For the first time since 2013, Jay Gruden is entering a season in which he is not set to be the leader of a team's coaching staff. Instead, he can set his sole focus on his team's offense, play-calling, and developing and young and ascending quarterback.
The Jacksonville Jaguars hired Gruden in January to be their third full-time offensive coordinator in three seasons, replacing the one-year tenure of ex-coordinator John DeFilippo. In Gruden, the Jaguars were able to land a former coordinator who had just spent the last five years roaming the sidelines as a head coach.
Gruden coordinated Cincinnati's offense from 2011-2013 until he took on the role as the head coach of the Washington Redskins in 2014. For the next half-decade, Gruden focused on the holistic picture in Washington, leading and overseeing the entire roster for 85 games.
Gruden was fired by Washington after an 0-5 start in 2019, leading him to the Jaguars and giving head coach Doug Marrone and starting quarterback Gardner Minshew II an experienced and eager coach to lean on moving into 2020.
"I had some time to reflect on my coaching career up at Washington, I got fired after Week 5 so I had some time off. When you take the time off, you beat yourself up a little bit and get all that stuff out of your system and then you’re ready to compete again," Gruden said Tuesday on a video conference with local media.
"Coach Marrone called me and asked me to come down and interview and once I got to meet him and see what he had on his football team and got to study the personnel a little bit and the rest of the coaching staff it was a pretty easy decision."
In Jacksonville, Gruden finds himself in a role he hasn't occupied in more than five years, but one he is at least familiar with. He will also be surrounded by a number of other veteran coaches who he believes can make his transition back to coordinator even easier, particularly with quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo, a former head coach himself.
In addition to McAdoo, the Jaguars' staff will also see the addition of offensive assistant Chris O'Hara, who served as an offensive quality control assistant for Gruden in Washington.
"I’m excited to work with Coach Marrone and Coach McAdoo. He’s [McAdoo] a great add for us, he brings that experience of not only being a head coach but also an offensive coordinator calling plays. It’s going to be great," Gruden said.
"We were able to get Chris O’Hara, my key assistant from the Redskins, here with me so he can take some things over and I’ve worked with [George] Warhop before on the offensive line. I’ve always had a ton of respect for him and what he’s done in his career as offensive line coach. [Running Backs] Coach [Terry] Robiskie has been great. [Wide Receivers Coach] Keenan McCardell, he has a wealth of experience in the coaching and playing ranks which always helps. So, it’s a great group with [Ron] Middleton with the tight ends.
"I’m excited to work with these guys. I wish we could do it more face-to-face, but we are getting things done that we need to get done and it’s been fun so far.”
For some coaches, there can be a definite adjustment from being a head coach to being a coordinator or assistant. But Gruden was giving the advantage of his situation allowing him to have most of the 2019 season to reflect on his career and the next challenge ahead. That next challenge? Leading the Jaguars' offense to an improvement over last year's 26th-ranked scoring offense.
"Like I said, I got the time off to reflect on my time in Washington, but like everything else, you’ve got to move on and you’ve got to turn the page," Gruden said. "This led me to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and Coach Marrone was gracious enough to give me an opportunity to be an offensive coordinator and I plan on taking full advantage of it. I’m excited about it, really."
Gruden will likely always look back on his time in Washington and wonder how things could have gone differently, but he now finds himself in a role he has not only enjoyed in the past but one in which he has excelled in.
Whether his time as Jacksonville's coordinator lasts one season or multiple remains to be seen. Gruden could always lead the Jaguars to a vastly improved offense and get head coach considerations in the 2020 offseason. But for now, he is setting his eyes on developing Minshew and scoring points.
"I had a great time being an offensive coordinator in Cincinnati. I have no regrets with what happened in Washington. Unfortunately, I didn’t get it done, but this is an opportunity for me to just hone in on the offensive side of the ball again and really put my time and efforts into only offense and trying to make this the best offense I can and utilize the skillset of all of our players and the team in general, for that matter," Gruden said.
"So, I’m excited about it, really. You know, I would love to have a different result in Washington, still be a head coach, but this is where I’m at and I’m excited to take advantage of the opportunity.”