While Jay Gruden was relieved of his duties as coach of the Washington Redskins Monday, he also might be just plain relieved.
The Redskins said owner Daniel Snyder and President Bruce Allen informed Gruden he was out early Monday, after a 33-7 loss to the Patriots left the Redskins with an 0-5 record — the team’s worst start since 2001.
“Through the first five games of the 2019 season, the team has clearly not performed up to expectations, and we all share in that responsibility,” the team said in a statement. “Moving forward, we are committed to doing all that we can collectively as an organization to turn things around and give our Redskins fans and alumni a team they can be proud of in 2019 and beyond.”
— George Wallace (@GWallaceWTOP) October 7, 2019
The club confirmed Monday afternoon that offensive line coach Bill Callahan will take over as interim head coach. Callahan was head coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2002 and 2003. In his first season, Callahan guided the Raiders to an 11-5 record and a Super Bowl appearance, where the Raiders lost to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Redskins beat reporter George Wallace said the firing wasn’t a surprise, especially given that the offense “was just not doing anything” on Sunday.
And while Gruden kept the allegiance of the players in the locker room, Wallace said, speculation about Gruden’s future has hung over the team all season: “They say they don’t hear it, and you don’t listen to the outside stuff, but Chris Thompson broke down crying in the locker room yesterday because of how much Jay Gruden means to him.”
Fans on the WTOP Talkback line were largely of the opinion that the team’s problems run all the way up to the front office, including team owner Dan Snyder and president and de facto general manager Bruce Allen. “I give Jay Gruden a lot of credit for the last six years, because it’s been a circus around here,” Wallace said. He said it would be interesting to see whether Allen takes questions at today’s 1 p.m. news conference. Generally, Wallace said, “The front office doesn’t speak.”
Allen did take questions, many of them pointed. Asked about how much blame the front office should shoulder for the team’s failures, he didn’t dodge responsibility.
“Right now we’re all 0-5 and I don’t think anybody is hiding from the record,” said Allen.
Notably absent from the press conference was team owner Dan Snyder. When asked why Snyder wasn’t addressing the public himself, Allen said, “Because I am.”
A change at QB?
One thing that has to change, and probably will, Wallace said, is the quarterback situation. After floundering with Case Keenum and Colt McCoy, it’s time to see what rookie Dwayne Haskins can do.
Given the Redskins’ rotten record, Wallace said, “There’s a very good chance you could get a top-two or three pick this year. And the draft is heavy with quarterbacks next year. So you could find out now if Dwayne Haskins is really going to be the guy. If not, then you have decisions to make next year.”
In the short term, it helps that the Skins will play winless Miami on Sunday — it “could be a nice little soft landing for [Haskins],” Wallace said.
But that’s not all — the team wasn’t as close to playoff contention last season as they thought they were, and thanks to that optimism they didn’t make as many changes as they needed to. Now, he said, it’s time for “a tear-down.”
Snyder cannot be fired as team owner, but there needs to be a change in how things are organized and run inside Redskins Park if we are ever going to see change out at FedEx Field. It remains to be seen, however, whether Snyder and the front office will do it. Snyder bought the team at age 34 and hasn’t shown a lot of willingness to listen to advice, Wallace said, but Sunday’s debacle means he ought to start.
“If you can honestly sit in that owner’s box and look out over your stadium and see 75% of the opposing fans there, and … have Bill Belichick and Tom Brady say ‘It felt like a home game,’ you have to look at yourself, wouldn’t you think?”
One playoff appearance
It was not going to end well for Gruden, so it might as well have ended now. But then, it generally doesn’t end well for coaches in Washington.
Gruden was the eighth and longest-tenured head coach since Daniel Snyder became owner of the team 20 years ago. Only Joe Gibbs was able to leave on his own terms. In five-plus seasons, Gruden was 35-49-1 with one playoff appearance.
When Gruden arrived in Washington in 2014 he was considered one of the best young offensive minds in the NFL. The idea was that he would translate his success as offensive coordinator with the Bengals to the Redskins and their young quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Gruden moved on from Griffin, and Kirk Cousins helped lead the Redskins to a division title and Gruden’s one playoff appearance, in 2015. It ended with a loss to the Packers in the Wild Card game.
The team never committed to Cousins, however, and he left for the Vikings. Bad luck then set in: Last season, Cousins’ replacement, Alex Smith, broke his leg – then, so did his backup, Colt McCoy.
Injuries have had a lot to do with the inconsistency during Gruden’s tenure. Ten players are listed on injured reserve this year, and in each of the last two seasons, 23 players finished the season on that list.
Not only that, but the Redskins’ best offensive lineman, Trent Williams, is refusing to play for the team, and reportedly it is because of frustration with its medical staff.
In the short term, “Not much is going to change with this team,” Wallace said; “it’s still not a good football team.”
Is firing Jay Gruden the answer to the Redskins struggles? WTOP wants to hear your thoughts. Call the WTOP Talkback line at 844-282-1035 or tweet @WTOP.