While Gruden, 51, will return, there may be other changes. Some assistant coaches are not expected to be back, which could lead to a new look from the team next season. A person familiar with the Redskins’ plans says the team will spend the next week working on a plan for the coaching staff.
Also uncertain is who will be running the front office. Some NFL agents in regular contact with the team have suggested that Bruce Allen, the team president, might move from overseeing football operations to the business side after Snyder recently fired Brian Lafemina from his position as president of business operations and chief operating officer. They believe it’s possible that senior vice president of football operations Eric Schaffer would take a larger role.
Two years ago, Gruden became the first coach under Snyder’s ownership to get a contract extension when the team added two years to his original five-year deal. The extension was largely-seen at the time as an attempt at showing franchise stability. Last year, he became the longest tenured coach in Snyder’s two decades of ownership.
“Nobody likes to lose around here. Everybody demands greatness around here and that’s the way it should be,” Gruden said late last month. “This is the Washington Redskins. I have not done a good enough job to get us over the hump. I have not won a playoff game since I’ve been here and if you had told me five years ago I would have laughed at you.”
Though the Redskins have had only two winning seasons since Gruden’s arrival, the team’s shortcomings have not always been seen as his fault. Gruden took over a franchise in chaos following previous coach Mike Shanahan’s abrupt departure after the 2013 season. He attempted to squeeze star quarterback Robert Griffin III into a system that didn’t fit Griffin’s skills. When Griffin got hurt, he then turned to Kirk Cousins but had to live through growing pains with Cousins until the quarterback helped the Redskins to a 9-7 record and NFC East title in 2015, thus far Gruden’s best year at the helm.
Injuries decimated the team in ensuing seasons, including this past fall. Starting quarterback Alex Smith and longtime backup Colt McCoy went down with broken legs 15 days apart, forcing Gruden to use a pair of replacements — Mark Sanchez and Josh Johnson — who were sitting home, unwanted by anyone else. The Redskins finished with 23 players on injured reserve in 2017 and 24 in 2018.
Almost as significant as Smith’s injury was the loss of two pairs of starting guards over the season’s final two months that forced Gruden to play with a patchwork offensive line dominated by players previously unemployed. Gruden also had to guide the team through several late-season controversies including the team’s waiver claim of linebacker Reuben Foster, who was arrested twice in 2018 on domestic violence charges, the arrest of safety Montae Nicholson after an early-morning fight near the team’s Ashburn headquarters and the release of star safety D.J. Swearinger following the player’s criticism of defensive coordinator Greg Manusky.
“Moving forward, if I am fortunate enough to be here I feel really good about the nucleus of players that we have,” Gruden said Monday. “We do have to address some things without a doubt. When you are 7-9, whether you have injuries or not it is not good enough for this franchise. I know Mr. Snyder demands greatness from him staff and his players and we didn’t deliver this year, so we have to figure out ways to get better from a coaching staff standpoint first and then from a players' standpoint.”
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