The rumors are rife that Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden not only wants to move on from Robert Griffin III, but that he would prefer to bring in an entirely new quarterback, also moving on from Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy—at least as a starter. The message of owner Daniel Snyder to this should be simple—enough is enough. Make it work with what you have.
Gruden came to the Redskins with a reputation as a quarterback genius, something entirely undeserved and based on the premise that his work in Cincinnati had somehow turned Andy Dalton into the next Dan Marino. In reality, while Gruden was a competent offensive coordinator in Cincy, he was also the second-best coordinator on his own staff. The best was defensive guru Mike Zimmer, who got the Minnesota Vikings head job.
But deserved or not, Gruden’s reputation got the job and he was hired with the mandate to develop RG3. After four starts, Gruden decided that wasn’t going to work. Now—if the rumors are true—he’s apparently decided that a third-round pick in Cousins can’t work, and that another former first-rounder, in McCoy can’t work either.
This quarterback carousel simply has to stop. Bad teams and bad organizations—and my beloved Washington Redskins are most definitely both—have a tendency to go for quick fixes, which means either change the head coach or change the quarterback. In reality, the Redskins problems are much deeper.
To watch the Redskins is to see a team that looks undisciplined and lacks cohesion. They pile up penalties on special teams, consistently creating field position problems. They don’t make tackles in the open field. They commit false starts in the red zone. These problems all pre-date Gruden and he did not create them. After three-quarters of a season, it’s also apparent he hasn’t been able to fix them.
When RG3 was a rookie, his skills were transcendent enough to overcome all that. Since his ACL tear at the end of that year, the subsequent ankle dislocation this year and general loss of confidence and identity, those flaws in the rest of the team are on full display.
Fixing these basic problems has to be the priority for this organization. Any discussion of new personnel needs to focus on the offensive line and the secondary. The focus of the coaching staff needs to be making sure the next edition of the Redskins looks more like a disciplined football team and less like chaos on display.
It’s a cop-out for Gruden or anyone else to go around demanding a new quarterback, at least for now. If the head coach fixes the problems mentioned, gets this team to 8-8, and nothing resolves itself at quarterback, then maybe he can have a new toy at the QB position. Right now, he needs to eat his vegetables first and build the defense, the offensive line and the general team discipline.
There’s a myth that you can’t win in the NFL without a really good quarterback. The people at ProFootballFocus.com watch film and grade every player at every position. The grade of RG3—a poor one—still exceeds that of Brian Hoyer in Cleveland and Matthew Stafford in Detroit. Those teams are a combined 15-9, and that’s with Hoyer possibly now losing his job to Johnny Manziel. The reason? Both of those teams play defense.
So it’s time for Jay Gruden to live up to his reputation, or at least a small part of it. I don’t care who he starts, be it RG3, Colt, or Cousins. I don’t care if it’s some combination of the three. Heck, I don’t care if he wants to use them as the shuttle to bring in plays from the sidelines. What I want to see is him figure out to make it work. And by “work”, I just mean win as many as you lose. Not even make the playoffs. Those aren’t exactly high expectations.
The message “make it work with what you have” applies to those of us who are critics of the head coach as well. This was a hire that I hated from the moment it was made, and there’s a big part of me that just wants to cut the cord after one year. But that isn’t going to be the answer either. The tone needs to be set throughout this organization and fan base—at least for 2015, Jay Gruden is our coach, and RG3/Colt/Cousins are the quarterbacks. And within that framework we have to win eight games by fixing the aspects of a football team that don’t get the headlines.