Not yet through the first year of a five-year contract, Redskins Coach Jay Gruden is unlikely to be fired, despite a 3-9 record through a dozen games and a losing season guaranteed. However, given that Dan Snyder fired Marty Schottenheimer after one 8-8 season and the overall impatience he’s shown in his 15 years of owning the Redskins, a coaching change can’t be ruled out.
And when we talk about a Redskins coaching change, as we seem to do so damn often, we always talk about the available big names. Biggest name available? One with a Super Bowl ring and only 51-years-old? That’s right – Jon Gruden.
Now before you say, “Oh come on, even Snyder wouldn’t try to replace Jay Gruden with Jon Gruden. And even if he did, Jon wouldn’t take the job,” realize this – a brother replacing a fired brother as head coach has happened. And it happened in this town with excellent results.
When Bryan Murray took over as head coach of the Capitals in 1981, the franchise had been lousy. There were rumblings that the team might even be sold and moved, prompting the “Save the Caps” campaign. But thanks to a deal with Montreal for Rod Langway and strong leadership from Murray, the Caps became playoff regulars. Unfortunately, in a pattern that has characterized the organization for most of it’s 40 years, the team made early playoff exits.
Finally in January of 1990, after watching the team lose eight straight games, general manager David Poile had seen enough and fired Murray 46 games into the season. Nothing unusual about a hockey coach getting canned. It happens all the time. The surprise was what followed.
Poile decided to promote the coach of the Caps American Hockey League affiliate Baltimore Skipjacks, who just happened to be Bryan Murray’s younger brother, Terry Murray.
Family is family and business is business. Said Poile at the time, “I’m sure he was hoping for a better time or better circumstances for when he was going to get the job, but he said to me, ‘This is what I’ve been preparing my hockey career for and yes, I’ll accept the job.’ “
It turned out to be the right move for everybody. Terry Murray led the Caps to the Eastern Conference Finals, further than they’d ever been, before being swept by Boston. He remained the Caps coach until the 1993-94 season when he was replaced by Jim Schoenfeld.
Meantime Bryan Murray became the head coach in Detroit at the start of the 1990-91 season and later coached the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2003. He did the same as coach of the Ottawa Senators in 2007. In between there was a stint with the Florida Panthers, where Bryan Murray moved from coaching to the front office and decided to replace himself with, who else?, Terry Murray.
Later Terry Murray coached the Philadelphia Flyers, reaching the Stanley Cup Finals once. He continues to coach in the minors these days.
Bryan Murray also continues to work in the Senators front office, although he revealed last month that he has stage four colon cancer, which he says has no cure.
A quarter of a century after the Murray for Murray change was made, could a Gruden for Gruden swap occur? Don’t count on it. But when you’ve got an owner who’s hired six coaches, firing three of them plus the one he inherited, never say never to anything.