- - Thursday, March 30, 2017

ANALYSIS/OPINION

Uh oh. Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden may be getting Bruce Allen disease.

“We have a lot of reasons for excitement around here,” he told reporters at the NFL meetings in Phoenix. “Don’t know why everyone is so doom-and-gloom around here.”

I don’t know, maybe because this franchise hired a general manager two years ago to diffuse the damage that Bruce “We’re-Winning-Off-the-Field” Allen had done? A general manager who was unhireable after personal problems drove him from San Francisco and Seattle, and then, when to no one’s surprise, it didn’t work, clumsily turned his firing into a public execution?

Or maybe because it was yet one more example of the aura of self destruction that engulfs this franchise — you know, like two years ago at the NFL combine when you gave the hostage video declaring Robert Griffin III would be the starter going into the 2015 season, after you had said a month earlier there would be a competition?

Or maybe because your two top wide receivers are gone, you have no running game to speak of, and your quarterback’s future remains a national topic of debate?

Or maybe because on a Saturday night in Indianapolis, in the midst of the McCloughan embarrassment, you somehow got a two-year contract extension despite ending the season with embarrassing home defeats to the Carolina Panthers and their damaged quarterback, Cam Newton, and the New York Giants, who, with a playoff berth clinched, had nothing to play for except boredom? Yet Gruden sees nothing but sunshine and dandelions.

“I’m very optimistic, yeah,” Gruden said. “I know it’s not great but we’ve had back-to-back winning seasons and there’s no reason for us not to be optimistic. We’ve been very close.”

Anyone who watched the NFL playoffs this past season knows the Redskins are anything but close — especially given the talent that has left Redskins Park and in an NFC East division where every other franchise would appear to have far more reason to be optimistic.

Well, at least Gruden hasn’t fully been infected by the Prince of Darkness. He still has enough honesty in him to admit it was a surprise that the Redskins offered an extension to a coach who told everyone that in the season’s final games — games his team needed for a second straight playoff appearance — that he was outcoached.

“I wasn’t expecting it,” Gruden told reporters at the NFL meetings in Phoenix. “I still had a couple years on my contract.”

See? It didn’t even make sense to Gruden.

Still, he didn’t ask questions.

“Obviously I’m grateful for it and signed it right away when I was offered,” Gruden said. “There was no negotiating. It was, ‘Give me the pen.’”

Those sorts of deals are signed in blood at Redskins Park — not ink. Ask Scot McCloughan.

Gruden gave no reasons for why McCloughan’s blood pact was terminated.

“I was disappointed,” he said. “I liked Scot, liked working with Scot. He’s a good person and a great talent evaluator so any time that you lose somebody that you become close with whether it’s a GM or a player, you know, it’s disappointing.”

Gruden didn’t sound like he was crazy about McCloughan in his post-season press conference, when asked about the team getting better through the draft since he has been here, answered, “We’re getting there, but we’ve had, what, two first-round picks since I’ve been here? One of them hasn’t played a down — or played one game — and the other one is a guard.”

He tried to backtrack from those comments — “I have a lot of respect for the work that he [Scot McCloughan] puts in” — but it was one of those moments of Gruden honesty that perhaps was the first inkling that the general manager was on shaky ground.

Those moments may be few and far in between in the future, as Gruden’s Bruce Allen disease continues to eat away at the part in the Redskins head coach’s brain that choses to be honest.

⦁ Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes and Google Play.

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