It raised eyebrows immediately after he said it, and days later, Jay Gruden‘s use of “code red” in describing the situation that he and his players find themselves in as they prepare for their Week 7 matchup remained a topic of conversation in local media and within the fan base.
Shows on both sports-talk radio stations debated whether or not the coach had erred in his dramatic word choice. Had Gruden displayed desperation and a lack of poise? Was the description of code red only further exacerbating already less-than-ideal circumstances?
Yes, you want your head coach to convey calm, collected confidence. And publicly admitting in Week 7 that you’re in a code red may not be the route that some, or most, coaches would opt for. But I don’t have as much of a problem with Gruden saying what he said.
Last year, everyone found the coach refreshing because he wore his emotions on his sleeve and was brutally honest in his assessments. We’ve seen a different Gruden for a while now. Ever since he undressed Robert Griffin III after a poor performance against Tampa Bay last November — a critique that angered Gruden’s bosses and earned him a talking-to about his approach with the media — Gruden has been more tight-lipped, and more positive. He avoided criticizing Griffin throughout this past offseason and training camp. He spoke positively about David Amerson despite cutting him. And he has avoided conveying frustration with DeSean Jackson, who has yet to get back on the field after straining his hamstring in Week 1 (an injury that originally was diagnosed as something that would sideline the wide receiver three to four weeks).
But on Sunday, Gruden went back to his 2012 form as he shared his view of the upcoming game. The code red differed greatly from Gruden’s rose-colored glasses assessment of Kirk Cousins’s play against the Jets, and the quarterback’s standing in the coach’s mind.
It’s ironic that Gruden drew criticism the same day both for being too transparent on one aspect and too positive on another.
So, are the Redskins in a code-red situation? Yes, and no.
Yes, because if they do hope to make some noise in the division — which remains wide open — they can’t afford to fall to 2-5. They have to end the two-game slide, take a winnable matchup at home and then enter the bye with a 3-4 record. The chances of them going up to New England after the bye and pulling off a win are slim. So, 3-5 is much better than 2-6.
Is the situation so code red that Gruden will get fired after a loss to Tampa Bay, and that a struggling Cousins could get benched? Not likely.
Remember, everything general manager Scot McCloughan has preached since taking over centers on patience. He and his bosses understood going into this thing that initially, it could take some time for the Redskins to win a lot of games. McCloughan understands the culture change will not happen overnight, and he also understands that Gruden is working with less than a full deck of cards because of rampant injuries, and instability at quarterback. McCloughan sees things differently than this franchise’s erratic fan base. The question remains as to whether or not the biggest and most impatient fan, Daniel Snyder, trusts McCloughan’s assessment. For now, it’s believed that he does.
Gruden says Cousins still needs more time, and he estimated that he needs another six to eight games to learn all he needs to know about the quarterback. Obviously, if Cousins hangs up three straight stinkers, that time frame could change. But as things currently stand, the coach still has the support of his general manager, and Gruden still calls the shots about the quarterback.
Another question I’ve received about Gruden’s code-red take was whether or not he put more pressure on his players by saying that. The players say no. They just took it as the coach trying to motivate them. All of the players understand what’s at stake, but at the same time, they aren’t in panic mode, or at the point where they feel the need for players-only meetings and impassioned speeches.
“We’re all grown men, know what I’m saying,” team captain Trent Williams said. “I don’t think I have to sit here and urge people to want to be better. I don’t think I’ve had to, and I haven’t had to. I don’t need to tell anyone anything. It’s pretty evident, the sense of urgency, got a lot of guys hurt, a lot of starters going down. So, I think everybody is on edge because you never know when your opportunity comes. … I’m not an in-your-face guy, but if I feel the need to say something, I’ll say something.”
At the same time, Gruden has made it clear, players say, both with his public comments and his address of the locker room, that they can’t afford to let this opportunity get away from them.
So, did Gruden mean “they’ll blow up the whole roster and organization,” by using the term “code red? “No. His version was more of a “All-hands-on-deck, gotta-step-up, take care of business, no messing around,” and that’s okay.
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