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The 5 O’Clock Club: WIll Gruden get the band back together somewhere?

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It’s 5 o’clock somewhere…

The 5 o’clock club is published several times per week during the season, and aims to provide a forum for reader-driven discussion at a time of day when there isn’t much NFL news being published. Feel free to introduce topics that interest you in the comments below.

I realize that Jay Gruden is already gone from the Redskins and that I, as a fan, need to be moving on, but it occurs to me that Jay’s impact on the Redskins organization may continue. I’d specifically like to entertain a scenario that could play out from January to March in which some former Redskins players follow Jay to his new job.

Jay indicated in an interview shortly after he had been fired that he will sit out the rest of the 2019 season, and I suspect that will be a good idea. Jay has been through some stress, and I imagine that a little down time with the family might do him some good.

Anyway, it seems unlikely that any NFL team in enough trouble to fire their coach at the end of this season would turn to Jay Gruden as the answer as the new head coach, though I admit it’s possible.

It seems more likely to me that Jay’s next job will be as an offensive coordinator; alternatively, I could see him signing on in the right situation as a quarterback coach if the situation was promising enough to lead to a return to coordinator or head coach in the future.

The possible futures may seem, in some ways, nearly limitless, but when a couple of things are considered, then the list of possibilities narrows considerably.

First of all, we know there are only 32 teams in the league, and that the Redskins are already out of the picture. Further, I think that we can say with some confidence that there are only three types of coaching jobs that Jay would accept in January: head coach, offensive coordinator/offensive assistant head coach, or quarterback coach. There will only be about 6 or 7 head coaching positions available, and a limited number of openings for the other two positions. Let’s say that, league-wide, there may be a universe of 20 to 30 possible openings at these three positions.

Then, let’s be aware that the old-boy network is alive and well in the NFL; that is, coaches like to work with people whom they know — people they’ve worked with before. Likewise, old rivalries can eliminate job opportunities that might otherwise exist.

So, from the two dozen or so jobs that might be available in general, old relationships might narrow Jay Gruden’s focus to just a handful... perhaps a dozen situations that might realistically present themselves to him as attractive options.

For example, after being the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati for 3 seasons and doing a good job with Andy Dalton, Bengals owner, Mike Brown, might see Jay as an attractive candidate to come in as a head coach. Of course, that would require the team to bail completely on rookie head coach Zac Taylor, which is a move that seems out of character for a franchise that stuck with Marvin Lewis for 16 years.

But let me look for another confluence of people connected to Jay’s NFL coaching history.

When Jay Gruden was the offensive coordinator in Cincinnati, the defensive coordinator was Mike Zimmer. The two remain friendly, having both left the Bengals to become head coaches at the same time in 2014.

Zimmer has certainly enjoyed more success as a head coach than Gruden has, compiling a 50-34-1 regular season record, with two trips to the playoffs, but Zimmer’s Vikings failed to make the playoffs last season. If they fail again this season — not an unreasonable possibility playing in the highly competitive NFC North — then Zimmer could find himself coaching for his job in 2020.

Of course, Zimmer’s quarterback is Kirk Cousins. Kirk’s contract is fully guaranteed through the 2020 season, which probably makes Zimm’s job safe for another year, as GM Rick Spielman is not Bruce Allen; Spielman is unlikely to fire the head coach at the end of the year just to hire a new guy and tell him to make the team a winner in the final year of Cousins’ contract.

But Zimmer’s future could be tied to Cousins’ success in 2020 if things don’t get dramatically better in the final 11 games of 2019.

Suddenly, the connections to Gruden could pay off.

Kirk has publicly praised, not Jay Gruden, but Sean McVay for all the success that Kirk has enjoyed in his NFL career. Still, it was Gruden who risked his career to name Cousins the starter over RG3 in DC, and a reunion of coach and QB could be beneficial. Gruden is intimately familiar with Kirk, his strengths and his weaknesses, and Kirk knows Jay’s offense just as intimately. It would be a natural pairing.

Of course, there’s the slight issue of the Vikings already having a full offensive staff, with Kevin Stephanski in his first season as OC. He is supplemented by former Mike Shanahan disciple Gary Kubiak, who is the Assistant Head Coach and Offensive Advisor. Kubiak’s son, Klint Kubiak, is the quarterback coach.

Still, if the Vikings continue to play .500 football and end up in third place in the NFC North and out of the playoffs, Zimmer, who was quick to fire John DiFilippo last season, could make further changes. That might mean trading Stephanski for Gruden, or it could mean severing the relationship with the two Kubiaks and bringing Jay as a quarterback specialist in to work with Kirk Cousins in a last-ditch effort to get from Kirk what the Vikings have been paying for and hoping to see.

I’m certainly not predicting that this scenario will play out; I’m simply spitballing a scenario that is based on past relationships — one of the main drivers of NFL coaching hires.

Regardless of where Jay ends up, he is likely to do what so many other coaches have done before him. He is likely to rely on other relationships...to bring players with him who know his system - players who can help teach it to others.

Remember all the former Redskins who ended up in Atlanta (and later San Francisco) after Kyle Shanahan left? Leonard Hankerson, Nick Williams, Chris Chester, Tom Compton, Aldrick Robinson, Pierre Garcon. Even Alfred Morris for a time.

Who would Jay Gruden bring to his new gig, wherever it is? If he’s an offensive coordinator, I think there are a some current Redskins that he is likely to target who have been with him a while, have some talent that shines in his offense, and who can help him teach that offensive system to others.

The first guy I think of is Chris Thompson

Remember Sunday, after the loss to the Patriots? Chris Thompson was in tears as he talked about Jay always believing in him and making CT’s career possible.

Does anyone doubt that Chris Thompson would follow Jay to a new team? Remember that CT is in his contract year with the Redskins. He is 28 years old, and likely on the back-end of his career, but still with “gas in the tank”. He is not likely to be a high-demand free agent, but he would hold appeal for Jay Gruden for a few reasons. First, CT is highly productive in Jay’s offense, which is custom built for a 3rd down back like Thompson. Second is the the fact that Thompson can still play. After 5 games, CT is on track for over 900 receiving yards for season. That’s despite playing with 3 different quarterbacks in a frequently sputtering offense. Finally, Thompson clearly loves Jay Gruden, and Jay is a big CT fan. Thompson works hard, is passionate, and can help Jay introduce others to the Gruden offense.

I don’t think the Redskins are likely to try to keep Thompson on the roster for 2020 anyway, but I would be willing to bet money that Chris ends up playing wherever Jay ends up coaching next season.

Brandon Scherff

A player that the Redskins should be trying to re-sign is RG Brandon Scherff.

Jay was dismissive, at least once, publicly about a guard being drafted at 5th overall by the Redskins, but I never heard Jay dismiss Brandon’s skill or competitiveness.

Jay’s offensive schemes depend on offensive linemen who can pass block effectively, and who can also block in space. He likes to pull guards and run overloaded blocking to one side of the formation for running plays and the play action passing game.

This is where Scherff excels.

Scherff will be looking for a payday in 2020, and he may be looking to get away from the DC circus. With Jay Gruden as a champion, telling the front office that his offense depends on players like Scherff, Brandon might just get that payday he’s looking for, with the added bonus of being able to play in the scheme he has known for his entire NFL career.

Jay would get an offensive mauler and a locker room leader who would help him succeed right away in his new home.

Trent Williams

While Jay has, at least once expressed reservations about drafting Scherff, the coach has never said anything about Trent Williams without the words, “best left tackle in the NFL” being included in the sentence.

Imagine Jay going to a new team and convincing the GM to sign Brandon Scherff in free agency and trade for Trent Williams. Instant offensive line maul machine!

the Washington Redskins play the Green Bay Packers Photo by John McDonnell / The Washington Post via Getty Images

I don’t know what Trent’s exact issues are with the Redskins, so I don’t know if he lays any blame for those issues at Jay’s feet or not, but the ability to play out the remaining years of his contract under Jay as an offensive coordinator might appeal to Trent. Getting draft picks from Jay’s new team might appeal to Bruce.

Who knows? Stranger things have happened.

Vernon Davis

The last high-profile name that I’d like to mention is Vernon Davis.

Davis seems to be preparing for life after football, but if Jay were to call him in March or April with an opportunity to come play one or two more seasons as a player/coach, extending Vernon’s career and padding his lifetime stats, I could see Davis putting the acting career on hold.

Chicago Bears v Washington Redskins Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Likely, Davis would be the backup wherever he went, but he has parlayed 3+ seasons as the backup tight end in Washington into 1,600 yards and 8 touchdowns to help cement his Hall of Fame argument. Davis is currently 10th on the list of career receiving yards for a tight end. Playing in a Jay Gruden offense in 2020 & 2021 would allow Davis to potentially eclipse 8,000 career receiving yards, moving him into a likely 7th place all-time.

That, together with the opportunity to add two or three million dollars to his career earnings, might be enough for Vernon Davis to help Jay Gruden establish himself with a new team.

Spitballin’

This is Friday-happy-hour spitballin’ over a cold beer in the pub talk. I’m just speculating about what could be.

While I’m at it, and since I’ve already talked about Kirk Cousins and the Vikings, let me throw out one more related “could happen”.

When Kirk Cousins signed with the Vikings, he said that he hoped it was the last move of his career. If he can put together a lot more games like the Week 5 victory against the Giants, it may turn out the way he hoped. Still, I’m not ready to concede his ascendance on the basis of a good outing against the NY Giants defense.

Let’s say, for a moment, that this season doesn’t work out — that the Vikings finish 8-8 and out of the playoffs. Further, imagine that 2020 goes similarly.

What would 2021 hold for Cousins? Probably not an extension with the Vikings.

Can you imagine a scenario where Sean McVay convinces the Rams front office to move on from a limited Jared Goff in order to sign a 33-year-old Kirk Cousins to a contract that would reunite the quarterback with his former offensive coordinator?

Goff has no guaranteed money after the ‘20 season. If the Rams can’t control the NFC West in ‘19 and ‘20, I could possibly see them doing a “Vikings” and trading their current QB to make room for Kirk Cousins, who credits Sean McVay with making him into a successful NFL quarterback.

Final thought

This is totally out of left field, and not realistic, I know, but after watching Jay Gruden pretty closely for a bit over 5 years, I have some career advice for him:

Jay, don’t quit the NFL, but quit coaching.

Jay should have the type of job that Doug Williams has with the Redskins. Jay is probably a better talent evaluator than he is a coach.

Cincinnati Bengals v Washington Redskins Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Jay should forget about being a head coach, a coordinator or a quarterback guru; he should, instead, try to get a job that puts him in a front office capacity managing scouts, watching film and helping with the draft. Jay’s father, Jim, served as a professional football regional scout and director of player personnel. It’s in Jay’s blood, and I think it would make him happier.

Poll

What does Jay Gruden’s future hold?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    He’ll be hired as a head coach in 2020
    (20 votes)
  • 63%
    He’ll be an offensive coordinator in 2020
    (305 votes)
  • 18%
    He’ll hold a different position on an offensive staff in 2020
    (88 votes)
  • 8%
    Jay will not be employed by an NFL franchise in 2020
    (39 votes)
  • 3%
    Jay will follow Bill’s advice and get a front office personnel job in 2020
    (19 votes)
  • 2%
    Jay will have a different future in 2020
    (12 votes)
483 votes total Vote Now

Poll

Which player is most likely to be on the Redskins 2020 roster?

This poll is closed

  • 23%
    Chris Thompson
    (107 votes)
  • 69%
    Brandon Scherff
    (310 votes)
  • 0%
    Trent Williams
    (4 votes)
  • 5%
    Vernon Davis
    (25 votes)
446 votes total Vote Now