If Jay Gruden is fired by Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder, he will have a place to go — a place where coaches who are given their pink slips seek refuge. A place, in fact, that helped shape this beleaguered Redskins coaching staff.
Jay is a graduate of the Fired Football Coaches Association.
Yes, there is a Fired Football Coaches Association. It’s not exactly what the name conjures up — fired coaches sitting around talking chanting, “I coached good but they played bad.”
But it was born out of the firing of his brother Jon from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in January 2009. When Jon got fired, so did Jay, who was an assistant on Jon’s coaching staff in Tampa.
Jon then started something called the Fired Football Coaches Association, a place where coaches could connect, kick around philosophies and ideas, and look for job. It has evolved into much more than that — an organization that helps high school coaches and donates goods to scholastic football programs.
One of the past members of the Fired Football Coaches Association? Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, who had been let go as the interim head coach of the St. Louis Rams.
That’s where Jay and Haslett connected. Haslett got the job as the head coach of the Florida Tuskers in the United Football League and hired Jay to be his offensive coordinator.
These connections begin with Bruce Allen, who was Jon’s general manager in Oakland and then was hired in Tampa to work with Jon after a falling out with then-GM Rich McKay.
“Bruce Allen is a great football mind and an even better person,” Jon said in a statement issued when Allen was hired to be the Redskins general manager in 2009. “His background and understanding of the Washington Redskins’ tradition will be a huge asset to the Redskins. He is a leader and a great fit for this job. He’s a big reason why I had any success in coaching. I’m really happy for him and I wish him the best.”
Maybe this all started with Gruden’s father, Jim — who, from 1969 to 1972, worked as an assistant coach under John McVay at the University of Dayton. McVay is current Redskins offensive coordinator Sean McVay’s grandfather. There are other connections as well.
You get the picture? You think Mike and Kyle Shanahan was nepotism? The family tree at Redskins Park is a complicated one — the reason why firing anybody won’t be simple.
If Jay has to fired Haslett, he will be firing a mentor. If Allen has to fire Jay, he will be firing a close family friend who, let’s remember, he gave a remarkable five-year contract reportedly worth $20 million — remarkable in the sense that few first-time head coaches get that kind of guaranteed, long-term money.
“Once Jay’s interview was about three-quarters through, we knew he was the right guy,” Allen said upon hiring Jay in January.
Maybe they should have paid attention to the last quarter of that interview. Maybe that’s where Jay said, “By the way, I’m not crazy about this guy RG3.”
Snyder has never fired a coach who would get as much as $16 million for not coaching. This would be unprecedented. He would have loved to see Jim Zorn quit midway through his second season, and did all he could to get him to — including importing a bingo caller to call offensive plays — but Zorn was making more money coaching the Redskins than he had in his entire NFL career. He wasn’t quitting, so he was fired — but with just one year left on his deal.
There was a point when the questions started for Zorn in year two about his job — whether or not he would be fired.
They’ve started for Jay now.
When asked following the 24-0 loss to the Rams Sunday at FedEx Field if he felt like he was coaching for his job, Gruden — who, God bless him, answers every single question without fear or anger — responded, “I don’t. We took over this football team and did the best we could in the offseason. I tried to get some holes filled and we’re working hard to try to get some wins together here, but it hasn’t worked out very well. Obviously, we are 3-10. As a coach, you are judged on wins and losses and you know that is going on.
“Whenever you sign a contract, you know that going in, that you are judged on wins and losses,” Jay said.
Whenever you sign a contract — the operative word here being contract, as in $20 million guaranteed, as in, “If you’re going to fire me, it’s going to hurt you a lot more than it will hurt me.”
Maybe Allen pushed for the five years and $20 million in guaranteed money to protect his family friend from the very situation he is in now — a 3-10 record in his first season and his job in jeopardy from a volatile owner.
After all, what are friends for?
• Thom Loverro is co-host of “The Sports Fix,” noon to 2 p.m. daily on ESPN 980 and espn980.com.