Jan 12, 2014, 10:55 AM EDT
Jay Gruden is a different breed of coach for the Washington Redskins.
Not since they hired Joe Gibbs in 1981 have they gone with a relatively unknown coordinator with a limited record of success and no experience a head coach as their new head man.
Since then they have hired two coordinators without head coaching experience but with Super Bowl success on their resumes. Richie Petitbon, hired to replace Gibbs in 1993, was the defensive coordinator for the Redskins three world champions under Gibbs. He only lasted a year and he was replaced by Cowboys offensive coordinator Norv Turner. He had a couple of Super Bowl rings earned with Dallas in 1992 and 1993.
Neither one of those “hot” coordinator hires worked out. As noted, Petitbon lasted just one year and Turner spent almost seven frustrating seasons at the helm with just one playoff berth to show for it.
Gruden does have some hardware but it came from winning titles in the Arena League. His team won the championship four times with him at quarterback and twice with him as the coach. And he does have a Super Bowl ring earned with the Buccaneers when he was an offensive assistant.
That’s all good to have on your resume but the most notable entry there is his three years as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator. They were good offensively and Cincinnati earned a playoff berth all three years he was there. But Gruden’s offense wasn’t particularly innovative and one could say that it was the Bengals’ defense that led the way to the three playoff spots.
Some question how much of a boost he got from his older brother Jon, the former Raiders and Bucs head coach who now does Monday night football analysis. Certainly Jon gave his brother a huge lift when he gave him his first NFL job with the Bucs. But his older brother never elevated him above the lowly offensive assistant level. Before joining the Bucs Gruden toiled in the Arena League and after Raheem Morris fired him when he was elevated to head coach in 2009, Jay had to find work in the UFL. You’d think that if Jon was such a big help to his brother that Jay could have found some better gigs before landing in Cincinnati in 2011.
When you look at the big picture, for nearly every positive you can point out about Gruden there is a legitimate “yea, but . . .” to go with it. That is why just about everyone except those who view the world through burgundy and gold glasses all the time and those who are the biggest skeptics out there view this hire of with an attitude of, “OK, we’ll see.”
Will Gruden turn out to be like Gibbs, the Packers’ Mike McCarthy or Andy Reid of the Eagles and now Chiefs, all assistants with relatively modest backgrounds who have had great success? Or will he join the likes of Rob Chudzinski and Scott Linehan, hotshot offensive coordinators who didn’t have what it took to handle the complexities of being and NFL head coach?
At this point, your guess is as good as anyone’s. Gruden does have something that Chudzinski, Linehan, and other failed offensive coordinators didn’t have and that’s a quarterback. If former QB Gruden can get current QB Robert Griffin III performing at a high level he has a good chance of enjoying success and lasting a long time. If not, we will probably be doing this again in three years or so.
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