- - Tuesday, January 1, 2019

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

The 2014 Jay Gruden apparently surfaced Monday afternoon at Redskins Park — you know, the Jay Gruden who just couldn’t help himself when revealing how bad things were, the Jay Gruden who told the world every couple of weeks how bad Robert Griffin III was.

Since then, the Washington Redskins coach has pretty much kept that Gruden under wraps, save for a comment here and there. He’s learned to be more discreet and less blunt, more secretive and less revealing, at least as much as Gruden can keep himself under control.

But for a moment the day after their standard embarrassing season-ending 24-0 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles — almost 24 hours since his team finished 7-9 for the second straight season — Gruden showed a glimpse of Honest Jay, and I think it was revealing.

In response to a question about what was the one thing he feels needs to change the most going forward, Gruden started out by answering, “It’s hard to say really. It’s really hard to say.”

Maybe it was hard to say because the truth was right on the tip of his tongue. And then Gruden blurted it out. “You know there’s probably a lot of things that need to change, but I think just moving forward we’ve got to be on the same page as far as personnel, coaching, and all that stuff,” he said.

I mean, if this is what needs to change the most, then the truth is that it’s a problem right now. Again, let me point out that Gruden has worked with the Prince of Darkness, team president Bruce Allen now, for five seasons here. No one in that building — Doug Williams, Eric Schaffer, Kyle Smith, anyone else involved in the “personnel, coaching and all that stuff” — is a stranger to Gruden.

And yet here we are, at the end of a season defined by carnage on and off the field, and the head coach has just told everyone the thing that needs to change the most is for them to all be on the same page when it comes to “personnel, coaching and all that stuff.”

Give Gruden credit, though, The minute he said it, he appeared to realize he was a little too transparent (maybe he still thought they were operating under the departed chief operating officer Brian Lafemina’s rules of truth and transparency), and quickly backtracked.

“But we have a good communication system, a good system in place right now,” he said.

Then it gets really strange. Gruden made several references to the fact that, as of Monday’s press conference, he had no assurances he would return next year, even though he has two more years of a contract extension. He spoke of an “evaluation’ and said “I’ll have to do a lot of listening at first, if I’m still here, see what they see, see what their vision is, and then I have to adapt to what they see and try to do the best that I can to make it work.”

See what their vision is? After five years, that hasn’t been clarified for everyone involved?

Someone tried to get a little clarity on what he meant later when Gruden was asked about improving communications between the coaching staff and the front office regarding current roles. He replied, “Oh yeah it is possible. It starts with once I get the word I have to pass it along and we have to do a better job of executing the plan and we’ve tried to do that. We just have not done a very good job obviously. Seven and nine the past two years. We understand what we have to do to improve. We just have to do a good job of executing the plan.”

What the heck is he talking about?

If there has been a plan, I am all in favor of executing it with lethal injection.

Did Gruden begin his long walk at Monday’s press conference? He opened it by saying he didn’t know why he was up there. It was a little unusual for Gruden, who has two years left on a contract extension, to not get some assurances about his return as head coach by Monday afternoon. Then again, the front office may just be really bad at that sort of thing. They’re really bad at everything else. He may have been told he will return by the time this column hits the paper.

When asked about talks with the front office and owner Dan Snyder about his future, Gruden said he had no idea.

“I haven’t had any talks yet,” he said. “I have no idea when they will take place, but I know they will take place. I just have to wait and kind of see what happens. It is a tough business. A lot of good coaches have been let go already and there will be a lot more I’m sure here in the next couple days and weeks. So, moving forward if I am fortunate enough to be here I feel really good about the nucleus of players that we have. We do have to address some things without a doubt. When you are 7-9, whether you have injuries or not it is not good enough for this franchise. I know Mr. Snyder demands greatness from his staff and his players and we didn’t deliver this year, so we have to figure out ways to get better from a coaching staff standpoint first and then from a player’s standpoint.”

Mr. Snyder likely demands a lot of things. Greatness can’t possibly be one of them.

You can hear Thom Loverro on 106.7 The Fan Wednesday afternoons and Saturday mornings and also on the Kevin Sheehan Show podcast every Tuesday and Thursday.


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