PHOENIX — Redskins coach Jay Gruden was not expecting a contract extension earlier this month.
Yes, Gruden had led Washington to back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since 1996-97. In 2015 the team won the NFC East title and earned a playoff berth. But coming off a disappointing 8-7-1 season, with two years left on his original deal, Gruden figured the front office would see how things played out. Then his agent, Bob Lamont, got a call.
On March 4, Lamont, Redskins team president Bruce Allen and Eric Schaffer, vice president of football administration, hammered out a two-year extension that will keep Gruden in Washington until 2020 and gave some much-needed stability to a franchise that was floundering early this offseason.
“It’s significant, obviously. It’s a great honor to be coach of the Washington Redskins,” Gruden said. “And to have [owner] Dan [Snyder] and Bruce [Allen] have the faith that they want me to continue to be here is important. Hopefully I can make them right by the decision and do the best I can moving forward and continue to build this franchise the way it’s supposed to be.”
Gruden might not have expected it until talks became serious in February. But he realizes that stability is good for his players, too — not just himself. Gruden enters his fourth season as a head coach. He has experienced assistant coaches by his side in Bill Callahan, Matt Cavanaugh and Wes Phillips on the offensive side and Greg Manusky, Jim Tomsula and Kirk Olivadotti on defense. Cavanaugh was named offensive coordinator in January when Sean McVay left to coach the Los Angeles Rams. Callahan was promoted to assistant head coach/offensive line.
“It’s always good to have stability, especially with your assistant coaches, too. They have families, too, and they want to feel secure in their spots,” Gruden said. “Coach [Bill] Callahan and now Greg Manusky and Jim Tomsula and all these guys and Ike Hilliard, it just makes for a better environment working without the stress of looking over your shoulder every five minutes.”
Gruden insisted the timing of the extension wasn’t an issue. Washington took some time figuring out its new coordinators after McVay left and it fired defensive coordinator Joe Barry in January. A lengthy search led to multiple top candidates (Gus Bradley, Wade Phillips) choosing other jobs before Manusky was promoted from outside linebackers coach. It didn’t hurt that Manusky was on staff last year and was a defensive coordinator in Indianapolis, San Francisco and San Diego, but the other coaches were clearly intriguing candidates.
In the end, Gruden found the staff he wanted and is optimistic that his team can make it back to the postseason in 2017. The newfound job security — such as it is in the NFL — doesn’t hurt, either.
“I wasn’t expecting it. I still had a couple years on my contract,” Gruden said. “Obviously I’m grateful for it and signed it right away when I was offered. There was no negotiating. It was, ‘Give me the pen.’”
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