ASHBURN, VIRGINIA – The face was different, the words familiar. Like Mike Shanahan and nearly every recent Washington Redskins coach, Jay Gruden is anxious to declare an end to franchise’s days of dysfunction.
“I don’t know what happened last year,” Gruden said. “I know that interviewing with Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen and everybody here that the passion for excellence is there. All they want to do is win, and they’re going to provide me with every avenue to win.”
Gruden was introduced Thursday as the man charged with ending the perpetual state of turmoil the team has endured under owner Snyder and recently under general manager Allen.
Gruden was a given a five-year contact for his first NFL head coaching gig, taking over a 3-13 team that has finished last in the NFC East in five of the last six seasons.
“We have to get it right,” said Allen, who led the search and interviewed six candidates. “We need to get the franchise back on track in a winning direction. . . . We were looking for a new leader, somebody who can inspire our football team. We knew it was more than just X and Os, it was about finding the right person to build a team chemistry that we needed.”
Gruden is Snyder’s eighth coach in 16 seasons as an NFL owner. Unlike Shanahan, who was fired last week, Gruden will not have final say over all football matters. He’ll report to Allen, who has taken charge of assembling the roster and other personnel decisions.
The 46-year-old Gruden has spent the last three seasons as the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals, where his skill in helping to develop Andy Dalton will no doubt be of use when he takes on the task of grooming another young franchise quarterback, Robert Griffin III.
Gruden praised the talents of Griffin and spoke of the need to build a “genuine” trust with the quarterback, who regressed this season after winning the AP’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2012. Griffin returned from major knee surgery to start 13 games, but he publicly disagreed with some of Shanahan’s decisions, struggled as a drop-back passer and was benched for the final three weeks.
Asked to confirm that Griffin will be the starter, Gruden chuckled and said: “I don’t see him as a backup.”
“I see every trait that a quarterback has to have to be successful, I see Robert having all of those,” Gruden said. “So why wouldn’t you want to coach a guy like that? . . . I’m going to let him know that I’m a trustworthy guy. He’s also got to understand that I expect a lot from the starting quarterback. I expect him to come in and prepare and work hard, and I expect him to take the blame on some throws. I expect him to be a great leader.”
Griffin limited his comments to a quick post on his Facebook page: “Excited about the hiring of Coach Jay Gruden. Can’t wait to get to work with him & the guys!”