Since his hiring back on Jan. 9, Gruden has spent nearly every waking hour preparing for his first NFL head coaching stint. During the last two-plus months, he has used assistants Jim Haslett and Raheem Morris (both former head coaches) as sounding boards while working on Xs and Os, player evaluations and scheduling.
Describing his progress during a brief interview, Gruden said he has been surprised “just how smooth it’s been going as far as communication has been going with the staff, and Bruce and Dan Snyder. So far, it’s been a smooth process. We haven’t played a game yet, obviously. Haven’t had a chance to meet all the players yet. But I’m very happy how things are going.”
But Monday – the first day of the NFL’s annual meeting – represented Gruden’s introduction to the other side of life as an NFL head coach, and he admitted, all the discussions on rule changes and policies proved eye-opening in a couple of ways.
“I just had six straight hours of meetings, so I’m a little bit brain dead right now,” Gruden said. “It’s exciting to go through this and learn about all the things you have to know as far as being a head coach. Being a coordinator and a head coach are totally different. It’s starting to sink in a little bit of all the things you’re responsible for on and off the field. It’s overwhelming a little right now, but once I take some time to go back through and read all my notes, hopefully I’ll be better prepared from it.”
Gruden’s preparations for the season remain incomplete, although offseason workouts begin April 7, and the team’s first minicamp will take place in late April. Because of that, he couldn’t help but feel a degree of anxiety as he sat in league meetings, trying to block out thoughts of his extensive to-do list.
“I always feel like any time I’m away from the office, I’m missing out on something,” Gruden said with a chuckle. “It’s very stressful. But I know we’re coming along at the right pace. Our schedules are intact for all of the OTAs – Phase 1, 2 and 3 – and the draft, and all those things are ready to roll. I just still feel like I need to be there doing something.”
League rules have prevented Gruden from discussing the play book with quarterback Robert Griffin III. The rules also have prohibited him from even coaching Griffin on technique. That will change once the offseason program begins in two weeks. (Washington and other teams with new coaches get a two-week head start on the rest of the league’s teams, whose offseason program begins April 21).
Gruden would prefer to get to work with his players sooner. But he conceded that they still will have time to lay a strong foundation.
“I think we’ll be fine,” Gruden said. “You’d like to have more time. You’d like to be able to meet with [Griffin] right now and go over the play book. You’d like to be able to go outside and play catch with him if he wants. But, obviously, the rules prohibit that and we’ll adhere to the rules. But I think we’ll have enough time to get going mentally and physically. But sometimes it’s good to get the player away from the building so he can have time to reflect and get ready on his own. A lot of these guys are self-starters anyway and they’re going to do a lot of work on their own. I know Robert is. He’s working hard right now. He’s got a bunch of guys in Arizona this week, so it’s exciting to see them work on their own, and then when they’re here, we’ll help them along.”
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