Redskins: The Reality Is, Jay Gruden has to fire himself to keep his job
By Tim Payne
Enter major conflict of interest…
Simultaneously, it seems clear that the organizational focus of the rest of this season should be the development of Dwayne Haskins, since a successful franchise quarterback is the most consistent ingredient for winning franchises in this league. Though, it would be my contention that even Haskins’ development won’t really matter unless Bruce Allen is replaced by a competent football executive capable of re-creating the winning culture methodically dismantled by Dan Snyder, Vinny Cerrato, and Bruce Allen over the last 25 years.
But setting that aside for a moment, the team’s owner and executives should be empowering the coaching staff to abandon all pretense of “playing to win” this season, and simply reorient the entire organization toward the development and evaluation of Haskins. They have to figure out if he is “the guy” moving forward. They have get him some valuable game experience with ample time to be involved in game plan installs while getting all the first-team reps. They have to give him a chance to lead. They have to go into the 2020 NFL Draft with ample data on whether or not they have a “need” at quarterback.
Haskins didn’t look good in the preseason and he didn’t look good on Sunday versus the Giants. But plenty of successful quarterbacks have looked terrible in their rookie seasons. Most, in fact, have looked like busts early in their careers. Peyton Manning threw three interceptions in his first start and ended up with a 3-13 record in his rookie season. He followed that up with a 13-3 season, and the rest of his career was, literally, history. Troy Aikman was 0-11 in his first season. He followed that up with a couple mediocre years while the Cowboys were rebuilding their roster under Jimmy Johnson, but once things stabilized, he won three Super Bowls.
Manning had Tom Moore as his offensive coordinator for 10-plus years under three different head coaches. Troy Aikman had Norv Turner as his offensive coordinator for two of his three Super Bowls, and Ernie Zampese running basically the same offense for the third. A quarterback’s success is significantly tied to his compatibility with his offensive coordinator. And many quarterbacks have had their development dramatically hindered by a coaching carousel forcing them into way too many different offensive systems.
The best way for the Redskins to develop and evaluate Haskins for the remainder of this year is to hand the play-calling responsibilities over to Kevin O’Connell and see what kind of chemistry he and Haskins can develop. They don’t have to fire Gruden mid-season, as that probably does nobody any good. They don’t have to promote O’Connell to head coach during this season and have him distracted with all of the duties that come with that title. They can simply (and privately if they want) hand him the reins to the offense and evaluate both him and Haskins on their compatibility and success together.
This allows for proper offseason decisions to be made. If O’Connell shows real leadership and development skills in this role, maybe they roll the dice on him as a head coach. If not, they can cut ties with him along with the rest of the staff. If Haskins shows real development and progress, they can draft best-player-available with their (presumably) top five pick in the draft, rather than spending more draft capital on the quarterback position. If not, they can “Rosen” him and start fresh by going a totally new direction.