Mar 4, 2016, 5:11 AM EDT
Here is what you need to know on this Friday, March 4, five days before the start of NFL free agency.
Where does the Redskins’ Jay Gruden rank among NFL head coaches?
Jay Gruden became the first Redskins coach since Joe Gibbs to make the playoffs in his second year on the job. Gibbs actually did it twice, in 1982, a year after first being hired as a head coach, and in his second go-around with the team in 2005.
Of course, Gibbs’ first playoff appearance ended considerably better than Gruden’s maiden voyage to the post season last year. Last year’s Redskins were one and done with a home playoff loss to the Packers right out of the gate while Gibbs’ group went on to win Super Bowl XVII. Gibbs was named the NFL coach of the year and he immediately was recognized as one of the best coaches in the NFL.
Gruden, who began the season as the Las Vegas favorite to be the first coach fired in 2015, did not get any coach of the year consideration. But he did gain some respect in the eyes of many, including one analyst at Rotoworld, our sister site.
About this time every year they rank the NFL head coaches and offer a paragraph to explain. Last year Gruden was ranked 22nd among the 25 returning head coaches after coming off of a 4-12 season that featured multiple quarterback changes. They actually praised what Gruden was trying to do while pitying him for having to work in the chaotic Redskins organization.
Of course, some of Gruden’s decisions left much to be desired. Colt McCoy shouldn’t be playing quarterback and Jim Haslett shouldn’t be coordinating defense, let alone on the same team. But if Gruden didn’t bat 1.000, he still laid the groundwork for success in a dysfunctional organization. There’s just no guarantee Snyder lets him see it through.
Let’s fast forward to this year and Gruden has climbed to No. 14. He’s not in bad company. The Saints’ Sean Payton and Jets’ Todd Bowles are right ahead of him and Super Bowl champion coach Gary Kubiak and John Fox are right below.
Gruden needed to do something big in his second year on the job. That he did, delivering on years of rumors that Kirk Cousins could be a viable NFL starter while leading the Redskins to just their third division title of the Snyder era. Gruden improved the offense, saved the defense by firing Jim Haslett and was deft and calm as he navigated Washington’s withering media glare.
There is plenty of room for criticism of the job that Gruden did. But the one thing he absolutely deserves credit for is having the guts to make the switch from Robert Griffin III to Kirk Cousins at quarterback. Certainly not all of the fan base was in favor of the move and those inside the organization were reportedly split as well. For Gruden it took some deft political maneuvering to pull off what turned out to be the right football decision.
That sort of moxie should serve Gruden well going forward in the Redskins organization. If Scot McCloughan keep supplying Gruden with talented players he could well take another jump up in the rankings a year from now.
—DE Phillip Daniels, who played for the Redskins from 2004-2010, was born on this date in 1973.
—The Redskins last played a game 54 days ago. It will be about 191 days until they play another one.
—Days until: NFL free agency starts 5; Redskins offseason workouts start 45; 2016 NFL draft 55
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