- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 26, 2016

ASHBURN — It’s been almost three years since Jay Gruden was offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals, but the Redskin coach’s ties to Marvin Lewis, Andy Dalton and the rest of the Ohio franchise still run deep. 

A day before flying to London to face the Bengals Sunday in the NFL’s international showcase, Gruden spoke fondly of both Dalton, the quarterback he helped groom, and Lewis, his former boss.

“He’s always been supportive, he always will be,” Gruden said of Lewis, the Bengals coach who made Gruden his coordinator in 2011. “He’s a great person in that regard.”

Lewis, talking with the press in Cincinnati Wednesday, reciprocated, telling reporters he still keeps in touch with with Gruden.

“We talk occasionally by text and so forth,” Lewis said. “You know, it’s great to hear from him. And he’s such a great person and such a joy every day. When you’re fortunate enough to coach with guys in the building that brightens everybody’s day, that’s fortunate.”

Gruden credits Lewis for helping him out when he first took over the helm as the Redskins’ coach.

“I learned a lot,” Gruden continued. “Not just from Marvin, that whole staff. You know, I had a great offensive staff with me. Kenny Zampese, Hue Jackson was on that staff, Paul Alexander, you know, Kyle Caskey, James Urban … Part of the reason I’m standing here today is because of the staff members that I had there and obviously the players, but also the defensive guys. Marvin created an environment that was fun to work in.”

Dalton credited Gruden with turning him into a consistent NFL quarterback.

“He was great,” Dalton said of Gruden. “A big reason why I’m in Cincinnati now is because of Jay. He was a great coordinator here. We had a lot of success with him and it’s the reason he was able to get that job in Washington. He’s a great coach and I’m sure the guys love to play for him. He was a lot of fun to have around.”

Gruden’s work with developing Dalton was one of the reasons he was hired in Washington, and naturally invites comparisons between Dalton and Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins.

Lewis, in a nod to Gruden’s tutoring, said he sees similarities in Dalton and Cousins.

“I think they both do an incredible job at the line of scrimmage, surveying the defense and getting in and out of the right plays,” Lewis said. “You see the Redskins doing a lot of play changes at the line of scrimmage, which is what Andy has been so good at for us here.”

As well as he knows Dalton, Gruden said there’s no secret to disrupting the Bengals attack.

“I think what makes every quarterback uncomfortable is pressure and putting them in tough situations — third down and long — that’s the key,” Gruden said. “I think if they have some weakness this year it’s been their third down conversion rate. So I think to get them in third down and a long way will be important.”

The trip to London comes at a critical time in the season for both teams. The Bengals, 3-4, are trying to reassert themselves in an AFC North that seems to be up for grabs, while the 4-3 Redskins sit third in the NFC East, which is shaping out to be one of the league’s most competitive. 

And while Gruden will take the time to catch up with some of his former Bengals coworkers, don’t expect him to get all gushy over a reunion. Football must be played.

“We have got to find a way to win,” Gruden said. “They’re very well coached, they have a great football team — a lot of talent, both sides of the ball, special teams. It will be a great test for us.”

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