Jay Gruden sought trust and familiarity in assembling coaching staff

March 31, 2014

Offensive coordinator Sean McVay worked with Jay Gruden in Tampa. (Photo by John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

As he worked to fill out his first NFL coaching staff, Jay Gruden placed a high priority on two aspects: familiarity and a diverse range of experience and backgrounds.

Gruden retained defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, secondary coach Raheem Morris and then-tight ends coach Sean McVay (promoted to offensive coordinator), who had all coached with him before either in the United Football League or with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Gruden also hired wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard, who both had played in Tampa when he served as an assistant there and coached with Gruden in the UFL. Hilliard also coached in Washington in 2012 and thus had good working relationships with the holdover coaches.

Gruden respected offensive line coach Chris Foerster’s body of work and opted to retain him, believing his familiarity with the players and McVay would serve Washington well. And Haslett recommended retaining defensive line coach Jacob Burney also.

Gruden gave Haslett the green light on the hiring of outside linebackers coach Brian Baker and inside linebacker coach Kirk Olivadotti, both of whom had coached with him in the past.

“The number one objective I had when got hired was I wanted to make sure I had a staff I was comfortable with and that could trust one another and feel free to express some ideas or thoughts and concerns, and that I had faith in,” Gruden said last week. “I didn’t want to have a lot of walking around doors and having doors shut and a lot of guys whispering in their phones that I’m full of crap. I wanted to make sure we had guys that got along and trusted one another and who believed in the same things, offensively and defensively.”

With the special teams units badly in need of fixing, Gruden zeroed in on former Jets special teams coach Ben Kotwica and also added Bradford Banta to assist him.

Of that area, Gruden said, “special teams was one of my most important hires.”

Randy Jordan (running backs), Wes Phillips (tight ends), Shane Day (assistant offensive line), Jake Peetz (offensive quality control) and Aubrey Pleasant (defensive quality control) rounded out the staff.

As he looks over his staff, Gruden sees not only a group of men that mesh well personality-wise, but a collection of coaches from a wide range of schools of thought and experience levels.

Gruden explained he wanted “guys who had been around different places, different schemes. They could offer a different way of doing things other than what I know. Because I know that I don’t know everything. I need a lot of ideas from a lot of different people. We have guys who have been in a 4-3 and a 3-4 defensively. Different ways of doing things. Coach Haslett – very important. … Ike – been with Buffalo and with Miami, and he has different ideas. And Randy Jordan has different ideas out of North Carolina. And Chris Foerster, and obviously [McVay], we have a great staff, guys that I trusted.”

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Mike Jones covers the Washington Redskins for The Washington Post. When not writing about a Redskins development of some kind – which is rare – he can be found screaming and cheering at one of his kids’ softball, baseball, soccer or basketball games.
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