- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 2, 2018

ASHBURN — Asked to grade his performance over the 2017 season, Jay Gruden sounded like any frustrated Washington football fan on sports talk radio.

“First off, you judge the record and 7-9 is not good enough,” the Redskins coach told reporters Tuesday. “Two-minute? We weren’t very good in two-minute. Third down, why weren’t we good in two-minute, third down? Short yardage, we were awful. Why? Is it that we’re not practicing enough?

“I’m very critical of myself as most head coaches are,” Gruden said.

As part of that self evaluation, Gruden knows that, after his 28-35-1 record and one trip to the playoffs in four seasons, his fifth year is likely a referendum on his future with the team.

“Without a doubt,” he said. “We have to be competitive. We have to do better in our division. The nature of this business is you’ve got to perform.”

The Redskins went 1-5 in the NFC East, their sole win coming on Thanksgiving against the lowly New York Giants. They lost both games to the Philadelphia Eagles and the Dallas Cowboys.

Gruden said the season was disappointing “without a doubt.” Moving forward, Gruden said the Redskins have to get off to a fast start and be diligent in who they sign, or bring back, in free agency.

“You’ve got to have success or you’re going to have a short-lived tenure,” he said.

For the next few months, Gruden said he will evaluate every aspect of the 2017 season, from his and his staff’s coaching to the performance of his players — including Kirk Cousins.

The Redskins quarterback didn’t exactly get a ringing endorsement Tuesday. Asked about Cousins’ 2017, Gruden paused and trailed off after initially replying “You know what … “

Then the coach took another swing.

“I’m still in that evaluation process,” Gruden said. “We’re going to break down every play, every game from a quarterback standpoint from an offensive line standpoint, safety, everybody. When you’re 7-9, it’s hard to say wow this guy really was outstanding.

“Kirk had his flashes where he was really good,” he added.

Gruden praised Cousins, who is scheduled to be a free agent, for throwing for more than 4,000 yards and “doing some really great things,” but, in the end, he said, it wasn’t enought: “We’re 7-9.”

If Cousins leaves, Gruden said he would be comfortable with backup Colt McCoy as the starter, if necessary. Trying to work things out with Cousins, he said, comes first.

“I’m not saying Colt is the heir apparent and he’s going to start tomorrow,” Gruden said. “I just know that Colt’s been in the building and I have total faith that if he was given an opportunity, he would be ready to produce.”

The Redskins haven’t yet made changes to the coaching staff, except for expanding quarterback coach Kevin O’Connell’s role to “passing game coordinator.” A recent NFL Network report suggested O’Connell could leave to become UCLA’s offensive coordinator under Chip Kelly, but Gruden said he’ll be staying.

As far as changes to the Redskins’ medical or training staff, Gruden indicated he didn’t see any potential movement. Washington, of course, dealt with a slew of injuries this season, leading to questions of how many of them were preventable.

Gruden said the Redskins would have to closely examine whether they can do anything to prevent injuries, help recovery or practice differently.

On Monday, safety D.J. Swearinger said players on the Redskins have to do a better job of taking care of their bodies, saying his teammates had to be preventive instead of reactive to injuries.

Gruden, though, downplayed Swearinger’s comments, saying “I don’t know if he knows what every player does at home with their free time as far as taking care of their bodies.”

“The problem is there’s so many different types of injuries,” Gruden said. “It’s not like they’re all soft tissue, they’re all knees, they’re all shoulders. … How many of them are actually preventable?”

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