- The rebuild continues, with actual news that should inspire Redskins fans everywhere to hope for continued success in that department. I’ll kick things off this week by tipping my hat to Dan Snyder for doing something that I—along with countless others—have begged him to consider doing: he extended Jay Gruden. By doing so, Gruden became the first coach that Snyder has ever extended. In roughly two decades as owner, Snyder has done nothing but chew coaches up and spit them out. It’s been a real “chicken-or-the-egg” kind of thing, as the lack of coaching stability has caused a lack of stability on the field, which has caused a lack of coaching stability. While simply re-upping a coach will not automatically translate to a winning record and playoff appearances, it sure will help—especially if you keep the right guy. It says here that Jay Gruden is the right guy...finally.
- The last two seasons have seen the Redskins make significant strides in righting the ship. The roster, with holes you could drive a truck through, has been upgraded with both youth and talent (though work remains to be done). Say what you will about the 2016 draft class, but if Josh Doctson and Su’a Cravens both start (a big if, I know), you will have to say that Scot “McLovin” McCloughan has done a decent job there. His free agency picks have been spotty, but where guys like Kendall Reyes and Stephen Paea have failed here, it hasn’t cost the team a ton. I say this as a Redskins fan who has watched bad free agent deals cripple my favorite team. Sure, I wanted a guy like Kendall Reyes to work out, but more than anything else, I relish finding guys like that and taking a chance on them at the precise moment they are at their hungriest. The bottom line here is that this team has spent the last two years reshaping the roster to fit the mold of what McLovin and Jay Gruden want—the extension of Gruden is a commitment to what has been done and to continuing down this path.
- Of course, quarterback play has also played a significant part in the positive trend we have seen over the last two seasons. Whether you are a Kirk Cousins superfan or not, he has produced, and teams in the NFL can win with his kind of production. In order to keep improving as a team, you need to be able to convince your top producers to stay. Players that produce at a high level—especially the kind that you want to build your roster around—require more than just money. They seek organizational soundness. “Organizational Soundness” hasn’t been the slogan at Redskins Park since the late 80’s/early 90’s. With the extension of Jay Gruden, Dan Snyder has taken a huge first step towards that kind of soundness again, and despite it taking 20 years to do, I am ecstatic that this is where we find ourselves today.
- Maybe it would be somewhat naive to believe that simply extending Jay Gruden will cause Kirk Cousins to race to sign a new deal, but as Kirk considers alternate versions of his future, the one in Washington officially comes with some coaching consistency. That would at least make it competitive with futures in places where a coach has a six-year deal...for example. I know many people have openly postulated that Kirk does not want to be in Washington. I don’t speak to him on the regular, so I suppose I ultimately have no idea, but it wouldn’t seem to me to be an entirely accurate assessment. Jay Gruden kicked Robert Griffin III out of town to make room for the Kirk Cousins era to begin. The coach and quarterback have worked closely together since then and there is no smoking gun that proves these two hate each other. Jay gave Kirk his break, and Kirk proved Jay right. Even if this oversimplifies things (I tend to do that), I think it is reasonable to believe that Kirk Cousins can both appreciate what he has in this coach and what opportunities are on the way with this franchise. There is money to spend, viable places to try and spend it and a draft class on the way surrounded by cautious optimism. In short, the opportunity to be the starting quarterback in Washington is not a bad one at all.
- It would be unfair of me to be so unapologetically in the tank for McLovin the last two years and then not comment at all on the debacle that surrounds him these days. I have no idea if he is truly on the outs with Dan and Bruce—although it is not the most unreasonable interpretation of events. I have no idea if he was ever the one leading the charge to not pay up for Kirk a year or so ago—but that would be a good reason for the owner to be upset with him. I have no idea if Bruce and Dan are jealous of McLovin’s popularity inside the fanbase—this would be among the worst-case scenarios in my opinion (except any health-related matters, which would of course be the worst). What I do know is that I very much like McLovin’s last two drafts. I am of the mind that last year’s top three players will impact the team positively in 2017, and I thought that past draft picks made by Bruce Allen were guided by scouting provided by McLovin’s service (prior to the last two drafts). If there is any way for this current front office to rebound from the current drama and stick with its current configuration, I would be happy. I don’t like that our top personnel man was not on hand for important combine events. The optics of this whole thing are...well, bad. It’s not a good look, and we should know because it is a look we have worn out. More than anything specific to McLovin, Snyder or Allen, I just tire of this organization’s amazing ability to find huge piles of shit to belly-flop into (you’re welcome for that visual).
- As I have said before and will continue saying until I sound like a straitjacket-wearing crazy person, there are still ways for this whole thing to work out. Plenty of ways! Extending the first coach of his ownership stint is a great first step for Dan Snyder, but he is not a Jedi yet. He will have to face his personal Darth Vader yet again—that of course being the very dark side of the forces working against peace and harmony out in Ashburn. We’re getting there. Perhaps it is a true testament to how bad it really was for so long that meaningfully rectifying it is proving to be so difficult. Kudos to taking a step in that direction with the extension of the coach. Onward and upward from here! (Right?) This will be our core theme tomorrow night on The Audible. We have gotten what we wanted in the coaching extension, and now we wait to see if Kirk Cousins can be cajoled into staying here with Gruden.
Now that Jay Gruden has been extended, is Dan Snyder on a roll...towards peace, harmony and stability?