Finding Nice Things To Say About Jay Gruden
I’ve never been a fan of Jay Gruden. As a Redskins fan I was apoplectic when the word he had even interviewed for the head coaching job after the 2013 season and when Gruden got hired, one knowing friend texted me with a heckling “Redskins got their man!”. Another, with more compassion, said simply “I feel for you man.” No, I was never excited about hiring an Arena Football League coach whose NFL resume consisted of being a modestly successful offensive coordinator in Cincinnati.
Gruden’s record as a head coach is now 6-16, so it would be easy for me to pile on. And as one who likes RG3 and admires his entire family for their military service, it would be an even easier for me to go after a man who so publicly crushed Griffin during his struggles last year and now makes the most appalling excuses for Kirk Cousins (did Gruden really say “it was windy” after the Jets game on Sunday? Yes, he did.).
But I’m not here to crush Jay Gruden. I’m here to point out some good things I see in his stewardship.
*Let’s begin with his offensive design. I like the way Gruden’s pass offense always seems to pop receivers open underneath. It’s perfect for a rookie like Jamison Crowder and when DeSean Jackson gets healthy, it’s great for him, a shifty fast guy who can get yards after the catch. It’s also great for Jordan Reed when he’s healthy, although Reed seems to have RG3’s problem in that injuries tend to find him.
*When Gruden hired Joe Barry as defensive coordinator, I was ready to go crazy. Barry’s background was an assistant on the Detroit Lions’ defensive staff in 2008, the team that went 0-16. It’s not that I thought every single coach on that team, or even every player, was thereby awful. But I thought it absurd that someone would get a promotion based on that (Barry hadn’t even been coordinator). The results through six games suggest that I was wrong, perhaps spectacularly wrong.
Until the second half of the Jets game, the Redskins’ defense had been very solid throughout the season. They play disciplined. They tackle in the open field. They’ve survived even with injuries at corner to DeAngelo Hall and Chris Culliver. I barely recognize this defense and that’s a great thing. If this holds up Gruden’s hiring of Barry is going to be a big-time win for which the head coach deserves credit.
*The general disorderly play of the last two seasons seems to be cleaned up. The Redskins still commit some annoying penalties, so there is more work to do. But it’s not as much as an epidemic as it’s been the last couple seasons. I trace things like these directly to coaching, so I’ll give Gruden the credit.
I don’t know if Jay Gruden is going to survive. In spite of what I’ve written here, I’m not even sure if he should. What I do know is that no organization finds success by constantly purging its coaches. Jay Gruden isn’t an easy guy to like. He acts like a blowhard in his press conferences. He plays favorites at the quarterback position. He’s at where he’s at solely because of his last name.
As endorsements go, this one isn’t exactly a ringing one. But he’s done some things well over the last year-plus and those of us who don’t like the way he’s handled the RG3 situation shouldn’t lose sight of that as Gruden coaches for his job and the stability of the franchise we love over these next ten games, particularly Sunday against Tampa Bay.