It took a 33-7 shellacking at the hands of the New England Patriots to do what the Washington Redskins reportedly had their heart set on doing for the past week. They handed former head coach Jay Gruden his walking papers and turned the team over to former assistant/offensive line coach Bill Callahan—a temporary fix, albeit a much better one than the alternative.
The 0-5 Redskins played enough games this season to realize the alternative was a sink job of Titanic proportions with Gruden captaining the ship.
Unfortunately for the Redskins, however, the root of the problem isn’t suddenly removed with Gruden’s departure. The onus of most of the pain and suffering Redskin fans have endured over the last few years runs up the chain of command into the beating heart of the team’s front office, where President Bruce Allen’s seat should be every bit as hot as Gruden’s on the way out.
It’s easy to point the finger and paint the clown makeup on Gruden given his struggles as a head coach. The questionable play-calling and time inefficiency on the sideline has been a longstanding problem for the Redskins. In six seasons with the team, Gruden had a 35-49-1 record with only one playoff appearance—an 18-35 Wild Card loss to the Green Bay Packers in the 2015 season.
Not to mention his alleged extracurricular activities that surfaced on video last week.
The team rode the Gruden bus as far as it would go, which sadly wasn’t too far from the station. Other coaches in the NFL have been fired for less, and the writing was already on the wall after the loss to the Patriots.
“If the key works Monday I’ll keep working,” Gruden said after the game, via NFL.com’s Ian Rapoport.
Well, the key didn’t work on Monday morning as everyone else in the building continued the usual business of football without him.
However, the key personnel decisions Redskin fans have recently lamented were Allen’s doing. Perhaps the most crippling move was the decision to sign quarterback Alex Smith to a contract extension with $71 million in guaranteed money. Granted, Allen couldn’t have predicted Smith would go on and suffer a career-threatening injury in 2018, but the move in general was always questionable given the team’s inability to compete right away.
After losing Kirk Cousins to the Minnesota Vikings, the Redskins had a perfect opportunity to clean up their roster and begin a much-needed rebuild. Yet, Allen pulled them deeper into salary cap debt with a quarterback that couldn’t win the big one with a more talented team in Kansas City.
Smith is a good quarterback that would have done better on a more talented roster. He was always going to be out of place on a team that was never in a position to compete for a Super Bowl.
But the problems for the Redskins run deeper than playing football. One of their greatest struggles has been replacing seven-time Pro Bowl left tackle Trent Williams, who continues to sit out games due to an unresolved issue with the medical staff. The situation has festered to the point where Williams is seeking a trade or a release from his contract. It’s an ugly situation that has turned the Redskins’ quarterback position into a game of human piñata.
While Gruden wore the face of the organization on the sidelines and at press conferences, he wasn’t the one with the final word on the personnel decisions. Even with all of his shortcomings, he was never put in a position to really succeed with the Redskins. Running back Chris Thompson’s post-game response proved there was a great deal of love and admiration for Gruden from at least some players in the locker room.
None of this absolves owner Dan Snyder from culpability, either.
He is the one that ultimately signed off on Gruden coming on as a head coach, along with Allen keeping his position and running the organization into the ground. In many ways, you have to feel sorry for rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins being smack-dab in the middle of the same circus that chewed up and spat out Robert Griffin III.
Although Gruden is gone, Callahan or whoever else will be tasked with stepping into a bad situation with an ongoing quarterback carousel, a broken down offensive line playing without its best player and a president struggling to put a winning team on the field. Grab your peanuts and popcorn—this Redskins circus is far from over.