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Firing Jay Gruden isn’t going to fix a thing for Washington

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There’s not much reason to be optimistic that Gruden’s replacement will be any more successful.

Washington owner Dan Snyder and team president Bruce Allen talking on the sideline
Washington will be stuck in the mud as long as Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen are running the show.

Jay Gruden’s nearly six-year tenure as Washington’s head coach came to the most unceremonious end possible. Less than 24 hours after the team’s wholly unsurprising 33-7 loss to the Patriots, Gruden was fired before sunrise Monday morning.

The timing of that decision is odd. Why didn’t it happen after a 31-15 loss to the Bears in Week 3 or a 24-3 loss to the Giants in Week 4?

In the days leading up to the game against the defending Super Bowl champions, Gruden didn’t even have a quarterback plan in place. Veteran Case Keenum is dealing with a foot injury and rookie Dwayne Haskins is still far from ready for the big stage. Third-stringer Colt McCoy got the start instead and finished with only 119 yards, no touchdowns, and one interceptions on 27 pass attempts.

Beating New England with that quarterback situation, a nonexistent running game, and an awful defense was an impossible task for Gruden. He was already a dead man walking.

“Through the first five games of the 2019 season, the team has clearly not performed up to expectations, and we all share in that responsibility,” a team statement read. “Moving forward we are committed to doing all that we can collectively as an organization to turn things around.”

Evidently, Gruden is being blamed for the team’s 0-5 start. The reality, though, is that there’s no fixing this mess. Owner Dan Snyder and team president Bruce Allen are still in charge and that means Washington’s going to continue to be stuck in the mud.

Apparently, the front office doesn’t see the holes on the roster

Allen says Washington should be winning games.

He also thinks the franchise — which has two postseason wins in the last quarter century — is a successful one. Washington went to the Super Bowl four times between 1982 and 1991, winning three of them. In the time since Snyder bought the team in 1999, it hasn’t come close.

Now things are worse than ever. Washington currently averages 14.6 points per game and allows an average of 30.2 points. Only the Dolphins and Jets score less, and only the Falcons and Dolphins surrender more points.

The quarterback position may someday be safe in Haskins’ hands, but for now, it’s in disarray. The team’s top two offensive linemen — Trent Williams and Brandon Scherff — are both out of action. Scherff is dealing with an ankle injury and Williams is holding out due to his discontent with the team’s medical staff. It appears likely that Williams has played his last game in Washington.

For some reason, Washington has dismissed the idea of trading the seven-time Pro Bowl left during the season even though it could probably get a sizable haul in return.

The passing game in Washington hasn’t been helped by a running game that can’t get going either.

Running back Derrius Guice missed his entire rookie year with a knee injury and played just one game in 2019 before landing on injured reserve with more knee problems. His replacement has mostly been the duo of Adrian Peterson and Chris Thompson — neither of whom is finding much success. Thompson averages just 3.4 yards per carry and Peterson has been even worse at 2.7.

But perhaps most concerning are the struggles of the Washington defense so far. It’s allowing 144 rushing yards per game and has already given up an NFL-worst 13 passing touchdowns. Not nearly enough of a pass rush is being generated (no player on the team is even at two sacks yet) and opposing quarterbacks have a 129.7 passer rating when targeting cornerback Josh Norman.

Unlike the Dolphins who are trying to be bad, Washington is doing this poorly while actually trying to win.

There’s a lot of work to do before Washington is a contender. Wholesale changes are necessary to turn things around, but Allen doesn’t recognize that.

While Allen is oblivious to the team’s failings, Washington’s fans are not. They’ve stopped showing up for games, allowing FedEx Field to be filled with opposing fans.

Unlike Allen, the fans know Washington doesn’t need band-aids or stopgaps to win a Super Bowl. A full rebuild is necessary to add talent to the offensive line, the skill positions, and the entire defense. The front office doesn’t seem to realize or have the patience for that, though.

Will a new head coach have any say?

Gruden entered the 2019 season on the hot seat after back-to-back 7-9 seasons. He needed wins right away, but Washington drafted a quarterback in the first round who needs time to grow and develop. That was a decision Gruden reportedly wasn’t on board with.

When training camp rolled around, Gruden reportedly wanted to keep 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson on the roster and jettison 34-year-old running back Adrian Peterson. He was rebuffed there too.

Those decisions are indicative of broken culture that ignores coaches and has allowed Allen to make important calls for about a decade, despite his lack of success. Is that going to change? Nope. There’s no indication that Allen’s job is even remotely in jeopardy.

For now, Bill Callahan is taking over as interim head coach and Allen expects wins. But Callahan inherits the same defense, the same offense, and the same exact predicament Gruden had at quarterback.

It’s hard to believe Washington will be any better under Callahan or any other coach.

The team already has a wish list of coaches to take over for Gruden in 2020, but why would any take the job? The franchise appears to be a delusional one that doesn’t realize it’s bad. Allen isn’t going to let the new coach have much influence over fixing that.

Gruden was the seventh head coach for Washington (nine including interim coaches) since Snyder bought the team in 1999. There’s no reason to believe the next coach will be any more fortunate than the predecessors. Not without the type of significant changes the team hasn’t shown a willingness to make.