In a programming twist, first-year head coach Jay Gruden didn’t deliver a speech during the Washington Redskins’ annual Welcome Home Luncheon Friday. Instead, Gruden was brought to the podium to field questions submitted by Redskins fans via Twitter and posed by master of ceremonies Larry Michael.
It was a mixed bag that elicited an insight or two and ultimately spared the coach from laying out any grand pronouncements.
Asked about the heated competition at running back, Gruden said “some tough cuts” were in store, with six running backs and two fullbacks all performing so well throughout training camp. He said no decisions would be made until after the fourth and final next Thursday, at Tampa Bay.
“It’ll be a tough one, as they all will be,” Gruden said.
Regarding tackling in the secondary, Gruden conceded it was “a major problem” last season and one he has tried to address, along with the front office and his staff, by signing veterans such as safety Ryan Clark, whom he called “one of the great tacklers in this league” and teaching technique. “It’s something we will coach and preach every day in practice.”
Asked if the Redskins would ever consider playing a game at London’s Wembley Arena, Gruden deftly punted, saying he had no idea.
Michael brought the Q&A to a close with a question of his own, asking what it felt like to take the reins of such a storied franchise.
“When I talk to the players and I coach football, it’s not nearly as intimidating as coming to events like this, with the great fans of the Washington Redskins and the great history,” said Gruden, 47, formerly offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals.
He cited past Redskins greats such as Mark Rypien and Jeff Bostic, who were in attendance at the Gaylord Convention Center at National Harbor.
“We were talking about the stats of the 1991 football team, and I think they’re misprints! I still don’t believe it! Plus 46 in the turnover margin? [Rypien] only got sacked nine times? No wonder he’s still walking very nice! It’s unbelievable.”
With team owner Daniel Snyder and president and general manager Bruce Allen looking on from the head dais, Gruden said he and the team were extremely proud of the Redskins’ history and tradition and grateful for the passion and loyalty of the fans.
In closing, Gruden said that Snyder had provided the staff and players with “everything we need to win.”
“He wants a winner bad,” Gruden said. “And we’ve got to try to do what we can to make it happen for him — fans and players included.”