Jay Gruden has been the head coach of the Washington Redskins since 2014. It’s safe to say that, during his tenure with the franchise, he hasn’t exactly set the NFL world on fire. The former Arena Football League legend has, in his five seasons at the helm of the Redskins, only guided the team to a playoff berth once, and has achieved a winning record only twice.
In my opinion, much of the blame for this lacklustre tenure can be attributed to several external issues- one of which being the often tumultuous ownership provided by the polarising and controversial Dan Snyder. Snyder often faced criticism from the fanbase for some of his questionable decisions at the helm of the franchise- the most notable being, in my opinion, the incessant promotion and backing of Bruce Allen, a figure who has held influence since 2010 whilst holding the position of General Manager. Several of Allen’s decisions have impacted negatively on Gruden’s chances of success; one example being the decision to trade a plethora of draft capital to the (then) St Louis Rams in 2012 for the opportunity to select the incredibly promising quarterback Robert Griffin III. This was an unquestionably poor decision given the manner in which injuries ultimately derailed his career, yet the impact of these lost draft picks would span several years, condemning the team to several poor seasons whilst being unable to gain new young talent through the draft.
Another questionable decision came more recently with the failure to renew the contract of established quarterback Kirk Cousins, instead allowing him to enter free agency, where he signed a deal larger than any other that preceded it. His replacement, Alex Smith, who joined the ‘Skins via trade following Cousins’ departure, would only play ten full games for the team before suffering a devastating leg injury which will, most likely, end his career. Moreover, Smith’s tragic experience was only a small faucet of an incredible injury crisis which has plagued the Redskins in recent years- their Injured Reserve held twenty-five players by the end of the 2018/19 season, ultimately ruining any chance of success from an initially promising opening half of the season.
When the Gruden era in Washington is appraised in the near future, I would like to think that the various external issues surrounding the franchise in these years remain acknowledged. Nevertheless, as the amount of talent on this roster increases, it may become difficult to excuse any more disappointing results. The 2019 NFL Draft was an undisputed success for the team, resulting in the addition of several promising future stars such as former Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who could have the opportunity to feature heavily in his rookie season given the Redskins’ current instability in this position.
Ultimately, as the dawn of a new season looms, Jay Gruden must be one of several coaches facing a make-or-break season. A franchise starved of success and a fanbase needing a source of positivity desperately need this franchise to triumph. If Gruden cannot bring this in the coming season, I fear that his tenure in the nation’s capital may come to a sad end.