- - Tuesday, January 2, 2018


So here we are, one year later in Jay Gruden’s tenure as the Washington Redskins head coach — four years in the books and likely heading for year five — and the question that should have been asked at the end of last year is still on the table.

Is Jay Gruden the right guy for the Redskins? Is he an NFL head coach?

That question was relevant after a devastating 19-10 loss to the New York Giants to end the season last year, knocking the Redskins out of the playoffs against a team already locked into the postseason with nothing to play for.

And that question remains relevant one year later after another embarrassing 18-10 loss on Sunday to a basement-level Giants team, coming in with two wins and having fired their head coach and general manager.

Two meaningful games to end the season (remember, they sold this season finale as a chance to reach the glory of an 8-8 year, and have three nonlosing seasons under Gruden, as if that was an accomplishment), and a Gruden-coached offense put up a total of 20 points.

If Gruden is the offensive genius that everybody says he is, he must be saving it for his next job — wherever and whenever that may be.

While he’s here in Washington, Gruden gets a pass, of sorts, because of the self-destructive aura that engulfs this franchise — the one that has led to one coaching change after another, from Norv Turner, Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier, Jim Zorn and Mike Shanahan to the second era of Joe Gibbs.

The Redskins have been such an unstable mess under owner Dan Snyder that he finally, with Gruden, opted for stability.

But what if stability means keeping people in place who cannot succeed?

Again, I pose this question — what if Jay Gruden is Norv Turner, a respected offensive coach who can’t handle the big job on the sideline of head coach?

Here’s what Sports Illustrated wrote in 1998 about Turner: “Though Turner is regarded as a nice guy and an astute play-caller, he has yet to quiet the critics who claim he does not have the necessary juice to succeed as a head coach.”

Sound familiar?

Going into the 1998 season, after four years as the Redskins coach, Turner’s record was 26-37-1. Gruden’s record after four seasons here is 28-35-1.

Gruden has had cover this year because of the numerous Redskins injuries, which legitimately call into question the ability to judge his 7-9 coaching performance this season. But I might point out that the 7-9 record may be the worst in the history of the franchise, because of the significance Gruden and others had placed on winning Sunday’s game against the Giants.

The Giants were in worse shape than anyone in the NFL going into this game against Washington — yes, even worse than the winless Cleveland Browns. They had just two wins, and, in addition to firing both their head coach and general manager, had suspended players for bad behavior and benched others. If anyone should have been looking for the exits Sunday, it should have been the New York Giants.

Even with all the burdens Gruden supposedly carried this year, he should have been the coach in Sunday’s game who was best equipped to win.

Yet it was the Redskins who played as if they had tee times scheduled in warmer climates, the Redskins who looked unprepared, uninspired — and uncoached.

There have been too many games under Gruden where his team had checked all three of those boxes.

“We just didn’t make any plays offensively,” Gruden told reporters after the loss Sunday. “We just could never score enough to catch up offensively.”

Sorry, but if they can’t make any plays offensively, or score enough to catch up offensively — what exactly is Gruden’s purpose on the Redskins sideline?

We’ve heard too many times from Gruden now that it falls on him, that he has to do a better job as a coach, that the words have become meaningless.

Without the words “or else” to follow the mea culpas, who cares?

He followed that up with these comments in his season-ending press conference Tuesday: “The nature of this business is [that] you’ve got to perform. You’ve got to have success or you’re going to have a short-lived tenure.”

Unless you happen to be the one coach who drew the rare Redskins stability card from the deck. Then you don’t have to perform so much and your tenure is going to be a little longer than most.

Thom Loverro hosts his weekly podcast “Cigars & Curveballs” Wednesdays available on iTunes, Google Play and the reVolver podcast network.

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