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Need to Know: Where does the Redskins’ Jay Gruden rank among NFL head coaches?

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Need to Know: Where does the Redskins’ Jay Gruden rank among NFL head coaches?

Here is what you need to know on this Friday, March 4, five days before the start of NFL free agency.

Where does the Redskins’ Jay Gruden rank among NFL head coaches?

Jay Gruden became the first Redskins coach since Joe Gibbs to make the playoffs in his second year on the job. Gibbs actually did it twice, in 1982, a year after first being hired as a head coach, and in his second go-around with the team in 2005.

Of course, Gibbs’ first playoff appearance ended considerably better than Gruden’s maiden voyage to the post season last year. Last year’s Redskins were one and done with a home playoff loss to the Packers right out of the gate while Gibbs’ group went on to win Super Bowl XVII. Gibbs was named the NFL coach of the year and he immediately was recognized as one of the best coaches in the NFL.

Gruden, who began the season as the Las Vegas favorite to be the first coach fired in 2015, did not get any coach of the year consideration. But he did gain some respect in the eyes of many, including one analyst at Rotoworld, our sister site.

About this time every year they rank the NFL head coaches and offer a paragraph to explain. Last year Gruden was ranked 22nd among the 25 returning head coaches after coming off of a 4-12 season that featured multiple quarterback changes. They actually praised what Gruden was trying to do while pitying him for having to work in the chaotic Redskins organization.
Of course, some of Gruden’s decisions left much to be desired. Colt McCoy shouldn’t be playing quarterback and Jim Haslett shouldn’t be coordinating defense, let alone on the same team. But if Gruden didn’t bat 1.000, he still laid the groundwork for success in a dysfunctional organization. There’s just no guarantee Snyder lets him see it through.
Let’s fast forward to this year and Gruden has climbed to No. 14. He’s not in bad company. The Saints’ Sean Payton and Jets’ Todd Bowles are right ahead of him and Super Bowl champion coach Gary Kubiak and John Fox are right below.
Gruden needed to do something big in his second year on the job. That he did, delivering on years of rumors that Kirk Cousins could be a viable NFL starter while leading the Redskins to just their third division title of the Snyder era. Gruden improved the offense, saved the defense by firing Jim Haslett and was deft and calm as he navigated Washington’s withering media glare.
There is plenty of room for criticism of the job that Gruden did. But the one thing he absolutely deserves credit for is having the guts to make the switch from Robert Griffin III to Kirk Cousins at quarterback. Certainly not all of the fan base was in favor of the move and those inside the organization were reportedly split as well. For Gruden it took some deft political maneuvering to pull off what turned out to be the right football decision.

That sort of moxie should serve Gruden well going forward in the Redskins organization. If Scot McCloughan keep supplying Gruden with talented players he could well take another jump up in the rankings a year from now.

Timeline

—DE Phillip Daniels, who played for the Redskins from 2004-2010, was born on this date in 1973.

—The Redskins last played a game 54 days ago. It will be about 191 days until they play another one.

Days until: NFL free agency starts 5; Redskins offseason workouts start 45; 2016 NFL draft 55

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Need to Know: Key for the Redskins—No mistakes

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USA TODAY Sports

Need to Know: Key for the Redskins—No mistakes

NEW ORLEANS—Here is what you need to know on this Sunday, November 19, four days before the Washington Redskins play the New York Giants on Thanksgiving Day at FedEx Field.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: Redskins kickoff, noon, NBC Sports Washington; Redskins @ Saints, 1 p.m., FOX

Days until:

—Redskins @ Cowboys Thursday night (11/30) 11
—Redskins @ Chargers (12/10) 21
—Cardinals @ Redskins (12/17) 28

Final thoughts on Redskins vs. Saints

Will the Redskins commit to running the ball? Some of you will answer with a kneejerk “no” because they don’t think that Jay Gruden will do that. But just look back at the Rams and Raiders games, when they ran 39 and 34 times, respectively. If running is even moderately effective and if the score remains in a range where the Redskins can play ball control, Gruden is more than happy to let Kirk Cousins had the ball off. The Saints defense allows 4.7 yards per carry, 30th in the NFL so the effectiveness aspect should allow for running. Can the Redskins defense keep a cap on Drew Brees, Alvin Kamara, and Mark Ingram long enough for Gruden to be able to stick with the run?

The Chris Thompson factor—Whether he is taking handoffs or catching passes, Thompson’s productivity has been a key for the Redskins. He averages 61 yards from scrimmage in their losses and 116 yards in their wins. Earlier in the season it was Trent Williams and Brandon Scherff getting out in front of Thompson on outside zone runs and screen passes. While they were out of the lineup, Thompson was largely stuck in the mud. With both back, maybe he can get some traction in the Superdome.

Can’t afford mistakes—Like most teams who lead their divisions, the Saints are very opportunistic when it comes to takeaways. They don’t have a large number of them, 13 (13th in the NFL), but they are taking advantage. They have scored eight touchdowns after turnovers, with two pick-sixes, a scoop and score after a fumble, and five TD drives. Kirk Cousins can’t afford to make a mistake, especially in his own territory.

Prediction—It’s not impossible to paint a picture where the Redskins win this game. But it would take something like we saw in Seattle, with some mistakes by the Saints (equivalent to the three missed Seahawks field goals) combined with a dash of late magic could get them past the Saints. The Redskins are 7-1 in the Superdome and Drew Brees has a career passer rating of 70.5 with eight touchdowns and 11 interceptions against Washington. Of course, many of the players responsible for those numbers have long since retired. But the reality is that the Saints are playing better than the Redskins and they’re at home. That means that the home team is likely to win.

Saints 31, Redskins 21

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Where's Galette, Cousins' future

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Need to Know: The Redskins week that was—Where's Galette, Cousins' future

NEW ORLEANS—Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, November 18, one day before the Washington Redskins play the New Orleans Saints at Mercedes Benz Superdome.

Timeline

Today’s schedule: AM walkthrough and then travel to New Orleans. No media availability.

Days until:

—Giants @ Redskins Thanksgiving (11/23) 6
—Redskins @ Cowboys Thursday night (11/30) 13
—Redskins @ Chargers (12/19) 23

Quick Redskins news hits

C Spencer Long tried to play last week and he couldn’t make it more than a dozen snaps before sitting down for the rest of the day. He is out against the Seahawks tomorrow.

With Brian Quick and Ryan Grant questionable with concussions and Terrelle Pryor out with an ankle injury, the Redskins are down to three healthy wide receivers. While Quick and Grant might play, the depth chart could have Doctson, Crowder, and Harris on it.

The Redskins week that was

2 reasons Redskins didn't trade Terrelle Pryor—If you want to know why the deal with the Browns didn’t happen, follow the money. Between his signing bonus and the half of the year’s salary, the Redskins have already paid $4.5 million. Although he hasn’t been nearly as productive as they hoped he would be, there was no point in letting him go to save $1.5 million unless they got a second-day draft pick, or maybe a fourth, in return. See that Jay Gruden said that he didn’t hear of the proposed trade, talks must not have become too serious.

Remember Junior Galette? The Redskins don't seem to—As with Pryor, everyone is waiting for Galette to break out. But unlike Pryor, he’s not an expensive unproductive player. He’s making the veteran minimum. Against the Vikings, he played just 19 snaps. Perhaps a return to New Orleans for a game against his old team will spark a sack or two.

Recent comments from Cousins may hint at future in D.C.—Cousins has been big on making statements about the long-term future with the Redskins (read the post for specifics). That doesn’t mean that it’s a lock that he stays in town. But it should give some pause to those who believe that it is a lock that he will be in another uniform when 2018 or, at the latest, 2019 rolls around. He has never been inclined to go to the highest bidder and if the Redskins make a competitive offer that delivers what he wants he could well stick around.

How the Vikings scored 21 unanswered points against the Redskins—The 21-0 run in about seven minutes of game time that the Vikings used to make a competitive game at FedEx Field a rout was a combination of good offense by the Vikings and bad defense and offense by the Redskins. They couldn’t cover Adam Thielen on either drive. Cousins threw an interception off of his back foot and that set up the middle of the three touchdowns. If the Redskins end the season a game out of a playoff spot that seven-minute stretch will be one of the big reasons why they failed to make it.

Player one-liners, defense— Usually, the offensive edition of the player one-liners tends to be the most popular but this week it was the defense that drew the most interest. The defensive player I’m going to keep an eye on the most in the last seven games is rookie safety Montae Nicholson. He has the speed and hard hitting ability that the secondary needs. When asked what will happen when Nicholson is healthy, Jay Gruden said without hesitation that he is the starter. Nicholson’s health will be important for the defense down the stretch. DeAngelo Hall is better suited to a part-time role at this stage of his career.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerNBCS and follow him on Twitter @TandlerNBCS.

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