Who exactly is Jay Gruden? Here is what we know about him; as it stands right now, he is a 21-26-1 head coach. His tenure got off to a rocky start with the dramatic change at QB and a four and twelve debut season. At the time, it was easy to see where this was going. Much like coaches of the past, he would likely be in over his head in Washington. The dysfunction would claim another coach. Why would this be any different? It had become a pattern. It was a brutal first season for Gruden as he learned to navigate the media and deal with the added responsibilities of being head coach in this market. Clearly impatient at times, it looked like frustration was eating at him. A person who wears his emotions on his sleeve, this appeared to be the wrong city for that.
Since that 2014 season, we have seen improvement the last two seasons under Gruden. Some of this is due to a stable two-year stretch of roster construction. As the sample size has gotten larger, you start to get a read on Jay’s strengths. As Josh Doctson recently said, “this is a vertical west coast offense”. Jay has built a system that schemes offensive talent well. Built around a QB friendly quick passing game that takes calculated vertical shots, Jay is adept at getting favorable matchups. It cannot be over-looked that in a QB starved league, Jay Gruden has gotten production from two quarterbacks who most would agree are limited physically. Andy Dalton and Cousins are in that “next tier” of QB’s that rely on the type of strong scheme the Redskins run. With uncertainty at the QB position entering 2018, this is important. Could the Redskins have a situation ripe to hit on a QB? Can he take Cousins to the next level as a play caller?
Despite a disappointing end to 2016, Gruden has become a better game manager with plenty of room for improvement. The Redskins were on the brink of back-to-back playoff berths in years two and three of his tenure. Key players have vocalized their support for Gruden. His media relations have improved, and he has changed how he critiques his players publically. He has surrounded himself with better coaches. Ex GM Scot McCloughan has commented on his player evaluation skills, stating it was a strength of his in an interview on 106.7 The Fan. This matters when taking into consideration the recent changes to the front office. Can he be the stabilizing force between the 53-man roster and the newly constructed front office?
In conclusion, the body of work says Jay Gruden is a 21-26-1 head coach. There have been areas of concern but also undeniable improvement when looking beyond the surface. With an elevated standing within the organization, Gruden has a unique opportunity to take another step as a head coach. Fresh off an extension and returning to play calling duties, the talent is there to be competitive in the NFC East. Can he fix the red zone issues? Can his DC choice Manusky stabilize the defense, which has struggled mightily? 2017 will be another chapter in finding out who Jay Gruden is as a head coach. Will he continue to improve? Let me know what you think.