego. Tomsula stayed in San Francisco.

Monday, the Washington Redskins reassembled the group. Manusky was promoted from outside linebackers coach to defensive coordinator. Tomsula was hired as defensive line coach. McCloughan approved the moves from his perch as the third-year general manager in Washington.

In their hands is an ineffective Redskins defense. During back-to-back seasons under former defensive coordinator Joe Barry, who was fired shortly after the regular season ended, the defense finished 28th in the NFL.

No matter what plan Manusky puts in place, he will need McCloughan to help him improve personnel.

McCloughan spent liberally on one defensive spot last season when he lavished a five-year, $75 million contract on cornerback Josh Norman. But, throughout the middle of the field the Redskins spent conservatively, if at all. The defensive line accounted for 7.04 percent of the Redskins‘ 2016 salary cap hit. Thirteen players at linebacker covered just 11.7 percent of the salary cap.

Distribution of cash in a wobbling secondary was more glaring because of Norman’s contract. The secondary accounted for 12.19 percent of salary cap spending last season. Of that, 67 percent went to Norman and DeAngelo Hall. Norman was named a Pro Bowl alternate after an effective season. Hall played just three games before a season-ending ACL tear. Hall made 16 combined tackles in those three games at safety, costing the Redskins about $312,000 per tackle.

In San Francisco, the run defense was formidable under Manusky and Tomsula. In their four seasons together (2007-10), the 49ers allowed 3.7 yards per carry (fourth-best in NFL) even though they had 26-38 record. The Redskins were woeful against the run last season. They finished 24th in the league in rushing yards and stopping the run in the middle was one of the keys mentioned after the season by linebacker Ryan Kerrigan.

Manusky, 50, has worked in a 3-4 system, which is the Redskins‘ base system, multiple times. When Manusky was the linebackers coach in San Diego from 2002-06, the Chargers used a 3-4 scheme under coach Marty Schottenheimer. It was also the preferred scheme in San Francisco.

This is the fourth time Manusky has been hired as a defensive coordinator in the NFL. He previously worked in the position for San Francisco, San Diego and Indianapolis. He also played three seasons as a linebacker for the Redskins from 1988-90.

Tomsula, 48, has spent his life grinding his way up the coaching ladder. His first job was as a strength and conditioning coach for Div. II Catawba College in 1989. From there, he coached at a high school, Div. II again, and the World League of American Football, among other stops, before finally hopping into the NFL in 2007 with San Francisco. He lasted one season, 2015, as the 49ers coach. Tomsula was out of football last year.

The Redskins still have openings for an outside linebackers coach and defensive backs coach.

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