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Redskins' Jay Gruden defends retaining Jim Haslett


Jim Haslett was widely expected to be fired, but he's back for at least another season.

The Washington Redskins announced Friday that Haslett will assume his duties as defensive coordinator.

The defense struggled mightily under Haslett's direction the past four years. It never ranked higher than 21st in points per game over that time and featured one of the most porous secondaries in the NFL.

But new 'Skins coach Jay Gruden defended his decision to stick with Haslett.

"It was a lot of issues and schematically it wasn't the issue," Gruden said, via ESPN's John Keim. "It was special teams and depth issues. But to see them compete on a weekly basis. ... They played well. I know a lot of offensive coaches that have a lot of respect for what coach Haslett brings and how difficult it is to go against them. I'm one of those guys."

Gruden has a point. While the Redskins have one of the best pass-rushing duos in Ryan Kerrigan and Brian Orakpo, the other talent is lacking. Barry Cofield is a beast as the defensive line's anchor, but Washington likely needs four new starters in the defensive backfield.

Not only is Haslett sticking around for now, but his responsibilities have grown. He will have the power to hire members of his defensive staff, something he didn't do under Mike Shanahan. Also, Gruden said he will begin contract extension talks with Haslett on Monday.

"With another year coaching them up, I think they'll be fine," Gruden said. "I've gone against his defense. I know what he's about and I know the scheme he plays is very difficult. He's done great against Dallas and he did well against Philadelphia the second time around and in the second half of the year they played well. They were put in a lot of difficult situations."

The decision to keep Haslett could prove to be a shrewd move. Gruden is a first-year coach, and Haslett has head-coaching experience from his time with the New Orleans Saints and St. Louis Rams. Also, the Redskins' talent never truly fit the 3-4 scheme Haz employs. With the two-year, $36 million salary-cap penalty expired, general manager Bruce Allen should have some money to find the proper pieces. 

If the D is once again an Achilles' heel, retaining Haslett might resemble Gruden's first big mistake.

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