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Jay Gruden has Been a Blessing in Disguise for the Redskins and Kirk Cousins

NFL: Washington Redskins at Los Angeles Chargers Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

Since the turn of the century, the Redskins have had just Five winning seasons. Yes, you heard that correctly - FIVE WINNING SEASONS! Four of those five winning seasons culminated in a playoff berth.

Three of those five winning seasons, and three of the four playoff births were achieved by either a Hall of Fame coach (Gibbs), or a future Hall of Fame coach (Shannahan).

Want to take a guess where the other two winning seasons and playoff births came from?

-It has to be the offensive genius Norv Turner, right? - Nope!

-Marty Schottenheimer? - Nope!

-Steve Spurrier? - Haha, nope!

-Jim Zorn? - Think again...

If you guessed our very own Jay Gruden, you would be correct!

From 1981-1992, the great Joe Gibbs, who I had the pleasure of meeting twice, patrolled the sidelines for our Redskins. In those 12 years of amazing stability, the Skins had just one losing season (1988 - 7-9), won the NFC East five times, made the playoffs eight times, and went to the Super Bowl four times, winning three. Gibbs was a former coordinator (for just three years) before he was given his first head coaching job by owner Jack Kent Cooke.

After Gibbs walked away from coaching in 1992, some stability at head coach persisted, as Norv Turner ran the team from 1994-2000. His record over that time, although not terrible, was no where near as successful as the 12 that Gibbs put in. The fans were used to winning and making the playoffs, and Turner was able to produce just one post-season birth (1999).

1999 also holds some significance, as that is the year Daniel Snyder purchased the Redskins. Before Snyder’s acquisition, Jack Kent Cooke held the team in some capacity from 1961 (minority owner), until his death in 1997. The one thing Cooke was not quick to do, was turn over his head coaches. That very quickly changed when Snyder purchased the team.

One year after taking over ownership, Snyder replaced Norv Turner with Marty Schottenheimer, and the three-ring circus began.

From 1999 to present, the Redskins under Dan Snyder have had eight different head coaches (nine if you count Terry Robiskie). The previous 17 years, we had just three!

So why am I bringing all this history up? You all know me as more of a “what have you done for me lately” type of writer, and although I do use stats and history to back up a lot of my writing, it’s not my norm. However, I see a theme here, and when I see themes, I like to peel back those layers - sometimes very slowly.

So a theme persists that Daniel Snyder loves to change his coaches when he feels like it. Losing Joe Gibbs the second time around was more a mutual parting of ways, but outside of that, coaches under Snyder have come and gone like seasons of a calendar year.

Another theme that seems to persist, outside of losing, is the lack of a true franchise quarterback under Snyder (some will also argue this didn’t exist when Gibbs was the coach either). In his current tenure as owner of the Redskins, Snyder has had 16 different starting quarterbacks. Kirk Cousins is the longest tenured starting quarterback in the Snyder era, having 55 starts under his belt. Prior to Cousins, that record was held by Jason Campbell, who had 52 starts as the Redskins signal caller.

So, we can see that it is in Snyder’s nature to rotate coaches and quarterbacks as frequently as he rotates his underwear (disgusting, I know).

The results of Snyder’s musical chairs have not been good. Prior to Gruden and Cousins taking over their respective positions in D.C., Dan has had ZERO back-to-back winning seasons. His two respectable coaching hires (Gibbs and Shanahan), went a combined 54-74 over eight seasons (Gibbs - 30-34; Shanahan - 24-40). Our inability to draft and develop a franchise quarterback has been equally as poor, with such notable picks as Patrick Ramsey, Jason Campbell and Robert Griffin falling flat on their face in D.C. Free agent quarterback acquisitions haven’t worked out much better, as Jeff George, Mark Brunell, Donovan McNabb and Rex Grossman all failed to lead the Redskins back to prominence. Brad Johnson was the only one to have some success in Burgundy and Gold as a quarterback under Snyder’s ownership.

Enter the Jay Gruden era.

First, let’s just get this out of the way up front. Jay Gruden, when he was hired in 2014, inherited a dumpster fire created by Dan Synder, Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan. The team was coming off a 3-13 season, a mess at quarterback, and a roster barren of talent due largely in part to the Robert Griffin trade and failure to draft and develop talent in prior years. The Redskins had mortgaged their future on one player, and that massively backfired. Gruden was left with a shattered crystal ball, and small roll of scotch tape to repair it with.

In his first season at the helm, Jay stood on the table for Kirk Cousins to be his starting quarterback. He saw things in the former Michigan State signal caller than some had overlooked. A quick release, workman-like mentality and the mental capacity to handle the position all stood out to Jay. The flirtation with Cousins in 2014 didn’t go quite as planned, but the clay was obviously there to mold.

The Redskins finally decided to move on from the Robert Griffin disaster in 2015, keeping the once-heralded quarterback sidelined with what medical providers called a concussion, while Kirk Cousins was given the reigns to start the season. Cousins and Gruden never looked back.

Despite a roster that was not in the top half of the NFL in talent, and a defense that ranked 17th in points against (giving up an average of 23.7 points per game), Guden and Cousins led their team to a 9-7 record, and were champions of the NFC East. They lost to the Packers in a first round playoff game; a game that was much closer than the final score would indicate.

Cousins would go on to enter 2016 as the unquestioned starter, and under Gruden’s guidance, would break single season franchise passing records. Some misfortune struck the team in a few games, most notably their game in London against the Bengals, but they still managed to come out of 2016 with an 8-7-1 record, and a second consecutive winning season.

2017 has been a complete bloodbath for the Redskins. The team currently has 19 players on injured reserve, with at least another four who have missed multiple games with injury. Of those 19 on IR, 12 are starters or key contributors, with two being Pro Bowl players. To say the 2017 Redskins are snake-bitten would be a huge understatement!

Despite the adversity 2017 has brought, Gruden and Cousins have kept this team competitive. If not for a dropped pass in the endzone against the Chiefs, a narrow loss against Minnesota at home, and a complete defensive collapse on the road in New Orleans against one of the hottest teams in the NFL, the Redskins could be looking at another winning season, and possible playoff birth.

Redskins fans have been quick to point the finger at Gruden, and as the head coach of this team, some of that criticism is fair. But taking into account what Gruden has been able to accomplish here in almost four years, with a meddling owner, no stability at general manager, a figure head as “Team President”, who has no business involving himself in anything football related, and a defense that has been below average since his arrival, what he has done is nothing short of a miracle!

The constant call for change at head coach has got to stop. Jay Gruden is not the problem here. That goes WAY up the chain of command. If anything, Jay has brought much needed stability to two areas this team has not had - quarterback and head coach. Can Gruden improve as the top man; absolutely, but is removing him from his position, and attempting to start all over again the correct move - I believe 100 percent no!

The grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence, as we have seen many times before in the transition from Gibbs to Turner, Schottenheimer to Spurrier, and Gibbs 2.0 to Zorn. My point is, Jay has brought three things that were missing from this organization for many years back; stability, back-to-back winning seasons and a franchise quarterback. And speaking of that quarterback - it was Gruden who developed him and turned him into one of the top 10 passers in the NFL.

How people want to get rid of a man who is actually bringing us some success in areas we need it the most is beyond me. How people can sit here and point a finger at Jay, when so many moving pieces around him are dysfunctional, is also beyond me.

In this wonderful holiday season, we give thanks for so many things we have. Maybe Redskins fans need to wake up and start giving thanks to what Jay Gruden has been able to bring to our football team. Sure, not everything is perfect, and it may never be, but the alternative could be a lot worse. If Gruden were to be let go, I think it’s pretty safe to assume Kirk would follow. Stew on that a bit this holiday season!

Happy Holidays!


Do you approve of the job Jay Gruden has done here as the Redskins head coach?

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  • 66%
    (695 votes)
  • 13%
    (138 votes)
  • 19%
    I want to see one more year before deciding
    (208 votes)
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