INDIANAPOLIS — Kyle Smith did not know Ron Rivera before the coach took the Redskins job. Sure, Rivera worked for Smith’s dad, A.J. Smith, in San Diego, when Rivera was the defensive coordinator and A.J. Smith was the general manager. But Smith wasn’t in the NFL yet.
So when the two met at Dan Snyder’s house last month, shortly after Rivera was hired, they bonded over football.
Smith learned about Rivera’s process of building a team and the direction the coach envisioned Washington taking. Rivera listened as Smith detailed how the Redskins had gone about the last few drafts, breaking down the types of players they had been looking for.
Since then, Smith was promoted from director of college scouting to vice president of player personnel, and he and Rivera have been closely attached.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday at the NFL scouting combine, Smith said the Redskins have identified their core players and needs for the coming months ahead. And while light on specifics at times, the 35-year-old stressed Washington would be on “the same page.”
“We’re going to have the meetings, let the process unfold,” Smith said. “We believe in our process. We’re going to talk through everything.”
Of course, open communication is a problem that has dogged the Redskins in the past. Former team president Bruce Allen often preached how collaborative Washington was in his rare meetings with reporters, but former coach Jay Gruden noted after the 2018 season how there was a disconnect between the front office and coaching staff. “There’s probably a lot of things that need to change,” Gruden said.
Who knows if Smith’s comments were just lip service. For example, the executive’s comments on Dwayne Haskins differed from the messages Rivera and executive Doug Williams had delivered in recent weeks.
Smith said the Redskins were “all excited about Dwayne,” a departure from Williams’ observation that the new coaching staff wasn’t “married” to Haskins.
Asked about Haskins’ work ethic, Smith again backed the quarterback.
“He’s ready to do everything that he possibly can,” Smith said. “The other day, he’s telling me he’s bringing the guys down to Florida to throw with him and do the things that he can do. He’s doing all the extra stuff that we expect of him, and he’s got a bright future.”
Smith, though, didn’t dismiss the possibility of the Redskins drafting a quarterback with the No. 2 pick — only saying Washington was still in the “evaluation process” of every prospect. The Redskins will reportedly meet with Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa this week for an interview.
Meeting with Tagovailoa could be a matter of due diligence, especially if Washington looks to trade the pick to a quarterback-needy team. Smith’s remark can also be viewed as the executive not wanting to tip Washington’s plans, no matter how wild the scenario.
Any decision made, Smith said, will be a group effort. As the team’s vice president of player personnel, Smith holds similar duties to a general manager — the main difference being the 35-year-old doesn’t navigate the salary cap in the ways other general managers do.
In his new role, Smith now holds more influence in the pro personnel department. Smith said he oversaw meetings with his staff about the team’s free agents, asking questions about the value of each player.
But Smith remains involved heavily in the draft. On Tuesday, he was asked about Chase Young — the consensus player to be taken second overall — and the possibility of trading back.
“I’ve seen him live, I’ve seen him in person, watched his tape, talked to the coaches, all the deal,” Smith said of Young. “I’ve done the whole background stuff and have heard great things about him. They talk highly of him there. But he is obviously one of a lot of players that are — it’s a good draft now.
“There’s a lot of really good players that will be in consideration.”
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