Al Galdi gives his thoughts on the Redskins retaining Jay Gruden
So Jay Gruden is returning for a fifth season as Redskins head coach. He’ll be the first person to be able to say that since Norv Turner, who was the Redskins’ head coach from Feb. 1994-Dec. 2000.
Ultimately, I am fine with Jay being back as Redskins head coach. Their 2017 season was largely ruined by an absurd amount of injuries and a brutal schedule over the first 10 games. If not for those factors, the Redskins may well have had a nine- or even 10-win season and thus a third consecutive winning season for the first time since 1989-92. Additionally, Jay knows passing offense very well, is well-liked by his players and Redskins executives and, remember, had the stones to stand up and fight for the quarterback he wanted as his starter prior to the 2015 season.
But plenty of other head coaches have done better than Jay has done with the Redskins and still gotten fired. Take Jim Caldwell, who went 36-28 with two playoff appearances and three winning seasons in four years in Detroit and was fired on Monday. Jay is 28-35-1 with one playoff appearance and two winning seasons in four years with the Redskins.
There are a number of negative items regarding Jay’s four seasons as Redskins head coach that are undeniable. And if these things are not improved on, then he will not be back for a sixth season.
1. Jay may know passing offense, but he has had a very hard time with rushing offense
The Redskins’ running game has been terrible in two of the last three seasons, and the team’s 2016 rushing attack, while statistically good, came up horrifically small in two of the final three games of that season (home losses to Carolina and the Giants). If you go by the Football Outsiders DVOA metric, the Redskins’ rushing offense was no. 19 in the NFL in 2014, dead last in 2015, believe it or not no. 4 in 2016 and no. 28 this season, during which the Redskins were abysmal in short-yardage situations.
The Redskins brought in Bill Callahan as their offensive line coach in Jan. 2015 and promoted him to assistant head coach/offensive line coach in March 2017. The running game is believed to be largely his responsibility. It has not been good during his time here, and that’s even factoring in the rise of Chris Thompson over the last three seasons.
2. Jay has had three defensive coordinators in four seasons and has yet to have a truly good defense during his Redskins tenure
The Redskins’ 2014 defense was the worst in the NFL against the pass per DVOA but actually good against the run. Their 2015 defense wasn’t very good but was good enough to win the NFC East. Their 2016 defense was woeful and especially awful on third downs. And the Redskins’ 2017 defense was actually good against the pass (no. 6 per DVOA) but hideous against the run (no. 29).
At no point have the Redskins had anything close to what you would call a good defense during Jay’s time as head coach.
3. The Redskins have suffered an alarming number of disturbing losses during Jay’s tenure
Let’s first acknowledge that Jay has been at the helm for some impressive road wins: at Dallas on Monday Night Football in Oct. 2014, at Philadelphia to clinch the NFC East on the night after Christmas in 2015, at the Rams and Seattle this season.
But Jay also has been at the helm for not just some bad losses but also what came off as complete no-show performances: home loss to Dallas on Monday Night Football in Dec. 2015, home losses to Carolina and the Giants in two of the final three games of the 2016 season, losses at Dallas, the Chargers and the Giants in three of the final five games of this season. Throw in the Redskins being 0-4 in Week 1 games during Jay’s tenure and defensive captain D.J. Swearinger not once but twice ripping the Redskins’ practicing and preparation this season, and there’s a picture that isn’t so pretty.
4. Jay’s clock management way too often leaves a lot to be desired
This is an issue for a lot of head coaches, but that doesn’t make it acceptable.
Jay made a huge mistake in the 29-20 loss at Kansas City on Monday Night Football in Week 4, calling a timeout too quickly after a Chris Thompson second-and-two shotgun-handoff run for no gain at the Chiefs’ 22. The timeout came with 57 seconds left in the fourth quarter but should have come about 25 seconds later so as to leave the Chiefs with as little time as possible. The drive resulted in Dustin Hopkins’ late-fourth-quarter 20-yard field goal that tied the game at 20, and the Chiefs got the ball back with 47 seconds left. Jay presumably felt that getting a first down would have necessitated wanting more time in order to score a go-ahead touchdown, but the gain for that luxury wasn’t worth anywhere near the risk of giving the potent Chiefs offense (which was having its way with your defense) the ball back with close to 50 seconds left. The Chiefs ended up putting together a six-play 50-yard drive that resulted in Harrison Butker’s 43-yard field goal for a 23-20 Chiefs lead with four seconds left.
Heck, did you catch what happened late in the first half of the season-ending 18-10 loss at the Giants? Jay inexplicably did not call a timeout after Ryan Kerrigan’s second-and-two sack of Eli Manning with less than a minute left in the second quarter. The Giants were going no-huddle, but whatever. Every second is precious. The Redskins did get the ball back but only had time for one play, which was Dustin Hopkins’ 49-yard field goal on the final play of the first half. And that only happened thanks to a Jamison Crowder 29-yard punt return on the previous play.