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ESPN Analyst Mike Tannenbaum Believes It's 'Really An Exciting Time' For Redskins Fans


INDIANAPOLIS -- In the two months following a tumultuous 3-13 campaign, the Washington Redskins completely revamped their organization.

They hired Ron Rivera as their head coach, and Rivera brought in a nearly entire new coaching staff and a new head athletic trainer. In the front office, Kyle Smith earned a promotion, Doug Williams switched roles and Rob Rogers came on as the team's Senior Vice President of Football Administration.

Even the Redskins' roster is starting to look different; over the past two weeks, they've parted ways with expensive veterans at corner (Josh Norman), tight end (Jordan Reed) and wide receiver (Paul Richardson).

These sweeping changes drew widespread acclaim from players, fans, analysts and nearly everyone else associated with professional football. Mike Tannenbaum, ESPN's Front Office Insider, voiced his optimism about the Redskins from the NFL Scouting Combine on Tuesday.

"It's really an exciting time if you're a Washington Redskins fan."

Tannenbaum's endorsement centers around Rivera -- an established NFL head coach with a successful track record. He will bring stability and leadership to the Redskins, Tannenbaum said, and will foster a culture built upon genuine relationships. He will be in control, but not overbearing as he allows his position coaches to exercise their longstanding expertise.

"[Rivera] was really an excellent hire, especially when you consider some of the experience that came along with him, most notably Jack Del Rio on defense," Tannenbaum said. "To me, what that says is that Coach Del Rio can handle the defense and then allow Coach Rivera to manage the whole team."

Tannenbaum also believes in the Redskins' newly adopted coach-centered approach. He said he worked "very successfully" in that system at times during his career, which included stints as the general manager for the New York Jets and the Executive Vice President of Football Operations with the Miami Dolphins. The key for the Redskins will be that once Rivera establishes his vision, the front office must procure players that fit his outlook.

"It's all about everybody being on the same page and the tone being set by the head coach," Tannenbaum said.

The Redskins' two biggest decision makers during free agency and the draft will be Rivera and Smith, who was promoted to Vice President of Player Personnel in January.

Rivera said his and Smith's relationship is "very good and very strong," while Smith, whose dad, A.J. Smith, was the general manager of the San Diego Chargers when Rivera was coaching there from 2007-10, loves the way things are running between the two.

"Our relationship, the working relationship, has been outstanding," Smith said. "[Rivera] has really taken a step back as far as the draft was concerned and just said, 'Listen, do your thing with setting the board, run your meetings how you've been doing it, do the changes that you wanted to make as far as the grading and the color coding system that I mentioned, do all those things and do your thing there.'

"Once the coaches come in and the coaches evaluate, then he and I will then sit down and figure out what direction we going to go in."

In Tannenbaum's opinion, the Redskins should focus on shoring up two positions in particular: offensive line and cornerback.

That could mean re-signing Pro Bowl guard Brandon Scherff, who is set to become a free agent next month, and convincing perennial Pro Bowler Trent Williams to return to Washington. Or it could mean finding their replacements, either in the draft or elsewhere.

In the secondary, Tannenbaum brought up Byron Jones and Chris Harris Jr. as potential options to replace Norman. There's also uncertainty surrounding fellow corner Quinton Dunbar, who recently expressed frustration with his contract situation. However, Rivera said Wednesday that Dunbar came to Redskins Park and the two had a "great conversation." The hope is that Dunbar will report for the start of offseason workouts on April 6.

Elsewhere, Tannenbaum is high on Washington's defensive front, but he would like it even more should the Redskins select Ohio State edge rusher Chase Young with the No. 2 pick in the 2020 NFL Draft.

"He's a transformative talent," Tannenbaum said of Young. "You pair him with Sweat from a year ago, if Ryan Kerrigan comes back -- those are three excellent pass rushers, and that's a great foundation for the future."

As Rivera aims to build the Redskins into a consistent winner, Tannenbaum believes the biggest determinant of future success will be the development of second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins. And that starts with his connection with his new head coach.

By investing in each other, Tannenbaum said Haskins and Rivera will be able to handle the inevitable obstacles on their way towards during this organization around.

"Coach Rivera is really known for having great relationships with his players, so if I'm Dwayne Haskins, I'm in there every day -- first one in, last to leave -- getting to know Coach Rivera."

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