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Redskins' decision to fire Jay Gruden isn't wrong, it's just late, and might not actually change much

Redskins' decision to fire Jay Gruden isn't wrong, it's just late, and might not actually change much

The Redskins fired head coach Jay Gruden on Monday morning after the team limped to an 0-5 start and all hope for a playoff season in 2019 was virtually eliminated. 

That’s why the team fired Gruden now, but that’s not the entire reason they fired him. 

In six seasons in Washington, Gruden finished with a 35-49-1 record and just one playoff appearance. While he deserves accolades for keeping some bad Redskins teams out of the NFL gutters, he also deserves criticism for his teams often not being ready to play in big spots. 

Ultimately, Gruden’s undoing in 2019 might have been his handling, or lack thereof, of rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins. And it’s quite ironic that Gruden would lose his job in D.C. for failing to work with a gifted, young passer because way back in 2014, that’s exactly what he was hired to do. 

The Redskins brought Gruden in to work with Robert Griffin III back in 2014, after RG3 and Mike Shanahan had a rather infamous falling out. Gruden and Griffin never really worked either, but the coach did develop Kirk Cousins. Despite a few successful statistical seasons and one NFC East title, Redskins management did not keep Cousins around. Instead, the team traded for Alex Smith before the 2018 season. For 10 games, it looked like a wise move, but then Smith broke his leg on the FedEx Field turf, and all of a sudden, Washington was again back in the QB abyss. 

That brings things back to Haskins. And Gruden. 

The belief around Redskins Park was that the team had enough talent to compete for a playoff spot in 2019; probably not a division title but a Wild Card. Gruden explained during the summer that he needed to make the playoffs, otherwise he’d be fired. 

“If we don't make the playoffs, I probably won't be here anyways,” the coach joked in March. 

So to him and other members of the coaching staff, it didn’t make sense to use the 15th overall pick on a developmental passer. In Gruden’s mind, Haskins would not help win a single game in 2019. 

The real problem, among many, is that Gruden was never the right coach to develop Haskins, but the front office didn’t seem to care. 

Fast forward five games into the year, Gruden has been increasingly reluctant to play the rookie QB, opting instead for veterans Case Keenum and Colt McCoy. That’s what’s best to win games this year, but after an 0-5 start where each game was uglier than the last and all of the quarterbacks struggled, winning games in 2019 no longer mattered. 

The decision to move on from Gruden isn’t wrong, it’s just late. 

Washington owner Dan Snyder has a reputation for being impatient and impetuous, but in reality, that hasn’t been the case for probably a decade. He’s kept team president Bruce Allen around despite a terrible 59-99-1 record, and in turn, Allen kept Gruden around the last six years. 

If the Redskins planned to draft a quarterback and build for the future, they should have brought in a new coaching staff with that design in mind. Or they could have given Gruden an extension with the explicit instructions of finding and developing a new rookie passer. 

Instead, neither happened. 

The Redskins drafted Haskins but let Gruden hang on as coach, despite working into a lame duck year. 

It was a bad recipe from the start of the season. In many ways, Gruden was set up to fail. Once the injuries started piling up, again, and Trent Williams held out, the situation worsened in a hurry. 

Gruden didn’t help himself either, particularly with a bizarre decision to bench Adrian Peterson in Week 1 and inconsistencies throughout his tenure. His offensive scheme had strengths, but the team generally struggled to run the ball and his clock management was often shaky. 

There were also a pair of videos that emerged on social media last week that appeared to show Gruden in an intoxicated state. While the videos were certainly embarrassing, they weren’t cause for dismissal. It was just one more thing in a lost year, and frankly, a year that never should have started.

Given the totality of events and sideshows during the Gruden era - Kirk Cousins’ contract, Scot McCloughan’s ouster, the end of RG3 and a string of incredibly bad injury luck - at times the coach performed admirably well. By October 7th, 2019, however, that run was over. 

In the end, firing Gruden makes sense, but it doesn’t really change much. 

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3 critical takeaways from Jack Del Rio's first media session as Redskins defensive coordinator

3 critical takeaways from Jack Del Rio's first media session as Redskins defensive coordinator

Jack Del Rio spoke to the Washington media on Wednesday, his first public session with reporters since being named Redskins defensive coordinator on Jan. 2.

While the conference call came more than two weeks after the team's announcement, it was certainly worth the wait.

Here are the three most critical takeaways from what Del Rio discussed.

1) He has no interest in discussing potential

At one point in the call, Del Rio was given the chance to set expectations for his group and explain what kind of potential he sees. It was the kind of question he could've easily answered, using glowing adjectives and praising many players.

But he didn't go that route. In fact, he went the opposite direction of that route

"It’s interesting to me that so much is made this time of year with thoughts on potential," Del Rio said. "Potential really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t really amount to much. To me, it’s more about what we can get done and the work that we’re willing to put in and the idea that, ‘Look, we’re going to become a respected unit, OK?’"

That might've been the most compelling response from the longtime coach, and it's a mindset that people like Jonathan Allen, Daron Payne and Landon Collins will surely appreciate.  

2) Teaching matters quite a bit to him

During one explanation, Del Rio brought up current Titans linebacker Wesley Woodyard. Why? To illustrate how someone can grow and improve with the proper coaching.

Woodyard was with the Broncos when Del Rio took over as defensive coordinator, and according to Del Rio, people told him not to worry too much about the linebacker. Woodyard was merely a special teamer who "wasn't going to amount to much."

Del Rio dismissed that advice, instead focusing on bettering Woodyard's fundamentals, which in turn would help his confidence spike. That former Denver special teamer was recently on the field for Tennessee's playoff win in Baltimore and is now one victory away from a Super Bowl.

That's just one example that sticks out to Del Rio and proves how necessary it is to assist in the continuous enhancement of a pro's skills.

"For us, we are going to look to teach and develop," he said. "To me, we have players here that are maybe considered in a specific light and they will have the chance to change that."

3) He absolutely wants Ron Rivera's input

Del Rio and Rivera are both former NFL linebackers who seem to share a lot of the same ideologies about what they want in a scheme and in their guys. For that reason, he is more than willing to get input from Rivera on the 2020 defense's plan.

"It’s an inclusive process," Del Rio said. "[Rivera] wanted to be sure that I knew, ‘Hey look, you’re going to call it. It’s your defense’. I said, ‘Hey coach, I’d love to have you in there any time you have to be in there with us.’ It’s our staff. We’re going to work together. The first thing I said to the defensive staff at our very first meeting, ‘This is not me. It’s not about what I want. It’s about what we are, what we’re going to become.’"

Between Del Rio and Rivera, the franchise now has two leaders who each can point to plenty of past successes in building defenses. The thought of that pair working together and applying what they know in Washington should have fans feeling very pleased.

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3 critical takeaways from Scott Turner's first media session as Redskins offensive coordinator

3 critical takeaways from Scott Turner's first media session as Redskins offensive coordinator

It takes most Americans decades in the workforce before they find happiness in their job. Scott Turner turned 37 years old last August and landed his dream job last week. No wonder he's so excited. 

Redskins head coach Ron Rivera tabbed Turner as offensive coordinator and on Wednesday he spoke with reporters for the first time. His excitement for the new gig was palpable. 

"To be able to come here and be the offensive coordinator for this franchise is really awesome and something that I'm really excited about. So, on a personal level it is pretty cool," Turner said. 

Remember, Turner's father Norv was head coach of the Redskins during much of the 1990s, and Scott Turner lived in Northern Virginia from the age of 11 until he graduated high school. Those are his formative years, spent with the Redskins organization, and now he's the offensive coordinator. Most people would be excited. 

"It is really a dream come true to be back," Turner said. "It is pretty surreal, to be honest with you."

The homecoming story is great. It really is. But those good feelings are not going to score any points for Washington this fall. Coming home again won't gain a single first down. 

For Redskins fans that want to know the critical information provided from Turner in his first media session, dig in below:

1. Ready for Dwayne - Scott Turner made no secret that he's high on quarterback Dwayne Haskins' potential. Turner said he liked Haskins as a prospect coming out of Ohio State last year and he progressed well as a rookie, particularly late in the year with more opportunity. The new offensive coordinator also wasn't shy to tell Haskins he needs him to be the "most committed guy on the team" and that expectations will be high for the second-year signal-caller. Where Rivera gave relatively lukewarm praise to Haskins, Turner sounded all in on his presumed quarterback. 

2. Hold the linebackers - Turner talked about some similarities with his dad's offense, but things also evolve in pro football. The young coordinator said he intends to "use a lot of play-action pass" as a means to maximize Haskins' ability and generate chunk plays in the offense. The Redskins have playmakers too in Terry McLaurin and Stephen Sims. In 2019, Washington ranked 32nd in points scored and 31st in yards. There are only 32 teams. Turner must make this offense better, immediately, and watch Norv or Scott's offense in the past and know that play-action will be a huge component. Passing to the running backs likely will as well. 

3. Play to your strengths - For far too long the Redskins have tried to force players out of their comfort zones and into the Redskins strategy. That's not Turner's plan. "Right now, as a coaching staff we're really trying to get to know these guys. We have a little experience with some of them as far as like I was saying, evaluating Dwayne coming out of the draft. But, just really trying to figure out the pieces that we have on offense and then fit our scheme to our personnel and what they do well and not ask them to do stuff they don't do well. Now obviously we're going to push them and develop them to improve the things that they don't do quite as well, but we really want to develop our scheme around the strength of our players. So like Dwayne, you obviously see the big, strong guy who can stand in the pocket and really push the ball down the field." That sure sounds encouraging. 

Bonus - For years Jay Gruden and Bill Callahan seemed at odds over the Redskins run game. The play-action didn't work that well because the blocking scheme in the run game didn't mesh well with the run-fake looks. Now, with Turner and new offensive line coach John Matsko coming from the same principled staff in Carolina, expect much more cohesion between the pass and run game. That could help Haskins a ton. 

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