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Carolina Panthers' Eric Washington is a teacher first and foremost
Defensive coordinator a disciple of collaboration
Published Wednesday, February 7, 2018 12:54 pm
by Herbert L. White

Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Eric Washingrton moves up after six years as defensive line coach.

Eric Washington considers himself a teacher at heart.

The Carolina Panthers’ new defensive coordinator was promoted from defensive line coach, where Washington was considered one of the NFL’s best over six seasons with that unit. As coordinator, he’s responsible for game plans as well as overseeing players and coaches. In a wide-ranging interview with The Post’s Sports Charlotte podcast, Washington, who played tight end at Grambling for Hall of Fame coach Eddie Robinson, talked about making the transition to coordinator, what makes a successful defense and coaching influences. Responses are edited for clarity and brevity.

On making the transition from position coach to coordinator:  

“The scope of the responsibility changes. Instead of having a small group of players to focus on in a specific area of our defense, now you have the entire operation – players and coaches.  I was aware of certain things and I understood how the whole thing connected, but now you’re responsible for making sure the entire operation operates efficiently.”

Taking his philosophy as a position coach to the entire defense:

“Great production starts with great talent. We’ve got to bring great people into this system that can do what we’re asking them to do at a high level. You talk about a K.K. Short or Julius Peppers, well it’s that way across the board at the linebacker level and certainly in the secondary, then we have to make sure we have a good solid base with our position fundamentals then you have to have a system that will exploit or bring out the traits or those different things that all those individuals possess and you’ve got to have coaches who can communicate and teach.

On teaching in the coordinator role:

“To me, they’re almost synonymous. You continue to teach. You make sure, number one, you’re communicating with your staff and you’re aligned in terms of philosophy, how you want practices to look, how we want our meetings to benefit players. That tone has to be set by the coordinator. You don’t stop teaching because you’re in a different role, a different perspective. I will try to continue to be the best resource I can be for the position coaches and for the players, whether we’re outside, a practice environment, a meeting situation and certainly making adjustments on Sunday.”

How to develop coaches and players simultaneously:

“The relationship between coaches and players is critical and the foundation of that is trust. They have to trust you and I think that trust crystalizes when they can feel your preparation and they can feel your sincerity, so there’s a lot we have to do before we meet the players so they know what we want to communicate and we have a progression they’ll respond to. …The next thing you know, you’ve got guys that are responding and growing. I’ve been fortunate to see that my entire career in the NFL.   

On putting his mark on the defense after succeeding previous coordinators Sean McDermott and Steve Wilks, both of whom are now head coaches:

“I’m certainly not focused on having a stamp, per se. This isn’t about Eric Washington; it’s about making sure this group thrives and functions the way we believe it can and supports the mission of what we’re trying to do. I have a very important role, but we all have a very important role. My job is to make sure everybody understands they see the value in what we’re doing and we’ll decide exactly what those signatures of this 2018 defense will consist of. We’ll collaborate as a staff and we’ll take feedback from the players and come up with the best plan.”    


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