Recently promoted to passing game coordinator, Kevin O'Connell will have more input in the offense this season while finding new ways to add to the system.
Late last season, Washington Redskins quarterback coach Kevin O'Connell was being sought after by new UCLA head coach Chip Kelly to join his staff.
Prior to his season in broadcasting, Kelly, of course, had previously been head coach of the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers. During Kelly's lone season in San Francisco in 2016, O'Connell served under him overseeing special projects before joining Jay Gruden's staff as the Redskins' quarterbacks coach in 2017.
While 2017 was only his third season in the coaching ranks (he was also the Cleveland Browns' quarterbacks coach in 2015), Gruden believes O'Connell has a bright future ahead of him.
That's why O'Connell was promoted to passing game coordinator.
"He had some people nibbling at him, you know, so we want to keep him here. He's a very good, young coach and his progression is fast," Gruden said this week while at the NFL Owners Meetings in Orlando, Fla. "He's probably not going to last here very long, you know, so we want to try and keep him here. But no, I think he had a lot of input last year, he'll have more input this year and the more comfortable he gets with our terminology and everything else, he's in a great spot and glad he's here."
One of O'Connell's duties will be helping to mold Alex Smith's strengths with certain plays. In the process, he'll also watch different offenses and find plays that could be included in Washington's playbook.
"That's part of the attraction I had to Kevin before I hired him, is that he was with Chip Kelly and he was with New England, so he has a different approach to the quarterback position than maybe I do, with the West Coast and all my background," Gruden said. "So it's very important to add different ideas to your staff to help out. Adding the RPOs, which we added a few last year quite frankly, but we continue to study throughout the college game and in Kansas City he did a great job with them and obviously with Philly did a lot of great things with them, Chip has always done good stuff with him.
"[It's] something we'll continue to study and Kevin will probably be the catalyst behind it."
As for Smith, Gruden believes that the three-time Pro Bowler brings a little bit of everything to the table this year and should fit into the offense well.
While Smith is coming off a season in which he threw for more than 4,000 yards with 26 touchdowns, the former No. 1-overall pick can use his legs to make plays, too. Last season, Smith carried the ball 60 times for 355 yards and one touchdown. For his career, he's carried the ball 529 times for 2,433 yards and 14 touchdowns, 12 of which came during his time with the Kansas City Chiefs.
"He's very good with the intermediate ball. He's good with the quick game. Obviously he gets the ball out of his hands with the screens and all that stuff. He can run the zone reads, the RPOs, very exciting," Gruden said. "The intermediate passes, the deep ball, I mean, and then obviously the ability to ad lib and make plays that aren't there are exciting – keep plays alive. So, really, you know, coaching him I think for the first time will be exciting because I don't think there's a limit right now on what he can do. He's got all the things you want a quarterback to be able to do."