Critiquing Redskins Head Coach Jay Gruden

Nov 29, 2015; Landover, MD, USA; Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden smiles prior to the game against the New York Giants at FedEx Field. Mandatory Credit: Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

In today’s NFL, with each team having anywhere from 15 to 20 coaches on staff, it’s easy for messages and points of emphasis to get lost in translation. Position coaches, film study coaches, offensive coordinators, defensive coordinators – the list seems to go on and on. The one coach I’m keeping my eye on this season is Redskins Head Coach Jay Gruden. Since Gruden was hired, there’s been a lot of second-guessing and speculation taking place. Many wondered what type of head coach Gruden would be. Would he be a player’s coach, a “team first” type of guy? People were asking what exactly could Gruden bring to the table as the Redskins Head Coach. Would he handle turmoil and confusion better than his predecessors? Would Gruden’s post-game press conferences be excuse-laden rants or would he take responsibility for poor production?

Too many times last season, this Redskins coaching staff (including and specifically Gruden) looked lost, befuddled, uncertain and downright confused. There was bad clock management and even worse play calling. Sometimes it seemed as if the coaches didn’t have a grasp on the situation or realize the capabilities of the players. Take, for example, the Bengals game last season “across the pond” in London, England. I would have loved to see Gruden thaw his kicker Dustin Hopkins out after Bengals Head Coach Lewis called a timeout immediately before the kick to freeze Hopkins so he would miss the field goal. There was also the first game against the Cowboys last season. The Redskins had the ball going into the half with limited time remaining on the game clock. What did the the Redskins coaches do? They lost the opportunity to place at least three points on the scoreboard. Quarterback Kirk Cousins took a knee with no timeouts remaining and the Redskins failed to capitalize on a scoring opportunity.

Coach Gruden needs to show far more energy and enthusiasm with his game calling. This should especially be the case when a bogus or egregious call has been made against the Redskins. Players tend to feed off the energy and temperature of their head coach. All too often, the sideline cameras catch Gruden with a blank and lost look on his face. Coaches have a difficult job and this writer will never underestimate that. When your game plan is as predictable and mundane as the Redskins has been these past few seasons, it’s time to shake things up! I read that Gruden is assuming full responsibility for calling offensive plays with the departure of former Offensive Coordinator Sean McVay. I like this decision. There will be no more pick-a-coach sessions after each game. We’ll know Gruden called the plays and will have to defend them during post-game press conferences. This places Gruden at a higher level of accountability. When the players see their head coach “fall on his sword,” it will bring out a renewed desire for them to perform better. It will give players stability, knowing Coach Gruden has their backs.

Players need direction, energy and intensity to win. What they get from their head coach makes all the difference between winning and losing. I’m not asking Gruden to go stark raving mad on the sidelines. That would only embarrass him, his team, and the Redskins organization. It’s just that sometimes Gruden has us wondering if he’s watching the same game as we Redskins fans.  I’d like to see Gruden show some emotion to let us know he cares. Players feed off of that. Former great Redskins Head Coach Joe Gibbs used to spend so many nights at Redskins Park that he had a cot in his office. Now that’s dedication! A head coach is relied upon to analyze the situation and do what’s necessary to put the team in a position to win. Usually, it’s the last game of the season that sticks out in the minds of the fans. This Redskins team, while not having the best season, still found themselves in control of their playoff position. The very last NFC playoff spot could have belonged to the Redskins if they were able to make it past the New York Giants. Instead, the Redskins put in a flat performance and played like they were disinterested in the game. As the head coach, you must find ways to keep your players motivated. The Redskins looked as if they didn’t have a clue of what all was at stake in the final game of last season. Then came Gruden’s post-game press conference. He admitted that he hadn’t done enough to motivate his team and there were plays he wish he could do over again. We saw confusion and a lack of confidence. I can’t blame it all on Gruden because players are responsible for executing plays on the field. However, confidence in a game plan is generated from the head coach on Tuesday of each week before the game. Let’s look at the numbers: Coach Gruden has a 21-26-1 record as Head Coach of the Washington Redskins with zero playoff wins and zero Super Bowl appearances from January 9, 2014 to present.

As we approach this 2017-18 season, Coach Gruden has to be more of a leader to this team. He needs to instill a “no excuses” and “no pity” mindset in the players. I recall in a post-game interview when reporters asked New England Patriots Head Coach Belichick about easing up at the end of a game when his team already had the lead. He replied that his offense is on the field to score every time. It’s about controlling and maintaining a competitive edge, to a level of perfection. This writer agrees. If you don’t want the other team to score, STOP THEM.

This year, Jay Gruden needs to have a winning season to keep his job. In this writer’s opinion, the non-production and unmotivated outcomes have all worn out its welcome with Redskins head brass Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen. What can change this? I don’t think a Super Bowl win will do it. While winning the Super Bowl is great, it’s just too unpredictable where each team will be at the end of the season. A step in the right direction would be Gruden showing he understands his team better. He needs to properly support to the coaching staff under him. Gruden has to help his offense and defense by running the ball and controlling the clock. In his post-game interviews, he must fall on his own sword if necessary. The respect he would earn from his players based on this action alone is underappreciated. Gruden should be the first on the practice field, in the facilities studying film and the last to leave. This is the level of commitment and dedication we Redskins fans expect from our head coach. HTTR4LIFE.

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