Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden told his players this week that jobs are on the line. One of those jobs is his own, if a Washington Post report is accurate.
The Post’s columnist Jason Reid wrote that Gruden’s rupture with quarterback Robert Griffin III may lead to his dismissal. Doesn’t this sound familiar?
Gruden’s predecessor Mike Shanahan encountered the same problem. Owner Dan Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen are so committed to Griffin – after giving up six draft picks to trade up for him – that they seem willing to keep trying out coaches until they find one who gets along with RGIII and has success with him.
“Gruden believes he needs a clean break from Griffin,” Reid wrote, “to focus on fixing Washington’s 3-10 mess. And if Snyder and Griffin commit to Griffin as the starter in 2015, Gruden could be ‘one and done,’ a team official said.”
Even with four years remaining on a contract that’s guaranteed at $4 million per year.
Usually, when rumors circulate that a coach is in danger of losing his job, the embattled coach expresses surprise, trying to maintain his aura of command and confidence. But Gruden appeared at a press conference looking like a condemned prisoner.
“You’re always subject to owners making a change,” he said. “That’s their right. But I’m just going to keep coaching the way I know how and not worry about it and do the best I can.”
There may be no way for him to shake loose of the Griffin issue. His coaching adversary last Sunday, Jeff Fisher of the St. Louis Rams, provided an uncomfortable reminder. For the pre-game coin toss Fisher sent out six “captains” who were the players he acquired for the draft rights to Griffin: Stedman Bailey, Janoris Jenkins, Zac Stacy, Alec Ogletree, Michael Brockers, Greg Robinson. All but Stacy are starters.
The Rams proceeded to thrash the ’Skins 24-0 – their fifth loss in a row.
Asked the next day if he regretted his pre-game stunt, Fisher said, “I think they’ve got more issues than the coin toss yesterday.”
Indeed they do.
Quarterbacking is the main issue, with Griffin hobbled by a surgical knee and his inability to read defenses quickly enough to avoid sacks. His replacement, Kirk Cousins, is much more elusive but can’t avoid interceptions.
Gruden’s third choice, Colt McCoy, has been more effective than the others, but Washington’s regressing offensive line allowed him to be sacked six times by the Rams. The last sacking caused a neck sprain that made McCoy doubtful for Sunday’s start on the road against the New York Giants.
There are also issues with the defense.
Former Washington linebacker and captain London Fletcher unloaded on the team’s defensive coordinator, Jim Haslet, in an interview with CBS Sports Network: “Why does Jim Haslet have his job after five years now of just ineptitude at the defensive coordinator position?
“He’s clueless as a defensive coordinator. He lacks attention to detail. He lacks a feel for how to call a game. Some of the calls he made while I was playing were head-scratching. They were so bad I used to change them, like, ‘We’re not running that.’”
Gruden inherited Haslet from the previous regime but will be held accountable for the team’s continual breakdowns in the back end. Washington has allowed 28 touchdowns, 8.2 yards a pass, and has intercepted only five.
Meanwhile, players are snickering over Gruden’s monitoring of their social media comments. The coach has been reading some of their tweets during team meetings.
“I’ve read a couple of things they’ve written on Twitter in team meetings from time to time,” Gruden said, “just to let them know I’m reading the suckers. So far I think they’ve been pretty good, with a few exceptions.”
Count on more exceptions, as this team keeps spiraling downward. The coach is acting like a grade-school teacher inspecting the pupils’ notes being passed around the room. This is not going to build team unity. It’s unlikely to delay his exit.