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QB Coach: The Other Redskins' Coaching Vacancy

The Washington Redskins will soon have their new defensive coordinator, but they shouldn't stop there. Jay Gruden and company should look to hire a QB coach next.

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Redskins are the only team in the NFL that did not have an official quarterbacks coach in 2014.  First-year head coach Jay Gruden instead opted to split the duties of the job up between himself and first-year offensive coordinator Sean McVay.  This essentially made both Gruden and McVay de facto QB coaches.

Jay Gruden was the only head coach that moonlighted as a quarterbacks coach last year.  Sean McVay was one of just three offensive coordinators that split time coaching quarterbacks; the other two were Josh McDaniel's and Marcus Arroyo.

McDaniels, however, has the luxury of coaching one of the greatest, and most seasoned quarterbacks of all time in Tom Brady, and 2014 marks the seventh season in which he has maintained dual coordinator and QB coach responsibilities.  Arroyo, on the other hand, only held both jobs because former Buccaneers' offensive coordinator, Jeff Tedford, was forced to miss time after a heart surgery.

It was unusual for Gruden and McVay, both rookies to their respective positions, to burden themselves with this extra job; especially for Gruden who also handled play-calling duties.  Gruden said that he chose this approach because he "didn’t want to have too many voices preaching" to his young signal callers.  Did it work though?  Did this help the quarterbacks and the team as a whole to be more successful in 2014?

Quarterback Quandary in the Capital

The best way for us to quickly determine whether or not Washington's quarterbacks were successful in 2014 is to examine some of the best efficiency statistics and advanced metrics for QBs and to see how they fared relative to their peers.  The following table displays the rankings for the Redskins quarterbacks among all 44 of the QBs that took at least 100 dropbacks in 2014.

2014 WAS QB Ranks AY/A Air Yards % TD % INT % Sack % QBR DVOA PFF EPA
Robert Griffin 21st 44th 44th 27th 43rd 40th 41st 37th 29th
Kirk Cousins 13th 37th 15th 43rd 5th 29th 15th 26th 26th
Colt McCoy 9th 38th 38th 21st 42nd 30th 35th 23rd 40th

There are a lot of rankings here, so I'll sum them up for you: all three of Washington's quarterbacks were horrible in 2014.  Their combined average ranking in all of the categories listed is 30th, they only finished in the top 20 in five of the 27 rankings between them and they came in 35th or worse in 48% of them (13 of 27).

Their best rankings came in the adjusted yards per attempt category, however this statistic does not account for the damage done after the catch by Washington receivers.  To account for this, I also included the groups' rankings for air yards percentage, which tells us what percentage of the passing yards by these quarterbacks came before the catch/through the air.  As you can see, all three of the Redskins' quarterbacks ranked in the bottom eight of this category, thus almost negating their above-average yards per attempt numbers.

Perhaps the Redskins just have three extremely sub-par quarterbacks on their roster.  If so, then what's to say that having a full-time QB coach would make a difference anyways?

D.C. Young Guns

I'm not yet 100% sold on the idea that both Robert Griffin and Kirk Cousins are busts.  They have had to deal with an exorbitant amount of drama in their young careers, they've not had a stable environment that promotes continuity in which to work in and they are both relatively young and inexperienced.  In fact, the Redskins had one of the youngest and least experienced groups of quarterbacks in the NFL last year (on teams' active rosters).

Team QBs Average Age Average Years of Experience
Redskins Values 26.5 3.7
NFL Average 28.5 5.9
Redskins Ranks 4th Youngest 3rd Fewest

The Redskins finished the season with the fourth youngest and third least experienced QB corps in the entire league.  Only the Eagles (Foles, Sanchez, Barkley), the Jaguars (Bortles, Henne, Morris) and the Browns (Hoyer, Manziel, Shaw) had a younger and more unseasoned group of quarterbacks on their roster.

So far, the results have not been good for Griffin and Cousins, but they are both still young and somewhat green, which means that they still have room to learn and to grow into productive NFL players.  However, the only way that they will be able to is if there are surrounded by the right quantity and quality of teachers.

No Country for Old QBs

Part of the reason that Washington's quarterback group ranks so low in terms of average age and years of experience is that they did not have a veteran backup on the roster.  Sure, Colt McCoy has been around for a while, but at 28 years old, and with five years in the league he hardly fits the bill of the wise old veteran.  He also still seems to be operating under the misguided notion that he can be a long-term starter for somebody.

Many of the other teams in the league with young starting QBs had veteran players on the roster to back up and to help teach their starting signal callers.  Luck had Hasselbeck, Wilson had Jackson, Carr had Schaub, Bortles had Henne, Bradford had Hill, Newton had Anderson and so on.  Washington would be wise to bring in a veteran quarterback, not to compete with Griffin and Cousins, but to set an example for them.

Unfortunately, just signing a veteran third stringer for Griffin and Cousins to learn from will not suffice.  They will also need to receive the proper instruction and training from their coaches if they're to be successful.

Are Gruden and McVay up to the Task?

I could answer this question by just simply directing you back to the first table which displayed the rankings for Griffin, Cousins and McCoy, but instead let's look to see if Gruden and McVay even have the credentials to suggest that they could effectively handle the job of QB coach while also performing their primary duties as a coach and a coordinator.

The following tables will show the number of years that Gruden and McVay spent in various positions/roles, their ages and where these numbers ranked them relative to the other head coaches and offensive coordinators in the league.  All rankings are based on the coaching staffs in place at the end of the 2014 season (i.e. new hires are not included).

Jay Gruden Experience All NFL Years HC/OC Years Age
Gruden Values 11 4 47.84
NFL Average 16.6 10.9 53.96
Gruden Ranks 7th Fewest 3rd Fewest 4th Youngest

Jay Gruden is clearly not one of the most seasoned head coaches, especially when you consider that seven of his eleven years in the league were spent as a part-time assistant with Tampa Bay.  If you did not include those seasons then he would have the second fewest years of NFL experience for a current head coach behind Chip Kelly.  Only Kelly and Bill O'Brien have spent less combined time as a head coach and a coordinator among all NFL head men.

Sean McVay Experience All NFL Years HC/OC Years QB Coach Years Age
McVay Values 6 1 0 28.95
NFL Average 13.0 5.8 3.3 45.19
McVay Ranks 2nd Fewest Fewest 23rd/Fewest Youngest

Sean McVay, seemingly by all accounts, is an extremely talented and up-and-coming NFL coach, but he is also the least experienced and the youngest offensive coordinator in the league.  Only the aforementioned and already replaced Marcus Arroyo finished the 2014 season with less total years in the NFL.  Arroyo, who is six years McVay's senior, was the second youngest OC in the league.

McVay was also just one of ten offensive coordinators in 2014 without any experience as a quarterbacks coach.  I'd feel much more comfortable about him pulling double duty if this were not the case.

Combined HC & OC Experience All NFL Years HC/OC Years QB Coach Years Age
Redskins Values 17 5 0 76.79
NFL Average 29.3 16.6 4.8 97.7
Redskins Ranks 3rd Fewest 2nd Fewest 27th/Fewest 2nd Youngest

The Texans do not have an offensive coordinator, and Bill O'Brien serves as both their head coach and OC.  I didn't double count O'Brien's numbers and as a result the Texans ranked last in just about all of these categories.  If you do not include the Texans, then the Redskins' have the youngest and least experienced head coach and offensive coordinator combination in the NFL.

This makes you wonder why Jay Gruden, a first-time head coach, entrusted the quarterback coaching responsibilities to himself, and the even greener rookie offensive coordinator, Sean McVay.  I know why he said he did it, but I don't understand why he didn't consider all of the issues that would come along with this choice.  This decision appears even more perplexing when you remember that the Redskins also have one of the youngest and least experienced quarterback groups.

Jay Gruden and the Redskins basically decided to go with an approach that was akin to the blind leading the blind, and the results were disastrous.

The poor play of the quarterbacks and the offensive line had a great deal to do with the lack of offensive success in 2014, but that doesn't change the fact the structure put in place by Gruden was beyond laughable.  He was an inexperienced and overrated coordinator that gave himself three jobs (HC, play caller and QB coach) in his first year as a head coach and his number two was the most inexperienced coordinator in the league.

Jay Gruden must bring in a quarterbacks coach to take some of the work off of his plate and to help develop Robert Griffin and Kirk Cousins.

Candidates for the Job

Now that we have identified that this is almost certainly a problem, the question then becomes: who should the Redskins hire to be their quarterbacks coach?  Here's a list of QB coaches have either already left their 2014 teams or that have a high potential to do so because of head coaching or coordinator changes.

QB Coach 2014 Team QB Coach Years Notable QBs Coached
David Lee Jets 10 G. Smith, Romo, Pennington
Geep Chryst 49ers 10 Kaepernick, Plummer, Harbaugh
Matt Cavanaugh Bears 9 Cutler, S. Young, Sanchez
Gregg Knapp Broncos 7 Manning, Schaub, Vick
John Defllippo Raiders 6 Carr, Palmer, Culpepper
Frank Cignetti Rams 6 Bradford, T. Green, A. Brooks
Dowell Loggains Browns 5 Hoyer, Hasselbeck, Locker
Todd Downing Bills 4 Manuel, Stafford, Orton
Glen Thomas Falcons 3 Ryan
Marcus Arroyo Buccaneers 1 Glennon, McCown

Adding a seasoned voice to the quarterback meeting room would be a wise move for this team to make, so hiring either David Lee, Geep Chryst, Matt Cavanaugh or Gregg Knapp would make a ton of sense.  Washington wouldn't be the first team to go with this approach as some of the youngest quarterbacks in the league (Wilson, Luck, Kaepernick, Dalton, Carr, Foles, etc.) are coached by long-time QB coaches.

Gregg Knapp has probably worked with the most accomplished set of QBs, so perhaps he would be able to instill some of the winning habits that he saw utilized by Manning, Vick and Schaub into Griffin and Cousins.  Chryst also stands out because his time spent working with other mobile quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick and Jake Plummer could help him with Robert Griffin.

And finally, a few outside-the-box names with connections to new GM Scot McCloughan are Seahawks quarterbacks coach Carl Smith and Colt's backup Matt Hasselbeck.  Smith is the longest-tenured QB coach in the league and he was in Seattle for almost the entire time that McCloughan was there, but unfortunately the chances that he leaves a potential dynasty in the making for the Redskins seemingly eternal flame of a dumpster fire are highly unlikely.

Hasselbeck has obviously never been a coach, but he would bring 17 years of successful NFL experience to the position and he has ties with McCloughan from their days in both Green Bay and Seattle.

Bottom Line

There are plenty of qualified coaches out there to fill this role for the Redskins.  However, before the position can be filled, Jay Gruden must first come to realization that he is not equipped and frankly just not good enough to wear this many hats if he ever hopes for this team to be successful under his watch.

He should move to immediately hire a quarterbacks coach, because the Redskins must make every effort to get the most out of Robert Griffin and Kirk Cousins in order to determine if one of them is worthy of a new contract.  Now is the time to find out what they have in these players, because time is running out.