Several hours after firing Jay Gruden as coach, Washington Redskins president Bruce Allen addressed the media at team headquarters. He holds news conferences about as often as Washington makes the playoffs, but there was no avoiding this one.
It was time to take questions and provide answers, a daunting task for team executives with a 59-92-1 record. However, Allen was ready. He had committed his talking points to memory and was prepared to repeat them like a needle skipping on vinyl albums.
We’re all disappointed. We’re not hiding from our record. We’re going to keep working.
He was big on “we,” not so much on “I.” When asked directly about his personal accountability for Washington’s sorry state of affairs, Allen stayed stuck in the groove. “We’re all involved in this,” he said.
“I absolutely want what’s best for the Washington Redskins and we’re going to make sure we do it.”
If that’s the case, he should fire himself. Owner Dan Snyder clearly won’t do it, making you wonder what he sees.
The problems are more obvious than the Tom Brady jerseys at FedEx Field Sunday. Wins have been few and fans are growing scarce. Respect for the franchise has been replaced with derision, giving scholars a fascinating case study in reputation mismanagement. Once a heavyweight among NFL brands, Washington is less than a paperweight today.
Sadly, Allen and Snyder are either too arrogant to admit it, or too obtuse to recognize it.
“All we can do is to try to improve tomorrow,” Allen said. “All we can deal with is today or tomorrow.”
He wants you to know that, honest-to-goodness, they’re trying to reverse course. They’re working really hard and they really care. Everyone does, including the folks at FedEx Field. “I see what the people do at the stadium; they’re great workers,” Allen said. “They care about this team and they care about this franchise.”
The president and owner apparently didn’t have those warm feelings for the former coach.
Allen said the decision to fire Gruden was made around 8 p.m. Sunday night. Interim coach Bill Callahan said he received a call that evening and discussed taking over. But Gruden wasn’t told his services no longer were desired until he showed up Monday for a 5 a.m. meeting, maybe after a sleepless night.
But this isn’t about Gruden.
He wasn’t a great head coach and you could argue he wasn’t a particularly good one, either. There were legitimate concerns about his ability in terms of discipline, preparation and game management. He drew up some sweet plays to get guys open, but leading the entire team wasn’t his strong suit.
But pick a coach. Bill Belichick. Nick Saban. Mike Tomlin. Dabo Swinney.
Not one of them would thrive with this franchise as currently constructed. Not with Allen lording over the football and business operations, both sides of Snyder’s crater-ridden aisle. Not in a culture that Allen incredulously labeled “damn good,” but is more like “noxious dysfunction.”
During an interview on 106.7 The Fan’s “Grant & Danny,” Washington legend Joe Theismann said a losing football organization can only make two moves to turn things around — change the coach or change the QB.
Hmm. He’s definitely missing a position. (Hint: It’s not the owner.)
Snyder selling the team is as likely as Allen giving himself a pink slip. Neither is going to happen. But if Snyder squelched interference from his suite, quarantined Allen, and retained a credible football executive with autonomy and authority, that would be a great first step toward restoration.
Anything else represents tired steps in a 20-year-old circle.
It’s a trek that Allen is prepared to repeat, hand-in-hand with the hoodwinked owner.
“The pieces are here for a winning team,” Allen said Monday, offering a version of his “we’re close” whopper from January. “We have to put them in the right place, believe in each other and keep fighting for a goal.”
Of course, he considers himself one of the pieces. And thinks he’s in the right place. And wants everyone to believe in him.
Truth be told, you and I would feel likewise in his position.
Think about it. He has a nice gig. He whispers sweet nothings in the boss’s ear and escapes blame. He continues to cash paychecks despite dismal results. Who wouldn’t want to keep that gravy flowing?
Another cycle is set to begin anew, fresh blood in the coach’s office and, eventually, a fresh face at quarterback (maybe from the 2020 draft?). It’s the Allen way, selling hope instead of wins and fantasy instead of reality.
The formula works great for him.
Everyone else is on their own.
⦁ Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.
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