The writing was on the wall for Jay Gruden to be the Redskins next head coach. Between his ties to Bruce Allen, who was his G.M. when he was on his brother John’s staff in Tampa, to the coaches the Redskins retained who had previously worked with Jay Gruden (Jim Haslett, Raheem Morris and Sean McVay), Gruden was considered a front runner for the job. The Redskins did well to mask their pursuit of Gruden by attaching their name to just about every coach on the market. In the end though it was just a matter of waiting for Gruden to become available. Here are the Pros and Cons of hiring Jay Gruden as the Redskins next head coach:
-Gruden worked and helped develop Andy Dalton who started day one for the Bengals. Dalton is far from perfect, but he’s put up good numbers and has led the offense these past three years getting the Bengals to the playoffs each season.
-Gruden’s father Jim Sr. was a long time high school, college and NFL coach. His dad also worked on the scouting side as a player personnel director and scout, so Jay Gruden has been around the game his entire life. He was a highly successful high school quarterback and then played and started at Louisville in the late 80’s. That led to a long and fairly success career playing in both the world football league and the Arena league. Afterwards he went on to coach in the Arena league, NFL and UFL.
-Gruden is just 46 years old (will be 47 at the start of the season) and could be one of those coaches who is with a team for 10-15 years. The Skins haven’t had that since Joe Gibbs 1.0 and it’s hurt them. Even some of the big name hires they’ve made (including Gibbs 2.0) you knew weren’t 10 year options (not that any ever got close to that goal). Hopefully Gruden can get this team back to contention status and keep them there for a long time.
-Gruden is a non-stop worker, and while you can say that about many coaches it really applies to him. From 2002-2008, Gruden did double duty as an offensive assistant for the Buccaneers and as a player then coach for the Orlando Predators Arena team in the offseason.
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-Gruden perhaps didn’t have the most explosive offenses, and the teams success had more to do with the defense, but Cincy still won football games these past three years. They had success versus their rivals and they won the division this year. Those are big steps for this franchise that has floundered for so many years. Gruden helped in that department with the Bengals. While the offense wasn’t great, it was effective and got the job done.
-The Bengals have had a pretty stout offensive line these last few years, with strong depth as well. Those are two things that have been lacking from the Redskins for quite some time and hopefully will change this season.
-Though Gruden took a lot of flack for throwing the ball 50 times in the Bengals wild card round game, Cincinnati was really more of a running team in his 3 seasons. The Bengals finished 10th, 17th and 8th in rushing attempts these past three years compared to 20th, 19th and 12th in passing attempts. This was despite the fact that Cincinnati didn’t have much in the way in rushing talent, particularly before this season. Gruden hasn’t had a back nearly as talented as Alfred Morris, so the Redskins should expect Morris to be the focal point of the offense. This is a good thing while developing a young quarterback and it should limit any issues with RGIII.
-Let’s be honest Mike Shanahan didn’t really care about defense. Poor defense led to his downfall in Denver, and it was his biggest failure in DC as well. Gruden isn’t a defensive guy obviously, but he should understand the importance of a strong defense. Not only has a top notch defense helped the Bengals get into the playoffs three straight years, but much of John Gruden’s success in Tampa (including their SB win) was due to having a strong defense. The Bucs had a top 10 defense in both yards and points (many times in the top 5) for 6 of Gruden’s 7 seasons with the Bucs, and Jay Gruden was on that staff. The Bengals have had a top 10 unit in both categories each of the last three years as well. A top defense is a weak offense’s best friend, and it needs to be a focus of the Redskins next year. Gruden has been exposed to that importance and hopefully he understands that.
-While he was on staff in Tampa, his brother ran a 4-3 defense and that is what he saw while in Cincinnati. Also, both Jim Haslett and Raheem Morris figure to be more interested in running a 4-3. Though either defense could work in Washington, a 4-3 probably better suits the Redskins right now.
-Gruden as a coach in the Arena league or UFL, had quite a bit of extra responsibility than say an NFL coach. They don’t have the same level of coaching staffs or support staffs, meaning that as the offensive coordinator or head coach, more of it falls on you. He was actually the GM and head coach of the Florida Tuskers during his one year stint as HC in the UFL. Also with the Bengals, given their very limited scouting department, their coaching staff is forced to take on the bulk of the work.
-Most of Gruden’s coaching experience comes from the Arena league and UFL. Now that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it doesn’t give you the same level of confidence as if he was coaching in the NFL. He did do the dual coaching as an offensive assistant for years under Jon Gruden in Tampa, he didn’t have a specific coaching focus. Gruden has zero college coaching experience, and just 3 years as a position coach or coordinator (all as a coordinator) in the NFL. That is not a lot of experience in the two biggest coaching pools the NFL typically looks at. Also, most of his non-NFL coaching experience comes from the Arena league which is so completely different from the NFL in their rules and concepts that it’s tough to really use that as a strong litmus test.
-Gruden has done a nice job in Cincinnati, but it’s pretty crazy he’s been considered one of the top HC candidates these past two years. His offenses haven’t been groudbreaking, either from a production or innovation standpoint. The Bengals success is probably far more attributable to their defense. Yet Gruden was sought after for interviews last year (he turned them down and signed an extension instead), and was one of the top candidates for most teams this year. It makes one wonder if Gruden would be a top candidate if his last name wasn’t Gruden. Now it definitely is a positive that Jay Gruden comes from a football family and has worked and learned under John, but is it so much so that it puts him at the top of so many lists?
-Though the Bengals aren’t the best run team and Gruden (as a first year coordinator) was overruling a meddling owner, it’s troubling that Gruden made this call. Not only is it clear that Kaepernick is the better long term quarterback with greater upside, but the fact that Gruden didn’t see him as a fit for his system doesn’t bode well for RGIII. Griffin works best out of the shotgun/pistol in a spread or read option system, Gruden’s system isn’t too similar to that at all. While Griffin will need to develop as more of a drop back, under center type of quarterback, the Redskins are also going to need a system that takes advantage of all his attributes. This doesn’t seem like the best marriage.
-While there is a positive that Gruden has had a lot of responsibility in his career, there also could be a downside as well. The Bengals have the smallest scouting staff in the NFL (by far) and their front office is made up almost exclusively from the Brown family (the ownership group). That meant that the Bengals coaching staff had to do a lot of the work in identifying talent and had a lot of say in the matter (see above). This could lead Gruden to not trusting or listening to his scouts and drafting/signing the guys that he feels are the best. He also saw his brother have that kind of relationship with Bruce Allen in Tampa. Gruden might not have the overwhelming authority of Mike Shanahan, but he may soon override the scouts opinions, and if Allen trusts him more, that is what the Redskins will do.
-The Redskins are promoting tight ends coach Sean McVay to offensive coordinator and are likely to promote Raheem Morris to defensive coordinator, with Jim Haslett taking an Assistant Head Coach/Defense type of job (according to some reports Haslett and Morris’s roles could flip). While Jim Haslett probably took more heat than he deserved, he’s not exactly a top coordinator right now. He would likely need to take a job as a linebacker coach on any other team in the league. Raheem Morris is getting promoted despite coaching the weakest unit of the Redskins Defense. Guys that he brought in struggled, and now he’s getting even more responsibility. Yes he’s energetic and people like him, but his track record is extremely poor. McVay is a better option because he’s considered an up-and-coming coach, but the Redskins are passing on any number of better coordinator options out there right now. They are passing up on the chance to bring in young guys with big ideas of how to get the most out of these units.
-Gruden’s offense was good and effective, but it wasn’t the most imaginative. He would add some trick plays, but overall it felt very basic. There can be positives from having a basic offense that is effective, but it can also mean better defenses don’t have to prepare as much.
-Young is one of the best fullbacks in the league and is also capable as a runner and receiver. The Bengals under Gruden have shied away from the fullback position, and this past year would use a converted TE (who isn’t exactly a strong blocker) and would shift a defensive tackle to the position when needed. Losing Young from the offense would hurt, particularly when the Redskins don’t have great tight ends as blockers. Alfred Morris didn’t run as well when Young wasn’t lead blocking for him so him being either cut or marginalized is probably not a good thing.
-Gruden had an effective quarterback, a strong offensive line, one of the 5 best receivers in the league and some other talented weapons (Gio Bernard, Tyler Eifert, Marvin Jones, etc.) yet the offense was very streaky this year. Now some of that can maybe be dumped in Andy Dalton‘s lap, but some of it probably falls on Gruden as well. Dalton would disappear for stretches where he just wasn’t effective, and then other times he looked like a top quarterback. It’s tough to say how much of it falls on Gruden, but as the offensive coordinator he’s got to realize when his quarterback maybe needs some extra help, and it didn’t always feel that the Bengals would make those adjustments. The scary thing is that in Washington, Griffin doesn’t have as much of an overall supporting cast, so can Gruden help overcome that?