Mark R. Bacon—Main Event Sports DC
Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden is going to be fired. Soon. This was something of a foregone conclusion even before Washington was thumped 24-3 by the rival New York Giants in a game that strengthened their grip on the NFC East cellar.
Maybe it will happen Monday. Maybe it will happen in Week 10, when the Redskins have their bye. Whatever the case, there’s next to no chance Gruden survives the 2019 season—and zero chance he’s the franchise’s head coach in 2020.
No one outside the Gruden family will argue the firing isn’t deserved. The Redskins aren’t just 0-4 to start the season. Every game has seen the team lose by a bigger margin than the week before. His career record as head coach in Washington is 35-48-1. In five-plus seasons at the helm, Gruden’s Redskins have played in all of one playoff game.
However, while Gruden may deserve his pink slip, he’s not the only problem facing this football team. He’s not even the biggest one. Gruden may make for a convenient scapegoat, but firing him isn’t going to fix all that ails Washington.
Not even close.
To be fair, even Gruden allowed that he’s part of the problem for the 0-4 Redskins after they were throttled by the Giants on Sunday.
When asked for an explanation on why the #Redskins are 0-4, Jay Gruden listed the names of starters out injured, then said the players playing weren’t executing, then said he himself was calling a “crappy game”.
That the head coach receives the brunt of the blame for a team’s failures in situations like this is another of those realities Gruden mentioned. But so is this…
Joe Gibbs and George Allen put together couldn’t win with this dumpster fire of a football team.
Say what you will about Gruden as a head coach or play-caller, but he didn’t assemble this talent-deficient mess of a roster. The “credit” for that “achievement” goes to team president Bruce Allen, who brought up the rear in the GM power rankings of NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal:
“Allen has proven excellent at gaining the trust of ownership in Oakland, Tampa Bay and Washington, bridging the gap between ownership and the football side of the building. However, constructing a long-term vision in any of the locations has proven more challenging. This ranking reflects his body of work rather than just the last few years, along with a preference for management that aims for championships rather than the soft middle of the NFL’s standings.”
Gruden just hasn’t had a lot to work with in recent years. Even when he has, something’s happened to louse things up.
The Redskins let Kirk Cousins leave in free agency, choosing to replace him with veteran Alex Smith. Smith played well last year—the Redskins were a first-place team after nine games in 2018—but then he suffered a devastating leg injury and may never play again.
That led to a two-pronged approach from Washington in 2019. The Redskins signed veteran Case Keenum as a “bridge” starter and drafted Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins at No. 15 overall. Keenum was OK the first two games of the year, horrible against the Bears in Week 3 and got the hook in Week 4.
Haskins made his NFL debut Sunday in New York and was terrible, throwing three interceptions and posting a passer rating of 32.8.
Mind you, Gruden had long been hesitant to start Haskins, and based on his comments after the game, it’s looking somewhat unlikely that the rookie will be under center in Week 5 against the unbeaten Patriots.
Gruden on Haskins, when probed further about this week’s game:”It’s my job to figure out who gives us the best chance to win against New England”.Doesn’t sound like it’s going to be Haskins, if Case is healthy or Colt is available. (It’s Colt McCoy today.)
There was good reason for both that hesitation and potentially sitting Haskins back down if Colt McCoy can go next week.
Right now, the youngster has minimal chance to succeed.
Haskins is not a quarterback who is known for being fleet of foot. And right now, a Washington O-line that’s missing left tackle Trent Williams has been a sieve, surrendering nine sacks and numerous hits and pressures. Keenum was battered constantly last week against the Bears, and even New York’s less-than-imposing pass rush notched three sacks and eight quarterback hits Sunday.
Even if Haskins had time, Washington’s skill-position talent is among the weakest in the league—or at least the few players still standing are. Washington’s No. 1 running back (Derrius Guice), No. 1 wide receiver (rookie Terry McLaurin) and No. 1 tight end (Jordan Reed) all sat out Sunday’s loss.
Asking any young quarterback to succeed behind a bad offensive line with lackluster offensive weaponry is a tall order. Asking him to do so in his first NFL game is nearly impossible.
Never mind that according to Joel Klatt of Fox Sports, Gruden didn’t want Washington to draft Haskins at all…that drafting him was all Allen and owner Daniel Snyder.
“the (Redskins) coaching staff never was on board with the selection (of Dwayne Haskins)… there is a riff between the front office, who wants him to play, and the coaching staff.” -@joelklatt
Of course, that doesn’t matter now. All that really does is that Washington is 0-4 and Gruden is a dead coach walking. Maybe the team will make veteran coach Bill Callahan the interim head man. Per Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports, Redskins brass thinks highly of young offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell.
It really doesn’t matter whom the Redskins give the job to. In 2019, the Redskins aren’t going anywhere. At this point, the last thing the team needs is to start winning games. Every loss means a better draft pick—and what the Redskins really need is talent.
Barring a miracle, Trent Williams isn’t coming back. McLaurin appears to be a find, but the Redskins need to add pieces around him. Guice has barely played in two seasons. The defensive secondary is absolutely atrocious, allowing 10 touchdown passes in four games.
That’s tied with Arizona for the most in the NFC.
For much of Gruden’s time in Washington, the Redskins have hovered in that nether-world that no NFL team wants to occupy—the in-between. Too bad to compete for a playoff spot but just good enough to avoid getting a top-five pick in the draft.
This cratering by the Redskins may wind up a blessing in disguise. Fresh blood and new ideas at head coach in D.C. are a good idea. Adding some impact talent is an even better one.
It’s going to be a very long season in Washington. It’s also going to be Jay Gruden’s last one as coach. What it won’t be is Snyder’s last as the team’s owner, much to the chagrin of the long-suffering fanbase.
Gruden’s far from perfect. He may not even be good, at least as a head coach. But the 52-year-old isn’t totally to blame for the disaster that is the Washington Redskins. Or even mostly to blame.
Maybe a parting of the ways is best for everyone involved.
The Redskins are staring at a full-on rebuild, and there’s an NFL team moving to Vegas that could use an offensive coordinator.
I hear Gruden’s tight with their head coach.