WASHINGTON – Jay Gruden has his first NFL head coaching gig, charged with ending the perpetual state of turmoil that has become the Washington Redskins.
He was hired Thursday after spending the last three seasons as the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals, where his skill in helping to develop Andy Dalton will no doubt be of use when he takes on the task of grooming another young franchise quarterback, Robert Griffin III.
Gruden replaces Mike Shanahan, who was fired last week after a 3-13 season that ended with eight consecutive losses. The Redskins finished last in the NFC East during three of Shanahan’s four seasons in Washington, a time marked by discord among ownership, quarterback and coach.
Gruden will become Dan Snyder’s eighth coach in 16 seasons as an NFL owner. The span includes four winning seasons and seven last-place finishes. Unlike Shanahan, Gruden will not have final say over all football matters. He’ll report to general manager Bruce Allen, who has taken charge of assembling the roster and other personnel decisions.
The 46-year-old Gruden has been largely overshadowed by his more famous brother, Jon Gruden, who won a Super Bowl with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and is now an analyst on “Monday Night Football.” But Jay Gruden has been a name on the rise because of his success with Dalton and the Bengals’ offense.
Jay Gruden interviewed for multiple head coaching openings last year and had drawn interest from at least three other teams seeking to fill a head coaching vacancy this year. He interviewed with the Tennessee Titans Tuesday.
On Wednesday, he became the last of six candidates to meet with Allen, ending a 10-day search. The Redskins had to wait until the Bengals played their first-round playoff game before Gruden could be interviewed.
And it took a bad day from Gruden and Dalton – scoring only 10 points in a home loss to the San Diego Chargers – to make Gruden free to be hired this week.
Gruden had an inside track on the job because of his ties within the Washington organization. He was an assistant coach with Tampa Bay from 2002-08, where he worked at various times with Allen, Redskins defensive backs coach Raheem Morris and tight ends coach Sean McVay. Gruden also coached under Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett with the UFL’s Florida Tuskers in 2009.
Morris, McVay and Haslett were retained when Shanahan was fired, leaving it up to Gruden as to whether he will keep them on his new staff.
Gruden’s No. 1 task will be to develop a solid relationship with Griffin, who regressed this season after winning the AP’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2012. Griffin returned from major knee surgery to start 13 games, but he publicly disagreed with some of Shanahan’s decisions, struggled as a drop-back passer and was benched for the final three weeks.
There’s no question Gruden has paid his dues. He played quarterback for the Barcelona Dragons and the Sacramento Surge in the long-defunct World League of American Football in 1990, then went to the Arena Football League and began a playing and coaching career that was so successful it landed him in the AFL Hall of Fame in 1999.
He’s been a head coach both the AFL and UFL, including two stints with the AFL’s Orlando Predators from 1998-2001 and 2004-08 that included four appearances in the championship game and two league titles. In 2010, after Haslett left for the Redskins, Gruden was head coach and general manager of the Tuskers and led them to the UFL championship game.