Redskins

Redskins

For weeks the prevailing opinion of those at Redskins Park considered Jay Gruden's job to be safe for the 2019 season. 

Now, it appears the national experts agree. NFL Networks Ian Rapoport reported on Saturday:

"While assistants has been fearful for a few weeks that jobs could be lost, Gruden appears on safe footing -- his team was rolling until the injuries and he's on his fourth QB. But don't be surprised if some change is made, particularly on defense. Coordinator Greg Manusky, the object of player frustration, is at risk here."

For the second straight season, injuries piled up for the Redskins and limited what many consider to be a chance at a winning season for Washington. In 2018 particularly, the team went into a crucial Week 10 matchup against the Houston Texans with a 6-3 record.

At that point, Jay Gruden looked like he was taking his team to the playoffs, for just the second time in his five seasons as head coach.

Then Alex Smith broke his leg, and the Redskins season fell apart. 

Ask around the Washington locker room and almost every player will say that when Smith went down, the Redskins fell apart too. Things have been tumultuous at the team's Ashburn headquarters in the time since Smith's injury. 

The Redskins took a mountain of criticism for the acquisition of Reuben Foster, signing the linebacker just a few days after his second domestic violence arrest. The team cut Pro Bowl alternate safety D.J. Swearinger after he repeatedly took verbal shots at the coaching staff.

 

If that wasn't enough, and there was plenty of other incidents including second-year safety Montae Nicholson getting arrested for assault outside of a Loudon County bar, another major bombshell hit this week when the Redskins fired a number of business executives. The new team was supposed to rebuild the team's fan base and season ticket holder group. Instead, the group got ousted less than a year into the new job.

All of that happened, and still, players in the locker room point to the loss of Smith. 

Asked in the aftermath of the Lafemina firing and Swearinger's release, and granted anonymity to get an honest answer, one offensive player said simply, "Everything fell apart when Alex went down."

Another player, primarily a special teamer, explained, "I've been here five years, and I've never had the feeling we could win any game we went into. I had that feeling with Alex. Just that he could figure it out."

That feeling, which players on offense and defense felt, is the primary reason Gruden will be back. The head coach had this team playing well when Smith was around. The offense complimented the defense, and while the wins were narrow and the losses were ugly, it seemed like a consistent formula. 

That does not mean there won't be a shakeup on the staff. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky took a lot of heat from Swearinger, and he could certainly be let go. The Jets are expected to fire their head coach Todd Bowles, and he could make a strong candidate for the Redskins top defensive job. Bowles played for Washington for five seasons and won a Super Bowl with the team in 1987. 

There could be changes to Gruden's offensive staff too.

The run game could use new ideas in zone blocking, and some rumors suggest veteran coach Bill Callahan might want a fresh start. Kevin O'Connell is the latest Gruden assistant to generate positive conversation around the league, and it wouldn't be a surprise if again his role gets a boost. 

Let's not be naive either. 

Gruden has two years left of a contract extension, and firing him would cost $10 million or more. That's also a factor in keeping the head coach. 

Since he took over in 2014, Gruden has a 35-43-1 record. It's not great, but he has been mostly competitive since 2015. 

No Redskins coach in the last twenty years has built consistency like Gruden. Joe Gibbs had two playoff seasons in four years during his second stint as 'Skins coach, but he also had two terrible seasons. Mike Shanahan was the coach for the excitement and preposterous hope of Robert Griffin III's rookie year, but besides that, his tenure was marked with awful records. 

Gruden hasn't been great as Redskins head coach. It's hard to argue he's even been very good. But he's been average and competitive, despite distractions and injuries and everything else that comes with leading the Burgundy and Gold.

 

And for one more year, that should be enough to keep his job. 

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