For the last four years, Jay Gruden has brought an unprecedented sense of stability to the Redskins since Joe Gibbs departure in 2007. Under Gruden’s tenure, the Redskins have been exceedingly average; besides a 4-12 finish in his first year, the Redskins have finished within one game of .500 the past three seasons.
So for Gruden, it’s now or never.
He has a quarterback he truly believes in, the second rated defense in the NFL through three games and a favorable schedule the rest of the year. Gruden has had four years to build a contender and with an aging roster in key positions, this year’s Redskins team is his last chance as anything less than a playoff berth should lead to his firing.
After this year, many of the Redskins’ biggest contributors best years will surely be behind them. Alex Smith is one of the oldest quarterbacks in the NFL at 34 years old; Ryan Kerrigan–while he had an excellent 2017–has no sacks this season; Josh Norman had no interceptions last season; Trent Williams hasn’t played a full season in four years and, though he isn’t expected to miss game action, just underwent another knee surgery.
The Redskins won’t have a high enough draft pick to select a game-changing prospect nor the cap space to sign an established elite talent. While Derrius Guice will return in 2019, a single running back won’t put the Redskins over the top.
The past three years, the Redskins have been given opportunities to secure playoff berths and Gruden’s teams haven’t responded well to adversity. In the 2016 season finale against a Giants team that had nothing to play for and a win would all but guarantee a playoff spot for the Redskins, Gruden’s team played an uninspired game in a 19-10 loss. In 2017 the Redskins had a promising start with wins against the Rams and Raiders but quickly fell apart because of injuries and a horrid run defense.
This year with his best roster and veteran leadership, the burden is on Gruden to make this team seize their opportunities and show up to play every game. Gruden can’t continue to have dominant performances–like their week one and three wins–followed by uninspired and disappointing games–like their week two loss to the Colts.
Simply put, if he can’t make the playoffs with this team, Jay Gruden will never bring a Super Bowl to D.C.
– Sam Shiffmna