Redskins

It was meant as a joke, but Jay Gruden’s ‘Hard Knocks’ zinger has real truth to it

Redskins

The late, great Rich Tandler once eloquently explained that when it comes to zings, "a truthful zing is the best kind."

It's the truth, and it's the truth that makes those jokes that much funnier. And while Jay Gruden had the Redskins media room laughing on Wednesday, he certainly delivered a funny line wrapped in a scary truth. 

Asked about the possibility of the Redskins landing on HBO's Hard Knocks documentary this summer, Gruden said that the Raiders are the better team for the show. The coach explained that the 'Skins could be featured on Hard Knocks in 2020. When a reporter (editor's note: it was me) reminded Gruden that if the 'Skins make the playoffs in 2019, they can't be on the show in 2020, Gruden delivered the knee-slapper. 

"If we don't make the playoffs I probably won't be here anyway," the coach said. "They can come here and do it all they want."

The room erupted. Watch the video above. 

And while there is so much to appreciate about an NFL head coach not consumed by his ego that he can be self-deprecating, there is plenty of truth in what Gruden said. 

Missing the playoffs in 2019 would mean the Redskins have not made the postseason in four straight years. 

 

Missing the playoffs in 2019 would mean Gruden has guided the Redskins to the playoffs just once in six seasons as a head coach. 

Missing the playoffs in 2019 would mean Gruden has zero postseason wins on his resume.

There is a lot to like about Gruden, the person and the coach, but ultimately the NFL is a results business. And those results aren't good enough. 

There are extenuating circumstances certainly. Crazy injuries buried promising seasons in 2017 and 2018, and beyond that, Gruden has done a remarkable job of keeping the 'Skins competitive late in the year despite being outmanned. 

He deserves credit for things beyond the record, too. 

Last year, the Redskins remained in the playoff hunt late in the year even while playing their fourth-string quarterback. Few teams survive losing their starter, let alone their starter and backup. 

It's also important to note that under Gruden's watch, the Redskins have avoided the extreme volatility that has marked the franchise throughout the FedEx Field era. What does that mean?

Gruden has a higher winning percentage (.444) in five seasons than Mike Shanahan (.375) did in four seasons. Guess who had the same winning percentage as Mike Shanahan? Jim Zorn. In his second stint as Redskins head coach, Joe Gibbs won just slightly more often (.468) than Gruden has. 

The difference is that Gruden's teams largely don't bottom out. His first season in Washington in 2014 was bad: the team went 4-12, but even that was an improvement from the disastrous 3-13 season in 2013 when Shanahan got fired. 

Gruden has not won enough. That's clear. But he's also avoided the terrible seasons and losing streaks that plagued nearly every other coach in the FedEx era, including Gibbs. 

Ultimately though, avoiding bad years won't override the lack of playoff success.

Gruden has achieved sustained mediocrity as the Redskins coach, and while the recent bar is so low that Gruden's numbers actually look impressive in comparison, the bar eventually must be set higher. 

And that's why Gruden made the joke. 

He knows his job is on the line if the team doesn't perform this year. It won't matter if they start a rookie quarterback, and it won't matter if the injuries pile up again. In fact, the injuries already started last week when Reuben Foster went down for the year. 

Gruden knows he has to win and make the playoffs this season. And that's why the joke was so funny, because he was telling the truth. 

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