It takes about 30 seconds to realize that new Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is the kind of guy you’d want to have a beer with -- he is a great storyteller, is extremely engaging and very real. What you see is what you get. I think a lot of that comes from his honest, blue-collar background of growing up in Pittsburgh.
Haslett’s NFL career began as a player -- he was a lineback with the Buffalo Bills. As for coaching, he is always grinding it out. He’s had assistant jobs, but earned his first head coaching job with the New Orleans Saints.
He was at the helm when Hurricane Katrina hit, and he told me that because of that experience, nothing bothers him anymore, not even Albert Haynesworth choosing to be the only player not to show up for voluntary minicamps.
Haslett was let go after the 2005 season and had stints in St. Louis, as both a coordinator and an “interim” head coach, and he also was a coordinator in Pittsburgh. After leaving the Rams, Haslett said he couldn’t turn down the opportunity to follow the job he loved, even if it meant coaching the Florida Tuskers of the UFL. He is thrilled to be back in the NFL and to have the chance to guide the Redskins with Mike Shanahan.
Redskins players have been getting to know him over the past few weeks, and what they’ve told me is he tries to get them going -- he tells jokes, he pushes them, but he rags on them like a former NFL player would.
Former defensive coordinator Greg Blache was very serious at practice. He had the respect of his players, but there is a noted difference in coaching styles. Blache loved to hunt and to relax by fishing with his friends from his hometown. Haslett says he’s the total opposite. He can’t sit still. He works out -- sometimes twice a day -- and he keeps himself busy with his lawnwork (which is greatly respected at his home in St. Louis). He says sometimes he takes a leaf blower and occupies himself by cleaning up the field where his son plays baseball.
Here are a few things that hit the cutting room floor from our interview, but that stood out to me during our lunch:
- As a linebacker, he made the Pro Bowl in 1979, the same year he was defensive rookie of the year. He tells a hilarious story about how he didn’t realize what time the game was and was almost late after a night of experiencing the city with some teammates
- He has three children. His son Chase is a terrific baseball player, but also is a great football player. Haslett is now the second Skins defensive coordinator (Gregg Williams) with a star athlete son named Chase.
- Haslett has a strange connection to cities where natural disasters occur. When he took his first job with the Oakland Raiders, he was there for the disastrous Northridge Earthquake. When he moved to New Orleans as head coach, he lead the team through the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, and when he moved here to D.C., he pointed out he couldn’t leave his home for two weeks because of the famous blizzard of 2010.
- Why Haslett thinks the 3-4 defense will benefit the Redskins: "Just the unknown of where you’re coming from, who’s blitzing, who’s not blitzing. You can just do so many things out of it that you can’t do out of a four-man line. Now, if you got great four-man line people, then you play that." He adds, "There’s no reason you can’t go 3-4, 4-3. I’ve played in both, coached in both, been successful in both. I think its just the type of players you have. I think the cornerstone of the team on defense is Brian Orakpo. He had 11 sacks last year, rushed 200 some times. In this defense, we’ll rush 600-700 times.""