“I feel like he was one of the guys that really believed in me and wanted me to stay here and be with him through his whole legacy here as a coach,” Thompson said in the locker room, fighting off tears.
Thompson, who spent most of Gruden’s first season with the Redskins in 2014 on the practice squad before blossoming into a versatile threat out of the backfield, explained his raw emotions in the wake of Gruden’s firing on Monday.
“That’s frustration of losing, it’s a whole lot of stuff, and beyond that, I think some people don’t understand,” Thompson told the Sports Junkies on 106.7 The Fan. “This is my seventh year now. It’s beyond football. You start to love people; you start to care about people that’s in that building that you get to come to work with and see every single day. It was more than having that feeling that they were going to move on from him. Whether that happened now or 10 games from now and we had a bad season, it was probably going to happen.”
A fifth-round draft pick by the Redskins in 2013, Thompson reiterated that he appreciated Gruden’s belief in him over the years and dismissed those who criticized him for shedding tears over his former coach.
“I guess some people don’t understand caring about people that’s not family, whatever the case may be, because there were a lot of negative comments out there,” Thompson said. “I get we’re doing terrible, but that’s a human being, that’s someone I care about, so I got emotional about it. I could [not] care less what anybody thinks about that.”
Thompson said Gruden’s firing “wasn’t something that really came out of the blue,” as players had a sense before the season started that the Redskins would move on from Gruden if they got off to a poor start or missed the playoffs. Washington’s first five weeks couldn’t have gone much worse, as the defense, the supposed strength of the team, couldn’t stop anyone, and Gruden played three different quarterbacks in a futile search for a way to spark an impotent offense.
Offensive tackle Morgan Moses learned that Gruden had been fired when he turned on the TV on Monday morning.
“It’s a business,” Moses said on 106.7 The Fan. “At the end of the day, we’re 0-5, but I’ve been with Jay all my career. I’m the only one left from my draft class on the team, and I have a high respect for him as a coach and as a man outside the building. You never want to see change like that, but obviously the organization wants to go in a different direction. That’s something that I have no control over, but it just sucks because he is a good coach, we have some good players on the team, and it just sucks that we couldn’t get it done for him.”
Cornerback Quinton Dunbar reacted to the news on Instagram, expressing his thanks to Gruden for converting the former Florida wide receiver to defensive back in 2015.
“I owe you coach for life,” Dunbar wrote. “Sorry we couldn’t get the job done for you s--- crazy.”
On Twitter, Running back Derrius Guice thanked Gruden for “never giving up on me and always having my back." “You will be missed!” Guice added. “Much love.”
Moses suggested that the uncertainty about Gruden’s job status coming into the season made things uncomfortable at Redskins Park as Washington’s losses mounted.
“Any change is hard, but sometimes change is good,” Moses said. “Obviously, it was swarming around every week that he was going to get fired. It was like walking in the building with eggshells on the floor. You don’t want to crack the eggshell. Finally they made a decision to move on from him."
With Bill Callahan, the Redskins’ offensive line and assistant head coach, taking over as interim head coach ahead of 0-5 Washington’s game at the winless Miami Dolphins, Thompson said he hasn’t given up on 2019.
“It happened, so now we just got to move on,” Thompson said. “My focus still stays the same. I’ve got to do everything I can to help us win some games. I don’t want to have a winless season. That would completely suck. I still want to win games. We got 11 more games. I think there’s a chance that we can get in the playoffs. There’s still a possibility; it’s not over yet. I’m not panicking, but it’s obviously going to be tough for me not seeing somebody like Jay in the building.”
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