If you caught any of Jay Gruden’s press conferences this past season, perhaps you noticed that the Washington coach was extremely honest – sometimes brutally so – about his franchise quarterback, Robert Griffin III.
Why is that? Is that just how Gruden is? Did he actually mean everything he said? What gives?
“So, the standard for Jay Gruden and how we judge what he said about Robert was set by Mike Shanahan,” former Washington tight end and current Redskins analyst Chris Cooley said on The Doug Gottlieb Show. “Because Mike had the read-between-the-lines press conferences and kind of tried to play things (both ways). That was a fun game in the media: What did he say? What did he mean?”
Jay Gruden, however, isn’t so coy. No, Jay Gruden is a sledgehammer.
“Jay Gruden has the curse as a head coach of honesty,” Cooley said. “He tells Robert everything that he’s going to say in the media. He tells everyone in that locker room – and I’ve talked to those guys – exactly what he thinks. But then he says it to the media as well.”
But wouldn’t his players hate him for that? No, Cooley said. In fact, it’s just the opposite.
“Once you know this guy’s honest and he’s going to treat everyone the same way, you respect it,” Cooley explained. “And that’s what Jay Gruden’s doing. People don’t believe him, but his press conference is exactly what he means and exactly what he feels – and I honestly believe that. It’s hard because of the Mike Shanahan standard of, ‘Did he really mean that? Or was he trying to send a message?’ Jay’s not doing that. That message has been sent in the locker room before he stands up on the podium.”
While Gruden is a beat writer’s best friend, he still needs to win games. Washington went 4-12 this past season, as Griffin, Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy all threw for at least 1,000 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions. None threw for even 1,800 yards, and only one, Cousins, had more than five touchdowns (he had 10).
Forget about franchise quarterback. Is Griffin even the starter in D.C.? After all, he took more sacks (33) than Cousins and McCoy combined (25).
“No one is sure what Robert Griffin is right now or will be next year,” Cooley said. “What I wanted was to find out what Robert was – to go through a whole season and see if he could progress, see if he could become a better quarterback, a better pocket passer. And he was hurt. And that also factors into the equation: Can he stay healthy? So you need to have a season where you say, ‘Where is he? What’s the benchmark?’ You got nothing from Robert (this past year to tell you where he’s improved). So I don’t think Jay Gruden has totally bought in. I don’t think he is 100 percent sure of what he has. The problem is he doesn’t have anything else either that you can really hang your hat on. Colt McCoy played, Kirk Cousins played. It was a quarterback musical chairs.”