Bill Callahan addressed the media as the Redskins' interim head coach for the first time Monday afternoon. Here are five takeaways from his first press conference.
1. Dwayne Haskins is not in contention to start against Miami.
Callahan is not ready to name a starting quarterback against the Dolphins, but that competition will not include rookie Dwayne Haskins. Instead, Callahan has a more steady approach to making sure that Haskins is ready to lead the offense when his number is eventually called.
The Redskins are still evaluating the medical assessment on Case Keenum, who started the first four games of the year before he was pulled for Haskins against the New York Giants on Sept. 29. Keenum was in contention for the starting job against the Patriots but was inactive, as McCoy got the nod while Haskins served as his backup. Deciding between Keenum and McCoy will largely depend upon Miami’s defense and which player will give the team the best option to win.
As for Haskins, Callahan wants to continue developing him and “heighten his maturation process to get him on schedule.” However, Callahan said he wants Haskins to be ready for anything.
“I think it’s time now for him to be prepared,” Callahan said. “Anything can happen, and as a quarterback, you’re always ready to step in and step up. It happened against the Giants, and it can happen again.”
Callahan wants Haskins to develop more confidence in practice and have a package of plays that he can execute and “has ownership of those plays.”
“That’s the focus right now,” he said. “Trying to get him up and rolling and get him prepared like we do Case and Colt. It’s no different.”
2. There will be some practice adjustments, among them giving Haskins more reps.
Almost all of Haskins’ practice reps this season have been with the scout team, but Callahan is aiming to change that moving forward.
At some point in practice, Callahan believes it’s important for Haskins to receive game-type repetitions. That way, he’ll be more comfortable if and when he enters games. Haskins’ only action through five weeks came against the New York Giants, when he relieved Keenum in the second quarter and threw three interceptions on 9 of 17 passing.
“His progress is incremental, and he’s starting to show signs and flashes of progress, but he still has a ways to go,” Callahan said. “I’m looking forward to coaching him. I think he’s a great kid, he’s got a bright future and he’s our franchise pick. So, I think at some point he’ll be in the lineup, whether it be this year, next year, whenever.”
Callahan is also planning to make other practice adjustments, though he was not ready to publicly announce them Monday. He said he’ll meet with the team Wednesday morning to discuss changes to its daily regimen.
“There will be some practice adjustments based on who we’re playing,” Callahan said. “There’s always that element of what you need to get prepared for, whether it be a 4-3 defense, a 3-4 defense, whatever those issues and problems present themselves to be defensively for the offense. And then conversely for the defense, what they’re facing on offense. So practice will get adjusted to what we’re going to face.”
Check out photos of the Washington Redskins during their regular season Week 5 game against the New England Patriots.
3. Kevin O'Connell will call plays on offense, while Greg Manusky will remain the defensive play-caller.
Callahan announced offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell will take over play-calling responsibilities for the foreseeable future. O’Connell, who first joined the Redskins as the quarterbacks coach in 2017, will orchestrate an offense ranked 26th in the NFL in passing yards, 27th in rushing yards and 28th overall.
“We’ve got a lot of faith and confidence in Kevin,” Callahan said. “He’s got a bright future ahead of him. He will do a great job. He’s well prepared and…he did have a lot of influence in the play calling. So it’s just a matter of putting that belt on and letting him pull the trigger.”
Callahan does not plan to make any changes to the defensive play calling “at this time,” meaning that defensive coordinator Greg Manusky will retain that role.
However, Callahan wants to see more out of the defense, just as he does with every facet of the team. Specifically, he wants to see the team play a complete game, which has been an issue throughout the season.
“Production efficiency, closing out a game, taking a lead and closing it out,” Callahan said. “That’s what we all want. That’s what we want to see, and that’s the challenge. We’ve got to correct it, and we’ve addressed that with the team today. It hasn’t been up to par. No question about that.”
4. Establishing the running game will “benefit everybody.”
The Redskins rank 27th in the NFL in rushing attempts (88) and rushing yards per game (68.8), which are two areas Callahan said the team must improve on to increase their chances of success.
“First off, the identity of who you are and what you want to be has to take place,” Callahan said. “I envision ourselves as a running team. I’d like to get our running game going.”
Establishing the run will be beneficial for several reasons, Callahan said. Not only will it set up play-action passes, but it will also create more favorable down-and-distance situations and help the offense remain on the field. The Redskins currently rank second-to-last in the league in third-down conversion rate (24.53%) and third-to-last in time of possession (26 minutes, 30 seconds per game)
“The willingness to make the commitment and to run it more I think benefits everybody,” Callahan said.
Even without Derrius Guice, who is on Injured Reserve with a knee injury, Callahan said the Redskins have a “good stable of backs that we have confidence in.” Now it’ll be about providing these rushers -- such as Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson and Wendell Smallwood -- with the necessary touches to help the offense accomplish Callahan's goals of “finding a run rhythm where we can get these backs rolling.”
5. “There is no magic formula” to fixing the season.
There are now only four teams left in the NFL that have yet to win a game; at 0-5, the Redskins are one of those teams.
Callahan’s goal is to figure out a way to turn things around for a team that had high expectations at the beginning of the year. He’s ready for that task, but he also admits that it will take some work from everyone involved to make that happen.
“We have to rely on the staff and the team and the leadership of our team to change the course,” Callahan said. “There’s no magic formula to all of a sudden going to a winning team. But I do think that working hard, preparing hard, I think those things are in the control of the players and the staff.”
Callahan said the team has gotten great effort from the players. That has shown itself at various points in the season, such as starting the opener, 17-0, against the Eagles and holding the Patriots to just 12 points in the first half.
But there needs to be more consistent effort, particularly in the second half of games.
“I truly believe we’re committed to doing that,” Callahan said. “We need to be a more consistent team. I think that is showing itself across the board in all phases.”