One week after it was first suggested he might be in danger of losing his job, the dysfunctional and winless Washington Redskins fired coach Jay Gruden Monday morning.
“Through the first five games of the 2019 season, the team has clearly not performed up to expectations, and we all share in that responsibility,” the team said in a statement. “Moving forward we are committed to doing all that we can collectively as an organization to turn things around and give our Redskins fans and alumni a team they can be proud of in 2019 and beyond.”
The knockout blow was delivered on Sunday, a 33-7 loss to the New England Patriots which laid bare all of the problems which have overwhelmed the NFC’s only winless (0-5) team.
Its apparent Redskins fans may have already given up. FedEx Field was jammed with Patriots fans.
After the game, Gruden was asked if he feared for his job.
“Nobody told me anything, and I don’t have a concern,” said Gruden. “I’ll just wait and see. If the key works on Monday, I’ll keep working.”
Gruden’s reign ends with a 35-49-1 record and just one playoff appearance in five-plus seasons. And it comes without the organization knowing whether rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins, the 15th overall pick in the 2019 draft, could have helped save his job.
The dismissal of Gruden again trains the spotlight on mercurial owner Daniel Snyder, who bought the Redskins in 1998. Eight coaches and 20 starting QBs have come and gone on his watch.
Gruden’s tenure was the longest of any coach who has worked for Snyder. The owner had previously fired Norv Turner, Marty Schottenheimer, Jim Zorn and Mike Shanahan. His other two coaches, Steve Spurrier and Joe Gibbs, both resigned.
And all its produced have been five playoff appearances with only three NFC East titles. According to ESPN, the Redskins winning percentage (.429) during Snyder’s era is the fifth worse in the NFL.
Gruden has one additional year on his contract after signing a two-year extension he signed during the 2016 offseason. He is owed $5 million next season.
To be honest, there were many times during the last three years when Gruden could have been fired. The Redskins never took flight for him. The 2018 season was a perfect example. They were 6-3 when QB Alex Smith broke his leg. That began a QB shuffle that included Colt McCoy, Josh Johnson and finally Mark Sanchez.
Instead of being able to rally his team, the Redskins finished the season 7-9. But management decided not to blame Gruden for the team’s descent.
The biggest problem on this year’s team seemed to be injuries and defense. The Redskins allowed 30 or more points three straight times at the beginning of the season.
But there had also been some debate about what to do with Haskins. It seemed clear Washington felt Haskins was not ready to play, that he certainly gave them less of a chance to win than veteran Case Keenum. When Gruden put Haskins into the game against the New York Giants in Week 4, the rookie responded by throwing three interceptions against a very porous Giants defense.
It was seemingly instructive that Gruden gave backup Colt McCoy the start against New England – Keenum is injured – despite the strong public sentiment that Haskins should be given the chance.
Gruden seemed particularly pissed off last week when he was asked again about Haskins’ progress.
“No matter what we do with him, we’re going to be wrong, so it doesn’t really matter,” said Gruden.
Considered an innovative offensive coach with a particular skill at developing QBs while serving as offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals, Gruden fell short in helping Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins, Smith and Keenum become winning players.
Ironically, the best two seasons Gruden had in Washington (2015 and 2016) were when current Rams coach Sean McVay was his offensive coordinator
The Redskins have not been 0-5 since 2001 – Schottenheimer’s first season – and seem to be on their way to a third consecutive losing season. Assistant head coach Bill Callahan, a former Raiders head coach, will take over as head coach while Washington searches for its next leader.
“The talent is here, but obviously we’re not getting it done,” running back Adrian Peterson told The Athletic. “We need to try something different. I don’t know. We haven’t been successful here in the past five weeks. I don’t know more what to say.”