At a 5 a.m. meeting on Monday morning, Jay Gruden was relieved of his duties as Washington Redskins head coach by team owner Dan Snyder and president Bruce Allen. (“Relieved” is surely how Jay felt.) A team statement followed: “Through the first five games of the 2019 season, the team has clearly not performed up to expectations, and we all share that responsibility.” (A public thank-you for Gruden’s work over his nearly six-year tenure was noticeably absent.) And so, less than 24 hours after the Skins’ meek home loss to the Patriots left them 0-5, Washington’s beleaguered leader finally took the fall. Assistant head coach and offensive line coach Bill Callahan—once again replacing a departing Gruden—has been named interim head coach. (Jay, feel free to spark one and relax now.)
Gruden leaves Washington after five seasons and change with a regular-season record of 35-49-1 and one postseason appearance, a loss in the 2015 wild-card round. His two winning seasons (2015 and 2016) were fruitful for two people who have since kicked rocks: then–offensive coordinator and current Rams head coach Sean McVay, and quarterback Kirk Cousins, who is now being paid handsomely to be mediocre in Minnesota.
Since McVay and Cousins left, Washington has been a sinking morass of injuries, incompetence, and organizational dysfunction. Last season saw two quarterbacks felled by broken legs. The start of this season was marred by the continuing holdout of offensive tackle Trent Williams; long-term injuries to tight end Jordan Reed, running back Derrius Guice, and guard Brandon Scherff; and yet another quarterback kerfuffle involving 2019 first-round pick Dwayne Haskins. Sunday’s 33-7 loss to New England proved a fitting end to the Jay Gruden era: a decent start quickly disintegrating into a total, embarrassing, predictable capitulation.
After the game, when asked about the possibility of getting fired, Gruden responded: “If the key works on Monday, I’ll keep working.” A nice quip for his last press conference as the head coach. In fact, Jay was always a bit of a lovable loser—bumbling but self-deprecating, an amicable company man in over his head. Running back Chris Thompson broke down into tears postgame when contemplating his coach’s probable dismissal. (Though not every player was pro-Jay, apparently.) With Gruden gone, the spotlight once again focuses on the two-headed monster of Snyder and Allen. The owner has long been blamed for his franchise’s plummeting reputation, but Allen may have surpassed him as the primary target of fans’ ire. Under Allen’s reign as team president, the Redskins have gone 42-75. His fingerprints have been on everything from the firing of GM Scot McCloughan and other key execs to the doomed Alex Smith trade and front-office stubbornness in the Williams standoff. Somehow, Allen has survived it all. At this point, replacing the head coach is like putting a new paint job on a car with a fucked engine.
Who really wants to take the wheel of this lemon? Callahan is in the driver’s seat for now, with newly promoted offensive coordinator Kevin “Budget McVay” O’Connell the presumed longer-term successor. Jay Gruden will probably resurface as an OC somewhere soon, free from the chains of this blundering mess. Like the rest of us, he can now watch this car crash from afar.