Skip to main content

News | Washington Commanders -

Senior Offensive Assistant Matt Cavanaugh Has Fully Embraced His New, 'Big Picture' Role

matt-cavanaugh_brush-centerpiece copy

Longtime NFL coach Matt Cavanaugh has assumed several offensive roles since breaking into the profession in the early 1990s, starting as the tight ends coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers and then rotating between being a quarterbacks coach and an offensive coordinator for seven different franchises.

His latest move came in 2015, when the Redskins hired the 14-year NFL quarterback to work with some of his own in Washington. And for the past two years, Cavanaugh has scripted the play calling as the team's offensive coordinator.

The 2019 season will bring about another change for Cavanaugh, whom the Redskins moved to senior offensive assistant when they promoted quarterbacks coach Kevin O'Connell to offensive coordinator in late January. It's an unfamiliar situation for the 62-year-old offensive mind but one he's beginning to adapt to as he aims to assist the team in other ways.

"I'm excited about it," Cavanaugh told during the High School Coaches Clinic held Wednesday at the Inova Sports Performance Center at Redskins Park. "As a senior assistant, I think the role is being defined as we go along each day, but it's something that I wanted to embrace and try and study."

Cavanaugh sees the new position as an "added responsibility" to go along with the instruction and development he's endowed on this offense the past four seasons.

For one, he'll work to help the team improve its clock management. It's a project he's already starting working on, studying two-minute drills from around the league and gearing up for any situation that may arise over the course of the season. Having coached in the NFL for 35 years, he knows there's no such thing as too much preparation.

"I've got a laundry list of things I want to help with on game day," Cavanaugh said. "Let alone still being involved with the game planning and being a part of the offensive staff."

At the NFL Combine in Indianapolis on Feb. 28, head coach Jay Gruden defined Cavanaugh's role as handling tasks he may not have enough time for, part of the week-to-week responsibilities that require a greater attention to detail. Cavanaugh has already assisted Gruden with some of these duties in the past. Now he'll be the main point of contact.

"Coach Cavanaugh is going to be my assistant as far as helping me with the big picture of things," Gruden said. "There are a lot of things I may have swept under the rug so to speak."

As for free agency and draft preparation, the two coaches have worked alongside one another to evaluate team needs and the potential prospects to fill those openings. In looking for a quarterback, Cavanaugh prefers a player with natural accuracy and mobility over arm strength. He's also recently come around to the idea that size is not as much as a determining factor when projecting future success.

Cavanaugh will continue to provide his quarterback input until the Redskins make a decision on the matter -- whether that be finding a player in free agency, using a draft pick or relying on their current group of signal-callers -- but that's far from the only advice he'll bestow on this staff in his new capacity.

"We say as a staff, Jay, we'll do whatever you need,'" Cavanaugh said. "It gives me, in this role, the latitude to suggest more things. 'Hey, maybe you weren't thinking about this. Hey, I need you for 10 minutes just to look at a couple situations that came up in the league last week. How would we handle them? What would we do in those situations?' So I think there's a lot to add there."