According to people close to him, Jay Gruden’s primary emotion felt this morning just after 5 a.m.—when owner Dan Snyder and henchman-in-chief Bruce Allen told him his key card would, in fact, not work anymore—was relief. And it makes complete sense.
Gruden knew this day was coming. Other assistants have turned down extensions with him over the last few years knowing he might get fired. And now it’s done.
You don’t have to feel for Gruden. He understood it was a possibility coming into the season—just two winning seasons, one playoff berth and no playoff wins in five-plus seasons would be more than enough to dismiss other coaches. When we talked at camp, he said, “My dad’s been fired. My brother’s been fired. I’ve been fired with my brother. So we understand the nature of the business. You gotta produce. You gotta win.”
Gruden didn’t do enough of that, which is why he’s now gone.
Looking back on what Gruden said at training camp, he was taking accountability for whatever lay ahead (we know now that it was ugly). Was that sort of accountability present, even a little bit, at the Washington press conference to cover the coach’s firing?
That’s why the Redskins firing Gruden on Monday fixed nothing.
While Allen did offer up the boilerplate phrases like “We’re all 0-5” during the press conference, that’s really where it began and ended for a team president who’s been in power in Washington for a decade.
Interim coach Bill Callahan? He’s coming in and changing the schedule, and righting the wrongs of the last few months, and he’ll maximize the wealth of talent on the roster.
Things that went down over the last 10 years that he’d change? There’s nothing he can do about those going forward.
The fans? They deserve better.
The culture? “The culture is actually damn good.”
So why hasn’t it worked? “I don’t necessarily agree with [that] premise.”
Gruden himself? Firing the guy was “difficult, but it was necessary.”
And yes, Allen did say, “We’re all involved in this. I don’t ever want to hide from our record.” But the rest was an exercise in blame-shifting and goalpost-moving. Someone unfamiliar with the situation would think based on the press conference that the Redskins were removing Gruden like a doctor would a tumor to help a patient sidestep cancer.
The problem, of course, is that the cancer is already everywhere in Ashburn, and it was present well before Gruden arrived. Allen, in fact, conceded that he was there to take the heat so the man who’s truly responsible for the climate in that building, owner Dan Snyder, wouldn’t have to. Asked why Snyder wasn’t front-facing for this franchise-changing day, Allen simply said, “Because I am.”
So now the Redskins will start another search, with Snyder having fired his sixth coach in seven tries (only Joe Gibbs left on his own accord). Maybe they’ll strike gold in promoting Kevin O’Connell, the team’s bright young offensive coordinator, after the season, and maybe O’Connell will unlock the potential that made Dwayne Haskins the 15 pick in last April’s draft. Maybe a few other things break right, and they make the playoffs in 2020.
Or maybe the Redskins find out what we all know already, if they try and swing for the fences with someone like Oklahoma’s Lincoln Riley.
Their job isn’t very attractive right now, especially for someone who’s got good options.
And the reason why was made clear for the one millionth time on Monday through the in-plain-sight finger-pointing we all witnessed coming from that podium. The bottom line? Chances are, if you sign up for this particular job, you’re probably signing up for the same kind of ending that Gruden got.
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