In hiring Coach Jay Gruden, President and General Manager Bruce Allen made his best move since joining the Washington Redskins. Too bad he didn’t provide Gruden a better roster.
During another disappointing start, the Redskins (1-3) have displayed the same deficiencies that resulted in last season’s 3-13 debacle. Behind the scenes, people within the organization say, Gruden has performed well while dealing with Washington’s instability at quarterback, major problems in the defensive backfield and horrendous special teams play. But a first-year NFL head coach can do only so much with a porous roster that lacks star power. And in all likelihood, Gruden’s task will become only harder Monday night against the Seattle Seahawks.
After losing by 31 points to the New York Giants in their last game, the Redskins face the defending Super Bowl champion at FedEx Field. That’s not an ideal scenario for a team trying to build confidence. Gruden isn’t the type to make excuses, though, and he’s committed for the long haul, which is good. With the Redskins, it’s the same-old story: This may take a while. Fortunately for the Redskins, they have a coach capable of leading them to a better place.
From the first time Gruden addressed the team in the offseason, it was clear “he definitely brings a lot to the table,” said cornerback and defensive captain DeAngelo Hall, who is out for the remainder of the season. “You knew about what he did [as an offensive coordinator], but that doesn’t mean a guy can come in and lead the whole thing.
“Right away, you could tell he knows what he wants and says it like it is. Guys like that. But he’s not out there [on the field]. Guys have to do their jobs. Ultimately, it’s on us. Coaches gotta coach. Players gotta play.”
The Redskins not only lack talent in key areas — the offensive line and secondary immediately come to mind — the people at the top of the roster haven’t produced consistently.
“Obviously, we have to upgrade certain areas,” Gruden said last week while relaxing on a couch outside the team’s weight room. “And when you’re talking about turning it around, it starts with the quarterback position.”
After the Redskins gave up four high-round draft picks for the right to select Robert Griffin III, Griffin had a spectacular rookie season and led the Redskins to their first NFC East division title in 13 years. Since injuring his knee, though, Griffin has struggled. Before a serious ankle injury kept him off the field, Griffin often appeared lost in his attempt to become primarily a pocket passer for the first time in his career. Privately, some team officials concede Griffin may not be the long-term solution at the position.
Kirk Cousins has shown flashes of being the type of productive drop-back passer Gruden likes. Cousins, however, threw four interceptions as part of a five-turnover outing against the Giants. No wonder Gruden’s sleeves are always rolled up.
“You put all this time and effort into Robert, and he goes down,” Gruden said. “Kirk didn’t get very many reps. Now Kirk’s the guy, and he’s making his mistakes.”
The Redskins have to figure out what they have at quarterback. They already know where they stand at several other positions, and the picture is not good.
Washington needs a makeover at safety, right tackle and guard. Even with the addition of elite pass rusher Jason Hatcher, the defensive line rotation is merely okay. The Redskins are stacked at wide receiver with DeSean Jackson, Pierre Garcon and Andre Roberts. But who will get them the ball? Despite bringing in a new special teams coordinator, the Redskins still are more scary than special.
In fairness to Allen, filling all the team’s holes in one offseason was not possible. Safety, however, has been a long-standing problem, and doing little to upgrade the defensive backfield was a mistake. Without Hall, the secondary was awful against the Giants. Don’t count on it improving much.
At the very least, Allen should have used some of the almost $11.5 million he committed to put a franchise-player tag on linebacker Brian Orakpo, who through four games has just a half-sack, to sign some competent defensive backs instead. Upgrading from Brandon Meriweather and Bacarri Rambo before a new season begins is worth virtually any price.
Washington has so many bad players on its roster, it puts more pressure on the good ones. They’re not doing enough.
“The playmakers, the so-called studs of the team, they’re the ones that gotta do a better job,” Gruden said. “We’ve got to get DeSean more involved. Pierre has got to be more consistent. We gotta get Jordan Reed on the . . . field. Orakpo’s got to be more productive. Where we’re at right now, that has to happen.”
After Gruden was hired, a Redskins official asked me what I thought of the move. I liked it, I said, but I suspected Gruden, like his predecessors the past 15 years, had no idea what he was getting into. I think he does now.
For more by Jason Reid, visit washingtonpost.com/reid.