INDIANAPOLIS — An offseason rife with turnover and lingering questions regained some stability late Saturday night when the Redskins signed head coach Jay Gruden to a two-year contract extension.
The deal was confirmed by multiple league and team sources. Gruden is now under contract through 2020. He was going to enter the fourth year of a five-year contract in 2017.
The two sides agreed to terms after a late-night meeting at an Indianapolis restaurant between Gruden’s agent, Bob LaMonte, and Washington team president Bruce Allen and Eric Schaffer, the organization’s vice president of football administration and general counsel.
Gruden has a 21-26-1 record over three seasons, but he has led the Redskins to two winning seasons in a row, including an NFC East title and a playoff berth in 2015. That hadn’t happened since 1996-97. And so Gruden celebrated his 50th birthday at the same Indianapolis restaurant where the deal was agreed to on Saturday night with more job security heading into a critical season.
The move comes at the end of a difficult week for Washington when general manager Scot McCloughan did not attend the NFL Combine for what he and the team said were “family reasons” after the death last month of his grandmother. McCloughan is the Redskins’ top personnel man, but his status with the organization is in question after being away from the team for two weeks now.
Gruden’s extension gives a veneer of stability to a team facing a host of key decisions upcoming, including tricky contract negotiations with quarterback Kirk Cousins and his agent Mike McCartney. Now, Cousins knows who his coach will be if he chooses to stay long term. Whether that makes the difference in the contract talks remains to be seen, but it was critical for Washington to have an answer for him and McCartney.
That played a role in the suddenness of the extension. A league source had previously told 106.7 The Fan that an extension for Gruden wasn’t imminent, though it could happen later in the spring. That was clearly fast-tracked.
Gruden’s job status was a factor in the assistant coaching search in January as the Redskins tried to replace fired defensive coordinator Joe Barry and offensive coordinator Sean McVay, who took the head coaching job with the Los Angeles Rams. Washington promoted assistants Matt Cavanaugh and Greg Manusky to fill those roles.
Cavanaugh was expected. He was the quarterbacks coach the past two seasons, after all. But Manusky’s hiring came after a long, thorough search where prominent candidates Wade Phillips and Gus Bradley chose other teams in part, according to league sources not with the Redskins, because Gruden had so little time left on his deal.
Multiple league sources thought it was overblown on Sunday morning that the Redskins were reacting to a public-relations crisis. Gruden has won enough games to justify an extension anyway and the team needed to make a decision soon so free agents – their own and outside targets – know what they’re dealing with. This helps, though it’s far from a guarantee. Now, Gruden and the front office have to go execute these critical decisions.
If they don’t think a Cousins long-term contract agreement is possible, then a trade must be discussed to avoid losing him for nothing. Free-agent wide receivers Pierre Garcon and DeSean Jackson could both be gone within days. How do they replace them if that happens? And the team must get better on the defensive side under Manusky, who needs more weapons to work with. That process will begin in free agency and continue into the draft in April.
The Redskins decision-makers will leave Indianapolis on Monday with the Gruden question resolved now and a host of others left to deal with. The perception of an organization in chaos, a prime topic all week here among coaches, scouts and executives with other teams, has been quelled – for now.
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