Jay Gruden was introduced as the new coach of the Washington Redskins on Thursday afternoon, becoming the team’s eighth head coach since Daniel Snyder purchased the franchise in 1999.
Gruden, most recently the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals, succeeds Mike Shanahan, who was fired by the Redskins after a 3-13 season in which the team finished last in the NFC East.
Gruden, the brother of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden, never has been an NFL head coach. He has been a head coach in the Arena Football League and the United Football League. He oversaw the NFL’s 10th-ranked offense this season with the Bengals. He inherits a Redskins team that lost 40 games in four years under Shanahan.
“We’ve got to forget about the past and look toward the future every day,” Gruden said at his news conference. “When you’re 3-13, there’s not one particular player or reason.”
Gruden had interviewed with the Redskins on Wednesday and had been scheduled to interview Thursday with the Minnesota Vikings. Instead, he agreed to a five-year deal in Washington, according to a person with knowledge of the deal, and was introduced at a 4 p.m. news conference.
Gruden has ties to several members of the Redskins organization and was said Wednesday to have emerged as the team’s top choice to replace Shanahan. Gruden worked with Redskins General Manager Bruce Allen with in Tampa Bay, where Gruden was an assistant coach working for his brother and Allen was the team’s general manager.
Gruden refused to commit publicly to his staff hiring plans, but he is expected to retain defensive coordinator Jim Haslett on his staff, a person familiar with the team’s deliberations said Thursday. Haslett likely will retain the title of defensive coordinator. Haslett previously worked with Gruden in the United Football League and remains under contract to the Redskins.
Raheem Morris, the defensive secondary coach under Shanahan, also is expected to remain on staff, possibly having a larger role in directing the defense. His contract expires in February, but a person close the situation expected that new deal to be finalized soon.
Tight ends coach Sean McVay will be promoted to offensive coordinator under Gruden. McVay worked with Gruden in the UFL and with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. People familiar with the situation believe that by retaining McVay, who was already responsible for third-down package planning in the offense, the Redskins will help ensure a smoother transition for Robert Griffin III.
Bengals assistant Hue Jackson won’t join Gruden in Washington but likely will be elevated to offensive coordinator in Cincinnati to replace Gruden.
“There are a lot of coaches here who can coach,” Gruden said. “But there are a lot of coaches around the country, too. I’ve already had about 350 texts from coaches looking to coach here. So I don’t think it will be difficult to find talented coaches.”
Gruden arrived in town Tuesday night after interviewing earlier that day with the Tennessee Titans. He had dinner Tuesday with Allen and had his formal interview Wednesday at Redskins Park.
He was the sixth candidate known to have interviewed with the Redskins following offensive coordinators Darrell Bevell of the Seattle Seahawks and Jim Caldwell of the Baltimore Ravens, defensive coordinators Sean McDermott of the Carolina Panthers and Perry Fewell of the New York Giants, and Dallas Cowboys special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia.
The Redskins had planned to meet with Vanderbilt Coach James Franklin, but he reportedly was offered the coaching job at Penn State. The team also had sought interviews with offensive coordinators Ken Whisenhunt of the San Diego Chargers and Greg Roman of San Francisco 49ers, and defensive coordinators Mike Zimmer of the Bengals and Vic Fangio of the 49ers.
Gruden was a candidate for the Titans, Vikings and Detroit Lions. Before his interview Wednesday, one person close to the situation said that Gruden seemed to prefer the Titans but the Redskins might make him a financial offer that would be difficult for him to refuse.
A five-year deal is highly unusual for a first-time NFL head coach and was a key to getting the deal done. Gruden’s agent, Bob LaMonte, said Gruden’s ties to members of the organization and his desire to work with Griffin also were major factors.
“He had an existing relationship with Bruce,” LaMonte said in a telephone interview. “He had an existing relationship with Haslett. He had an existing relationship with McVay. That certainly played into it. He was intrigued by the talent of the quarterback.”
Gruden, who said he is looking forward to speaking with Griffin, inherits some potential building blocks on offense in the quarterback, tailback Alfred Morris, wide receiver Pierre Garcon and left tackle Trent Williams, but the Redskins’ defense has many players eligible for free agency and faces a makeover. The Redskins are without a first-round draft choice this spring, thanks to their 2012 trade with the St. Louis Rams to move up in the draft order to select Griffin. But their two-year, $36 million salary cap penalty imposed by the NFL at least is expiring and they potentially can bolster their roster for Gruden in free agency.
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