View Full Version : GRETZ: Building a Defense: Part 5/Washington

03-02-2005, 09:10 PM

While the Buffalo defense was built on a combination of the draft and free agency and the Pittsburgh and Baltimore defenses were built almost entirely on the draft, the Washington Redskins defense was built almost entirely on the free agency dollars of owner Daniel Snyder.

Of the 21 players that made a contribution to the Redskins top-notch defensive performance in 2004, 15 came through some sort of free agency, including eight signed coming into the most recent season.

Just in ‘04, the ‘Skins spent $31.8 million in signing bonus for those free agents.

Under returning head coach Joe Gibbs and coordinator Gregg Williams about all Washington had going for it last season was defense. Only twice in 16 games did an opponent score more than 21 points against the Redskins. Only three times was Washington able to score 21 points or more. Williams’ defense allowed just 81.5 yards rushing per game and opponents converted just 31 percent of their third down plays.

Since purchasing the Redskins in 1999, Snyder has never been afraid to spend money. In many cases, he’s overspent on marquee name players at the end of their careers. He’s also spent big money on assistant coaches. A lot of that money has gone to defensive players and coaches:

2000: S Mark Carrier, DE Marco Coleman, CB Tyrone Drakeford, DL Nolan Harrison, LB Kevin Mitchell, CB Deion Sanders and DE Bruce Smith.

2001: DB Donovan Greer, LB Robert Jones.

2002: DE Renaldo Wynn, LB Jessie Armstead, DL Santa Dotson, CB Carl Powell, LB Jeremiah Trotter.

2003: DE Jermaine Haley, S Matt Bowen, CB Alex Molden, DL Brandon Noble, DE Regan Upshaw.

Here’s what that money produced and the league rankings:

That spending continued in 2004, with the signing of those eight defensive free agents, including starters DT Cornelius Griffin, DT Joe Salave’a, LB Marcus Washington, CB Shawn Springs and S Ryan Clark. DE Renaldo Wynn was a holdover from a previous spending spree.

Buying free agents has proven necessary because the Redskins track record in the draft has been exceedingly poor over the last five years, especially when it comes to finding defensive players. CB Fred Smoot and rookie Sean Taylor were the only draft choices to start in ‘04. LB LaVar Arrington would have been in the starting lineup if not for an injury that kept him out of a dozen games. In the last five drafts, Washington has selected just 10 defensive players and only four remain with the team.

Here’s a look at the basics involving the Washington defense.

Head Coach/Background: Joe Gibbs, back for a second season after spending 11 seasons out of the game. Twenty-one seasons in the NFL as a coach, with a background on offense.
Personnel Decision Maker: Gibbs and owner Daniel Snyder.
Coordinator/Experience: Gregg Williams, with 14 seasons of NFL experience, including three as head coach of Buffalo and before that defensive coordinator of the Houston Oilers-Tennessee Titans.
Pro Bowl performers: LB Marcus Washington.
Starters/key contributors from:
o Draft: LB LaVar Arrington (’00/1st), CB Fred Smoot (’01/2nd), S Andre Lott (’02/5th), S Sean Taylor (’04/1st.)

o Undrafted free agents: LB Antonio Pierce, LB Chris Clemons.

o Trade: none.

o UFA: DE Renaldo Wynn (2002), DT Cornelius Griffin (2004), LB Marcus Washington (2004), DT Joe Salave’a (2004), CB Shawn Springs (2004), S Ryan Clark (2004), DT Brandon Noble (2003), DT Jermaine Haley (2003), DE Philip Daniels (2004), CB Walt Harris (2004), S Matt Bowen (2003).

o Street free agents: S Todd Franz, CB Patrick Dennis, DE Ron Warner, LB Lemar Marshall.

Leading tackler: LB Antonio Pierce, 160.
Leader in interceptions: CB Shawn Springs, 5.
Leader in sacks: DT Cornelius Griffin and Springs, 6.
Average draft position last 5 years: 13th.
Top defensive picks last 5 years: LB LaVar Arrington (’00/1st), DB Lloyd Harrison (’00/3rd), CB Fred Smoot (’01/2nd), CB Rashad Bauman (’02/3rd), S Sean Taylor (’04/1st.)
‘04 Statistics: touchdowns allowed (4), sacks per pass play (12), takeaways (22), yards allowed (3), rushing yards allowed (2), passing yards allowed (7), 3rd down (2), red zone (15.)
The opinions offered in this column do not necessarily reflect those of the Kansas City Chiefs.


A former beat reporter who covered the Pittsburgh Steelers during their glory years, Gretz covered the Chiefs for the Kansas City Star for nine years before heading up KCFX-FM's sports department. He is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's Board of Selectors. His column appears three times a week during the season.