The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Redskins coach Jay Gruden takes a good-guy approach

Redskins coach <a href="">Jay Gruden</a> will get his first real glimpse at the team that will be at training camp as they hold offseason practice sessions this week. (Richard Lipski/For the Washington Post)
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Redskins owner Dan Snyder has been remarkably consistent over 15 years in alternating upbeat coaches with hard cases. And now Washington is back to the softer side.

Jay Gruden is the good guy taking over for draconian overlord Mike Shanahan, who followed nice guy Jim Zorn. Before Zorn, it was still-tough Joe Gibbs, whose second stint with the team succeeded Steve Spurrier and his relaxed atmosphere. Spurrier followed hard case Marty Schottenheimer, who replaced mild-mannered Norv Turner.

To recap: That’s good, draconian, nice, tough, relaxed, hard, mild-mannered.

Gruden, who is holding his first offseason practice sessions as Redskins coach this week, is more like Turner than Zorn or Spurrier. Gruden’s someone who won’t kick players in the butt unless he absolutely has to. Turner was tougher than his public persona, and hopefully Gruden is too.

Gruden wants everyone to have fun. Well, winning is always fun and losing always stinks. That’s the bottom line.

“I don’t know what my approach is, I just try to be myself out there. I try to have some fun,” he said. “I want to make sure the energy level is high out there and guys are enjoying what they’re doing.

“But in the meantime, we have got to stay on them and make sure they’re disciplined and not jumping offsides and running to the ball on defense and offensively finishing blocks and finishing runs and running the routes at the right depth.”

So welcome the NBA coaching philosophy to the NFL sidelines — making players feel invested so they produce.

“There’s a lot of coaching going on in there — doesn’t mean I have to be a hard-ass on every snap and yelling at people,” Gruden said. “I like to have fun, keep things loose and just coach the game of football that we all love to play and coach. I want them to have fun when they come out here, but also want to be very competitive and do their work.”

Shanahan’s rule was like something out of “Game of Thrones,” but Gruden seems more relaxed.

“I’ve always tried to delegate,” he said. “Even when I was a coordinator, I tried to let the line coach the line and the running backs coach and the receivers coach. Coach [Jim] Haslett’s going to have a major responsibility on defense, obviously. … That’s the whole thing — you’ve got to have faith in the people around you.”

There’s no right style of coaching. The Redskins have failed in just about every way possible during Snyder’s era. Even Gibbs was only 30-34 in his return despite two playoff appearances.

For now, winning is the only thing that will keep good-guy Gruden around. Otherwise, Snyder will turn to a hammer again.

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