Plenty of impressive marks dot Jay Gruden's resume with the Washington Redskins, none more than coaching the team to back-to-back winning seasons in 2015 and 2016. That hasn't happened in Washington for more than two decades.
Gruden's resume has some holes too, and it begins at the beginning. The Redskins coach has not won a season opener in three tries. Gruden's Redskins squads have gone 0-3 to open the year and been outscored 72-32.
Perhaps even more frustrating for the coach, in two of the three opening losses the Redskins outgained their opponent.
In 2014, the Redskins outgained the Texans by 50 yards, with 371 total yards of offense to Houston's 321. Still, they lost that game 17-6 thanks to two turnovers and an inability to score touchdowns. In 2015, more of the same. Washington outgained the Dolphins by nearly 100 yards, 349 to 256, but was again undone by two turnovers and lost 17-10.
Last year against the Steelers was the first opener of Gruden's tenure where his Redskins simply got outplayed. Pittsburgh outgained the 'Skins 437 yards to 384 yards. Remember, however, that game was close until the fourth quarter when the Washington defense simply could not stop the Steelers ground game. Again, in a disturbing trend, the Redskins had two turnovers.
Sunday at FedEx Field, Gruden gets a chance to break his opening loss streak. The Redskins will host the Eagles, a team Gruden and Washington have beaten five straight times.
There's a lot riding on this game, even though it's just the first game of the season. An NFC East division contest automatically carries greater weight, and after a rough preseason, the Redskins have little momentum to open the year.
The coach knows the stakes.
"We do have to have a sense of urgency," Gruden said Wednesday. "This is a division game, it’s a home game, so it is an important game for us. So hopefully everybody understands the importance of this game."
A win would be important for the 2017 season, but also for the head coach's resume.
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