Jay Gruden is on the hot seat in 2018. There’s no denying that.
28 wins, 35 losses, and one begrudging tie have made sure of it. The NFL is a game of wins and losses, and coaches are defined by their record, and their record alone. Gruden’s record, as it stands, suggests that perhaps the Washington Redskins should have parted ways last season.
That’s just the way it is. But that doesn’t mean it’s right.
Gruden isn’t a perfect head coach. There are times when his play calling is predictable. There were a select few times last year when he lost track of the game clock.
Gruden has his minor inconsistencies, but let’s not make them more than what they are: Minor. Some fans need a figure to hate, to dump all their frustration onto and blame for recent misfortunes. Gruden is that figure to many. And the fact of the matter is, the work he’s done in Washington does not warrant such a reputation.
Year by year, Gruden has gotten the most out of bad situations. 2014 is an exemption year, for obvious reasons. The franchise was in complete disarray, and the roster in shambles. The disfunction seen in 2014 is something that takes years to recover from. It’s why Gruden has been shown lenience in recent years.
In 2015, Gruden had a number of explosive pieces on offense, but still lacked talent on the defensive side of the ball. And yet, despite this fact, he led the Washington Redskins to an NFC East title. Albeit, he benefited greatly from a weak NFC East. But he used the climate to his advantage and found a way to win.
In 2016, the Washington Redskins were again competitive, going 8-7-1 in a division that housed the 13-3 Dallas Cowboys and the 11-5 New York Giants. And all things considered, he was one or two plays from going 10-6. Dustin Hopkins missed a chip shot field goal in overtime in London, and Kirk Cousins’ interception in Week 17 killed off a promising game-ending drive. Gruden had the Washington Redskins, whose roster was still rebuilding from 2014, in a position to succeed.
Beyond 2016, we know what happened. The injuries of 2017 have been well-documented, but what hasn’t been well-documented is the fact that Gruden still kept the Washington Redskins competitive, winning on the road in Seattle and losing a close game in New Orleans.
Gruden hasn’t been perfect with the Washington Redskins. But he’s not nearly appreciated enough for what he’s done. Those who oppose him automatically assume than anyone we hire would be better, but in reality, that simply isn’t the case. Starting over is a big decision to make, and Jay Gruden is not a problem that needs fixing. He’s an able leader of men with a respectable personality, the players openly respect him, and the Washington Redskins’ offense thrives inside his scheme.
Some people want him to be perfect. In the NFL, that’s not reasonable. You take what you can get, and you weigh all the circumstances. Judgement will be cast after we see how Jay Gruden performs with his best roster yet in 2018. But his record in recent years is misleading at best.
As it stands, Gruden is on the hot seat. That’s not being disputed. But if Gruden somehow falls short in 2018, and if he loses his job, the narrative will be that he was a disappointment, and that he didn’t provide anything to the Washington Redskins’ franchise. And the truth will elude. Gruden is a good head coach. And this time next year, if things go as planned, we shouldn’t be having this conversation.