- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 4, 2014


Debuts are shrouded in mystery. They have a sense of both hope and impending doom.

Sometimes they can be the start of something great.

Other times, they can be an illusion.

Which one will it be for new Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden Sunday in Houston against the Texans?

Steve Spurrier’s debut in 2002 was a 31-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals. It looked like good times were ahead.

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“I remember every game I ever coached — all 220, I think I figured it out,” Spurrier told reporters after the win. “This is one to remember. It’s a big deal that we won.”

No it wasn’t. Good times were not ahead.

Jim Zorn’s 2008 debut was a 17-16 loss to the New York Giants.

That was an illusion as well. The Zorn era would wind up much worse than a one-point loss to the Giants.

Mike Shanahan’s 2010 debut was a glorious one — a 13-7 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

“You’ve got to find a way to win in this business,” Shanahan told reporters after the game.

He only found a way to win 24 times in 64 Redskins games.

Another illusion.

You sensing a trend here?

Jay Gruden is coaching against what seems to be destiny here — failure. He can win Sunday against the Texans, and the destiny will still be there, hanging over him like every coach who came before him since the glory days of Joe Gibbs’ first time around.

His ability to buck the trend rests on the debut of Robert “SuperBob” Griffin III.

Debut? We saw SuperBob’s debut in 2012, when he brought shock and awe to the NFL, completing 19 of 26 passes for 320 yards and two touchdowns in a stunning 40-32 upset of the New Orleans Saints.

But this is a different SuperBob. This is the damaged, repaired and remastered SuperBob, the one learning, in his third season, how to play quarterback in the NFL.

We don’t know what to expect from SuperBob Sunday.

That is a debut.

“Robert is a perfectionist, no question,” Gruden told reporters this week, responding to the mystery of what to expect from the quarterback who was the NFL Rookie of the Year in 2012 and led his team to the NFC East title. “That’s good, that’s what you want your quarterback to be. You want him to be detail-orientated as far as the routes are concerned, the protections and be aware of what’s going on around you and also make sure that he knows that every throw has got to be on time and perfect.

“Obviously, we’ve had our instances where not everything has been perfect,” Gruden said. “When you play 16 games against 16 very good defenses, you’re going to have some issues every now and then. The big thing is to fight through them and move on to the next play as quickly as possible, learn from your mistakes and hope that the next play is going to be a better one. I’m very encouraged with where he is as a quarterback right now. Obviously, time will tell when we play Sunday. I’m sure we’ll have a great measuring stick there.”

SuperBob told reporters he doesn’t have to prove anything to anyone.

“Nothing,” he said. “I do this for my teammates. I do this for my family, for this organization. We don’t have anything to prove to anybody else out there. All we have to do is go out and be the team that we know that we can be. I guess if you want to say that we have a lot to prove to ourselves within this building, then it’s about all of us going out there and being successful.

“Like I said many times this whole offseason, they go as I go. If I play well, we play well. If I don’t play well, we don’t play well. I understand that, they understand that and I’m going to do my best and I promise I’ll play well for them.”

He’s right about that — if he plays well, they play well.

But the coach referred to this game as a measuring stick. For what? How good a quarterback SuperBob will be in this league?

That’s a debut, baby.

Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 radio and espn980.com.

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