Extending Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden’s contract through 2020 isn’t a bad move even if more intended to bolster the team’s chaotic image.
The Redskins have looked foolish once more over general manager Scot McCloughan’s absence during the NFL Combine recently. The story over his grandmother’s funeral seems incomplete. Now McCloughan seems the short-timer with the NFL draft on April 27-29 his swan song. Maybe not even that.
The Redskins needed a win during the offseason when they usually dominate. With season-ticket renewals coming, a feel-good story was vital now.
Gruden is probably as good of a coach as the Redskins merit nowadays. Sure, owner Dan Snyder has hired a virtual hall of fame since his 1999 arrival. Mike Shanahan won two Super Bowls in Denver. Marty Schottenheimer was an NFL legend in Cleveland and Kansas City. Joe Gibbs, the most beloved Washington coach ever, returned from retirement. Steve Spurrier was a college coaching legend. Jim Zorn, well, he was a good NFL player at least.
But none ever managed consecutive winning years like Gruden just did. Sure, 9-7 and 8-7-1 aren’t grand seasons, but even Gibbs didn’t do that in his second tenure.
Gruden’s 21-26-1 overall mark isn’t much, but throw out the 4-12 season when inheriting a mess and 17-14-1 is decent.
Was it good enough for a contract extension one year before needed? Not really, but it gives the Redskins stability needed to keep quarterback Kirk Cousins and attract free agents.
Cousins is currently under the franchise tag, which whenever signed keeps him in Washington for 2017. The Redskins now seem ready to make a long-term commitment to the passer. But, would Cousins foresee staying if the possibility of a new coach and offense were coming in 2018? Now that element is eliminated. Maybe it’s still not enough to keep Cousins from becoming a 2018 free agent, but given he gets along well with Gruden and thrives in this offense, extending the coach was definitely a smart move.
There was reported grumbling from agents at the Combine over not sending their free agents to Washington given the apparent chaos. That’s nonsense. The top 10 reasons typically a player signs with a team have money as the top eight, the coach as ninth and city as 10th. Translation — money always rules. But it doesn’t hurt to have a coach who’s popular with players.
And Gruden is popular with players. No way receiver DeSean Jackson would ever try twisting Mike Shanahan’s nipple in practice. Players like Gruden because he doesn’t beat them up in practice or have a lot of rules. He respects players as men and they respect him as the coach. It’s a good balance. Free agents will like playing for Gruden.
Gruden has proven himself a good offensive coach. OK, there are gaffes now and then, but that happens to most coaches. Gruden has grown over three years to keep defenses guessing. If he can get a red zone receiver and 1,000-yard running back, who knows what’s possible.
Gruden does need to oversee the defense more because coaching just one side of the ball rarely works. Oh, Gibbs could trust defensive coordinator Richie Petitbon, but there aren’t many Petitbons around the league.
Whether Gruden ever hoists the Super Bowl trophy depends more on the front office, but the Redskins know he can win given talent. That’s good enough for now.
Rick Snider has covered Washington sports since 1978. Follow him on Twitter @Snide_Remarks.