NFL AM: Redskins’ Gruden Is Hitching His Wagon To A Pink Slip


Gruden’s Power Play

There have been many great coordinators who couldn’t get it done as a head coach.  Norv Turner, Wade Phillips, Dom Capers and Marc Trestman are among them.

Is Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden going to join that list?

The easy answer is no, because he was never a great coordinator.

To put it simply, Gruden is in over his head as a head coach.

Gruden did what many power hungry, first-time head coaches do when they take over.  He tried to find the most powerful guy in the building and get rid of him.

That person is obviously former starting quarterback Robert Griffin, III.

RG3 became an easy target for Gruden, as he does plenty to alienate himself from the team and was coming off an injury plagued year.  Instead of working on putting together an offense to cater to Griffin’s strengths, the younger brother of the one-time Super Bowl winning head coach turned broadcaster decided to force the former second-overall pick to acquiesce into a system that he knew would fail.

“I don’t think getting hurt has anything to do with it to do,” former Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan said of RG3 on the Grant and Danny Show on 106.7 The Fan earlier this year. “In college he didn’t have a route tree, didn’t have a playbook. That does take some time. If you take a QB like that you must run the kind of system that allows them to be successful. I really believe Robert thought he was more of a drop back quarterback. He hasn’t done things the NFL asks you to do. It does take some growing pains. You better really work on it inside and out.”

Gruden took nearly every opportunity to denigrate Griffin, and when the chance to bench him came available he pounced.

Both last year and this year.

Griffin was named the starting quarterback all throughout the offseason and preseason, right up until he suffered a concussion.  Then the time of his return became more cloudy than his thoughts after said brain injury, and Gruden had the chance to roll with Kirk Cousins.

Former Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins safety turned ESPN Analyst Ryan Clark mentioned this past March that he could see Gruden was not on board long-term with Griffin as the team’s quarterback.

“Jay Gruden, as you saw from last year, the media reports where he would say RG3 took a five-step drop where he was supposed to take three, or he looked the wrong way this many times in a game. He showed the world that it wasn’t his guy,” Clark said. “He comes out early in the off-season and says, ‘You know what? Robert Griffin III is our quarterback.’ I think that was to kind of try to show there’s no issues in house, but there clearly is. He’s not his guy. They want to go in a different direction.”

Now Gruden went in the different direction and he hitched his wagons to Kirk Cousins, who on paper is the same guy as Blaine Gabbert.

What’s the difference between Cousins and Gabbert?  Two organizations were smart enough to realize that Gabbert is only a backup.

The stats back up what anyone who doesn’t have a surname of Cousins knows. To put it simply, Kirk Cousins may be a decent backup quarterback, but he’s a terrible starter with a low ceiling.  He has a 3-9 record as a starter and he’s thrown 21 touchdowns and 23 interceptions in his career (Gabbert has thrown 23 touchdowns and 24 interceptions in his career).

In Thursday night’s loss to the New York Giants, Cousins was continuously inaccurate and didn’t show the requisite arm strength to be successful at this level.

Not according to his head coach.

“No, no, Kirk was fine,” Gruden insisted after the game.

“Like I said, we’ve got to play better around him,” Gruden went on. “There’s no quarterback controversy whatsoever.”

Cousins may be anointed the starter, but make no mistake, there’s a controversy.

It’s more than likely that Cousins is the third-best quarterback on the roster.  That occasionally happens with a high draft pick that a team is trying to groom.  This isn’t the case.  Cousins is playing in place of the high draft pick who is infinitely more talented than him.


Because this is Jay Gruden’s power play.

Gruden may have won the battle against RG3, but this decision is going to make him lose the war against unemployment.

No Brees, Big Problem

It appears that New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees will miss Sunday’s game against the Carolina Panthers, his first missed to injury after joining the Saints nine years ago.

I haven’t missed a game due to injury in 20 years, since my junior year of high school,” Brees said. “I consider myself very fortunate for that. Another reason why this decision was so tough. Bottom line is Luke McCown gives us the best chance to win this week. I have to be honest with myself and do what is in the best interest of the team.

“I have total confidence in Luke, as does our team.”

This couldn’t have come at a worse time for New Orleans as they currently sit at 0-2 and are trying to salvage their season against the undefeated Panthers in Charlotte.  They’re going to have to do so with Luke McCown as their quarterback.

McCown is a really nice guy and a better athlete than most think, but there’s a reason he does backup quarterback commercials; because he’s much better as a cheerleader than as a starting quarterback.

The 10-year veteran is playing on his fifth team and boasts a 2-7 record as a starting quarterback, with nine touchdowns and 14 interceptions.

McCown was once benched in favor of Blaine Gabbert.

Need we say more?

If and when the Saints fall to 0-3, they will have just a two percent chance of making the playoffs.  Without a healthy Drew Brees, that chance moves to completely non-existent.

About Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein

Charlie Bernstein is the managing football editor for Football Insiders and has covered the NFL for over a decade.  Charlie has hosted drive time radio for NBC and ESPN affiliates in different markets around the country, along with being an NFL correspondent for ESPN Radio and WFAN.  He has been featured on the NFL Network as well as Sirius/XM NFL Radio and has been published on Fox Sports, Sports Illustrated, ESPN as well as numerous other publications.