Jay Gruden replaces Mike Shanahan
after he was fired in December. (George Gojkovich/Getty Images)
Several sources reported Thursday morning that the Washington Redskins have hired former Cincinnati Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden to be their next head coach. Gruden, the younger brother of former NFL head coach and current ESPN analyst Jon Gruden, will replace Mike Shanahan, who was fired by owner Dan Snyder on Dec. 30. Mark Maske of the Washington Post wrote early Thursday morning that Gruden and the Redskins were finalizing the deal, and ESPN's Adam Schefter and John Keim reported a bit later that the terms had been finalized.
The Redskins had already interviewed five other candidates -- Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, Baltimore Ravens offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell, Carolina Panthers defensive coordinator Sean McDermott, New York Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell and Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia. Gruden had also talked with the Tennessee Titans, Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions about their head coaching vacancies.
Gruden had been the Bengals' offensive coordinator, and that tenure coincided with the first three-year playoff run in franchise history. In 2013, third-year quarterback Andy Dalton set the franchise record for passing touchdowns in a season with 33, and Cincinnati's offense ranked 12th in passing in Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted metrics.
However, three straight first-round postseason exits, including a 27-10 loss to the San Diego Chargers on Jan. 5, put pressure squarely on Dalton (who underperformed miserably in all three games), and on Gruden by proxy.
Gruden will have a serious task on his hands on both sides of the ball. In 2013, the 3-13 Redskins backslid in nearly every possible way from their 10-6 playoff season the year before. Injuries to quarterback Robert Griffin III prevented him from fully preparing for the season and playing his best when that season came around. In the end, Shanahan benched Griffin for the last three games of the season because he was worried about his quarterback holding up behind Washington's porous offensive line. Washington's defense was also a problem, and it's quite possible that defensive coordinator Jim Haslett is on his way out. Schefter indicated that current defensive backs coach Raheem Morris may be promoted to that role.
As to why Gruden was the choice, his ties with many in the Redskins' organization certainly didn't hurt. He was an offensive assistant with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
from 2002 through '08 under his brother, and current Redskins general manager Bruce Allen was also in Tampa Bay at that time. Tight ends coach Sean McVay, who some believe may become the team's new offensive coordinator, also worked with Gruden there, as did Morris.