Who needs the lottery? If I had a dollar for every time someone has asked, “What do you think of Jay Gruden?” I would have enough to retire and move to Tahiti.
And I could do it before answering the question.
The simple answer is I really don’t know what to think about Gruden. I’ve learned a few things about him in the nearly a full week he’s been the coach of the Redskins, but you can still write down everything I know about him on the back of a postage stamp and probably have room left over for The Lord’s Prayer and maybe the preamble to the Constitution.
He’s a former quarterback, he’s been a head coach in arena football and he’s the brother of Jon Gruden, a Super Bowl-winning coach who is now a broadcaster.
How any of that, or anything else about Gruden, translates into success on the NFL level is impossible to guess. So many factors go into success that trying to guess is a chase-your-tail operation. It will make you dizzy. You can hire a veteran coach who has two Super Bowl championships on his resume and go 3-13 in his fourth season, like the Redskins did with Mike Shanahan. You can hire a long-time assistant and win at least one playoff game (and one Super Bowl) in his first five seasons, as the Ravens did with John Harbaugh.
You just never know. But that doesn’t mean you can’t chase your tail and try to figure it out anyway.
Gibbs was 40 when he was hired back in 1981. He had a wide range of experience, though none as a head coach. He’d been an offensive coordinator for three seasons, one with Tampa Bay and two with San Diego.
Hailed as an offensive innovator, Gibbs‘ teams only had one losing season and they made the playoffs eight times before he retired after the 1992 season. They went to the Super Bowl four times, and won it three times with three different quarterbacks. He didn’t ride one outstanding quarterback (cough — John Elway and Mike Shanahan — cough) to success.
Gibbs‘ record was 137-50.
Turner? That wasn’t as impressive a period in Redskins history. He was 49-59-1 in six-plus seasons and only made the playoffs once. Like Gibbs, he had three years’ experience as an offensive coordinator (Dallas) before taking over the Redskins at age 41.
Sure, the lack of success likely wasn’t all his doing. Gibbs had better players. But Turner didn’t exactly tear it up in his other chances in Oakland and San Diego. When Gibbs returned to the Skins for four seasons from 2004-07, he wasn’t as successful but he did make the playoffs twice. Including those seasons, Washington has only made the postseason four times since Gibbs retired the first time.