Coaching narratives don’t always outlast an NFL offseason, but it turns out that eight months weren’t nearly enough for Jay Gruden to outrun critics of the fade. Many Redskins fans doubled over in rage and/or pain on Sunday when Washington attempted an unsuccessful fade during a first-half goal-line series on Sunday, winding up with a field goal when a touchdown could have created a commanding lead. The play-calling critics took their shots all day on Monday. When I turned on the radio Tuesday morning, I heard a caller still yelling about that fade. At least one host has wondered whether Gruden isn’t still running goal-line fades with the hopes of celebrating a success in front of his legions of skeptics.

In any case, during Gruden’s weekly appearance with Chick Hernandez and Brian Mitchell on CSN, Mitchell decided to ask about that fade — perhaps the most scrutinized misfire from Sunday’s win. Then things got good.

“Why the fade?” Mitchell asked.

“You guys are something, man,” Gruden said. “You guys are gonna find one incompletion. … So if I throw an incompletion on a slant, which we did, then I can never throw a slant again?

“I’m gonna ask the question,” Mitchell persisted. “I just want to know. I’m not gonna ask you about the slant. I just want to know. If you come on [the program], I’m gonna praise you, and I’m gonna ask questions that people are talking about. Why?”

“Well, tell the people quit talking,” a feisty Grudden responded. “Just watch the games and enjoy it. I mean, we’re gonna throw the fade again. I’m gonna throw it again. So tough.”

“No, it was just a good play by the defensive back,” he said, dropping the bravado. “Actually, Kirk threw it a little bit too early, didn’t give Josh [Doctson] a chance. You know, I think Kirk just has to get to know Josh a little bit more as far as how high he can actually jump, how he can use his body and contort his body in unique positions. Very similar when I had A.J. Green in Cincinnati; it’s not always gonna be a back-pylon throw. Sometimes it might be up over the back shoulder. But giving him an opportunity to make a play, get his hands on the ball is something we have to continue to work. And we’ll work.”

“Great answer,” Mitchell said. “See, great explanation. That’s all I wanted to know.”

In truth, that wasn’t exactly an answer to the question, which is why run the fade, especially when the running game had seemed unstoppable. But the explanation about Cousins and timing squared with what the quarterback himself said during a lengthy discussion on 106.7 The Fan.

“If you take a three-step drop, you buy a little bit of time, allow Josh to close the cushion on the defensive back, and then now really make it a true jump ball where Josh is already in the end zone waiting for the ball before it’s even left my hand,” Cousins said. “What I did was, I really took a one-step drop, and while Josh was still closing the cushion on the [defensive back], the ball was already up in the air. He would have to be running to it as opposed to waiting for it and jumping up for it. So Jay’s point was really, the play was there, we got a great matchup, we really have a mismatch there for a fade, and we’ve got to give him an opportunity.”

“When you throw the ball the way [I] did, you kind of doom the play from the start,” Cousins said. “Josh doesn’t even have an opportunity to go show what he can do. The coaching point there was set your feet, take three steps, buy some time and put it up. That’s where we’ve got to go back and talk about how we want to throw fades, and the details there, because each guy we throw a fade to wants it a little differently, and each DB technique that we go against changes it, and then what yard line we’re on changes it. That’s where we’ve got to establish some rules down there to be able to play with.”

And it goes without saying that this isn’t the first time Gruden has responded to his fade critics.

“Yeah, we tried it three times, and we’ll try it again three times next week if we have to,” Gruden told Sonny Jurgensen after a loss to the Cowboys, when the ex-quarterback asked why people fall in love with the fade.

“Yeah, we threw the fade,” Gruden told Jurgensen after a loss to the Cardinals. “And Patrick [Peterson] made a good play on it. We just overthrew it a little bit.”

“I do like to have bigger receivers in the red zone here and there to be able to throw some fades, too,” Gruden said in August, to laughter. “What the heck, you know, I love the fade.”

We do. And he does. And I’m very much looking forward to his news conference the next time Cousins throws a fade route for a score.

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