Is Jay Gruden the Answer for Washington?
Last year at this time, the Washington Redskins fanbase was concerned about Robert Griffin III's health and whether or not Mike Shanahan made a ridiculous decision to allow an obviously unstable quarterback to continue in the Redskins' playoff game against the Seattle Seahawks.
The questions hovering over RGIII and his current state of health still exist, but wow! What a difference a year makes!
Dan Synder & Co decided to part ways with Mike Shanahan and usher in a new, energetic head coach, Jay Gruden.
The firing of Shanahan wasn't a surprise. Overall, as a head coach, he's he'd been quite successful, given his stint with the Denver Broncos and his management of Hall of Famer John Elway. Shanahan certainly deserved those two Super Bowl victories, and nothing will ever dilute those accomplishments. However, he was below mediocre during his four years in Washington. He was supposed to be the answer, but instead, the friction he created is what caused him to be axed, one year short of fulfilling his five-year contract.
The moral of the story: Don't mess with the franchise quarterback.
Jay Gruden, on the other hand, has no head coaching experience outside football's version of pinball, which is the Arena League. I'm not marginalizing his ability to lead, because I'm sure he possesses that intangible. I'm just identifying a factual concern most fans have when their new head coach has never led an NFL team.
Gruden, the younger brother of Jon, is a vibrant up-and-comer with definite potential. Since 2011, he's been the offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals and made decent career progress within that franchise. Gruden and his offensive staff helped Cincinnati become a Top 10 offensive performer and put together schemes that caused nosebleeds for opposing defenses.
Gruden's most prominent measure is the development of Andy Dalton, even though the former TCU Horned Frog is still considered an 'iffy' quarterback by many. Let's face it, Dalton is limited physically -- he lacks the arm strength -- but Gruden found ways to maximize his potential and created strategies that would benefit Dalton's skill set.
I expect the same in Washington. Although defensive adjustments also need to be addressed, the fans will be closely watching what Gruden does with the Redskins' offense. They have one of the best running backs in the league in Alfred Morris. Pierre Garçon who just had, by far, his best statistical season ever. He will need to develop a complementary reciever.
And of course, he also has a rising star in RGIII. With a full off-season, OTA's, and training camp, not to mention pre-season, RGIII should be well prepared heading into his third season. Sure, he wasn't the RGIII we were accustomed to seeing, comparing his eye-popping numbers during his rookie year to this past year's statistics, but he's the face of the franchise and will no doubt be even more closely scrutinized to determine which of his first two seasons portends his future ones.
Other teams felt Gruden possesses the right type of leadership to be the guy steering the ship. He had plenty of suitors until 'Skins GM Bruce Allen enticed him with a contract that he couldn't refuse.
If you look at the Redskins from top to bottom, they have the pieces to be a legitimate contender and sustain that type of success for several years. Yes, they need to make some adjustments and fill voids, but what team doesn't?
Maybe they won't be 'The Hogs' that Washington fanatics remember fondly, but I certainly expect a certain level of grittiness to return in full force in the 2014 season.
So do Snyder and Allen. So do the fans. Gruden is being paid well over scale for a rookie head coach, and he'll be expected to perform as such. With a meddling, micromanaging owner and a franchise quarterback walking the thin line between boom and bust, he's got his work cut out for him.