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Redskins' Gruden has only faint praise for Griffin

Redskins' Gruden has only faint praise for Griffin

I suppose you can argue with Peter King’s placement of the Redskins at No. 25 on his latest NFL power rankings but it’s hard to argue with his reasoning.
I’d love to muster up enthusiasm for Jay Gruden, a good man and a good coach. But I can’t get his RGIII negativity out of my head from last season. Only Robert Griffin III can do that—for both of us.
The Redskins should have a better defense this year than they had during last year’s 4-12 campaign. The running game will operate behind an upgraded offensive line. That line should give Griffin more time to throw (assuming that the backs and tight ends to a better job in pass protection).

But it will be hard for them to improve enough to climb out of the dregs of the NFL without solid play at the quarterback position.

After the Redskins’ OTA session on Wednesday Gruden was still unable to generate much enthusiasm for Griffin’s play.

“I think he’s taking the right steps. It’s still OTAs,” said Gruden when asked about Griffin’s progress during the offseason. “Nobody’s sitting on all that good stuff. We are getting some great looks from our defense. We’re in shorts. We’re getting some good full-speed looks. There’s no contact obviously, but the timing, the rhythm of your offense still has to be intact. The defense hustling and getting to their zone drops has to be sound in what you’re doing. Decisions have to be made. He’s going through the process, re-learning everything, studying, going through the right progressions, making a mistake here and there, but we’re learning.”

Gruden went on to talk about the learning process during OTAs, learning the defense of new coordinator Joe Barry, learning the offense, and “all three quarterbacks” doing some good and some bad but gaining confidence with each rep.

Later on in his news conference he was asked about wide receiver DeSean Jackson developing timing with the quarterbacks.

“I feel good about all three quarterbacks honestly and their progression,” he said. “But we do need to settle on one – it would be nice to settle on one.”

Talk of “settling on one” quarterback raised a few eyebrows. After all, just a couple of days earlier team president Bruce Allen declared, “We think Robert is our starting quarterback.”

When asked to clarify the “settle” comment at the end of his news conference, Gruden backtracked a bit. “Oh, yeah. I mean, we still have got to play games and all that stuff,” he said. “We have announced Robert as the starter obviously and we’re going to go from there.”

It’s just hard to find too much excitement for Griffin in what Gruden says. Certainly he doesn’t want to go overboard with compliments for Griffin’s play, which has been good but not great in the two OTA sessions that have been open to reporters. But there is some middle ground between giving too much encouragement and damning with faint praise. While we don’t know what is going on in the meeting rooms or in on-field exchanges between coach and quarterback, his public comments on Griffin are more on the faint praise side of things.

As King noted, it’s up to Griffin to turn Gruden around. If Griffin can get his toughest critic to be his biggest advocate, things could be looking up for the Redskins.

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Will Jay Gruden increase his 'big role' in the Redskins' personnel process?

Will Jay Gruden increase his 'big role' in the Redskins' personnel process?

While it hasn’t been the best offseason for the Redskins organization in many respects it has been a good one for coach Jay Gruden. In the midst of turmoil over the status of general manager Scot McCloughan, Gruden got a two-year contract extension.

Although the final agreement on the deal came on March 4 in a steakhouse in Indianapolis during the NFL Combine, team president Bruce Allen said that talk of extending Gruden started much earlier.

“It was after the season, Dan [Snyder], Jay and I got together and we talked about the game plan because we’d made some changes on the coaching staff as well following the season,” Allen told CSN’s JP Finlay at the owners’ meetings in Arizona.

Gruden became the team’s head coach in 2014. His original five-year contract was set to expire after the 2018 season but now he is in the fold through 2020.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

Gruden’s record in Washington is 21-26-1, not the kind of record that normally has an organization rushing to extend a head coach. But after a 4-12 inaugural season, Gruden has led the Redskins to records of 9-7 and 8-7-1 the last two years. While by many standards that is a modest achievement, it marked the first back-to-back winning seasons in Washington since 1996-1997. The hope is that Gruden will keep them moving in the right direction.

The extension is likely to be popular in the locker room as players have come to like Gruden’s style.  

“His directness, his sarcasm and at the same time he gets his coaching point in but the guys do like his sense of humor as well,” said Allen. 

It’s not known if Gruden’s extension gives him more authority over personnel. His original deal gave him very little, with first Allen and then McCloughan having the final say in personnel selection and control over who makes the 53-man roster. Some NFL head coaches have final say in free agency acquisition and in the draft while many have control over who makes the 53.

MORE REDSKINS: 3 takeaways from talking to Allen

Gruden does have some informal influence when it comes to the draft.

“He’s got a big role,” said Allen. “First of all, he coordinates all the coaches’ reports and when we set the draft board, Jay will be up there. He watches every player who will be on the draft board and he will have an opinion.”

There is a power vacuum at Redskins Park with McCloughan gone. A new general manager won’t get hired until after the draft and the authority of that GM will have will be a matter of negotiation. It would not be surprising to see Gruden ending up with roster control.

Stay up to date on the Redskins! Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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Need to Know: What is the Redskins' plan for QB Kirk Cousins?

Need to Know: What is the Redskins' plan for QB Kirk Cousins?

Here is what you need to know on this Tuesday, March 28, 30 days before the April 27 NFL draft.

Timeline

Days until:

—Offseason workouts begin (4/17) 20
—Redskins rookie camp (5/12) 45
—Redskins OTAs start (5/24) 57
—Franchise tag contract deadline (7/15) 109
—First Sunday of 2017 season (9/10) 157

Tuesday three and out

1. Maybe Bruce Allen and the Redskins have a master plan for saving the whole Kirk Cousins situation but right now it just looks like they’re stuck without a solution to paying $24 million to a quarterback who likely will be gone in a year. That’s money that could either be rolled over into future seasons if Cousins gets traded or used as a down payment on a long-term Cousins deal. Maybe there’s a master plan there somewhere but right now it looks an awful lot like the organization is just stumbling around in the dark, stubbing its toe while trying to find the light switch.

2. WR Brian Quick will cost the Redskins less against the salary cap than they are paying him. That’s because his contract takes advantage of the minimum salary benefit. He gets the sixth-year minimum salary of $775,000 plus an $85,000 signing bonus, a total of $860,000. Because of the minimum salary and low signing bonus the CBA rules allow the team to essentially discount the cap hit for the contract down to $695,000. The rule is designed so that younger players are necessarily cheaper, at least when it comes to the salary cap.

RELATED: NFL Mock Draft Version 6.0

3. Allen hinted that the Redskins won’t necessarily hire a general manager after the draft. While talking to colleague JP Finlay he said, “We’ll talk about what we need after the draft from a staffing standpoint.” Not “we’ll search high and low for the best GM in the business” but that needs will be examined. It’s going to be interesting to see how it all shakes out.

And out—Allen didn’t have much to say when JP asked about the stadium project that was a hot topic a year or so ago, only confirming that talks are ongoing. The fact that he had so little to say, not even some platitudes about the desire to build a great environment for the fans. Reading between the lines, this makes me think that a deal is getting close and the less that is said about it at this point the better. Virginia governor Terry McAuliffe will be term limited out of office next January and the feeling is that he will want to leave a Redskins stadium deal as his legacy.

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page Facebook.com/TandlerCSN and follow him on Twitter @Rich_TandlerCSN.

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