Bengals' Jay Gruden Explains How He Punked Jim Haslett and the Redskins Defense

Shae CroninCorrespondent ISeptember 28, 2012

LANDOVER, MD - SEPTEMBER 23:   Jermaine Gresham #84 celebrates with  Mohamed Sanu #12 of the Cincinnati Bengals after scoring a touchdown on a 6-yard pass from Andy Dalton #14 in the second half against the Washington Redskins at FedExField on September 23, 2012 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)
Patrick McDermott/Getty Images

Not that he wasn’t criticized before last Sunday, but Redskins defensive coordinator Jim Haslett has received arguably the most flack of any coordinator in the league so far this season.

And deservedly so.

Through three weeks, the Redskins are allowing over 37 points and nearly 430 yards per game. And while the loss of guys like Adam Carriker and Brian Orakpo are tough to swallow, the defense’s struggles and miserable league ranking don't all fall on the backs of players.

Perhaps if the Redskins offense was average—better yet, pitiful—Haslett wouldn’t see his name in headlines so much. But when your team’s offense sits atop the league with 33 points per game, driven by the arm and feet of a rookie phenom like Robert Griffin III, it’s only natural for fans to wonder why a team with such an explosive offense has barely one win and can’t find a way to beat the St. Louis Rams.

At one point, I had convinced myself that Jim Haslett wasn’t predictable.

Although I could see what he was calling from a mile away, I told myself it was only because I had watched him call plays for years in Washington, and that even opposing offensive coordinators (despite being professionals) didn’t have time to dial-in on a single coach and methodically learn his ways.

In a non-shocker of the century, I was wrong.

If you watched the Redskins lose to Cincinnati in Week 3, then you clearly remember the opening play of the game. You know the one—when the Bengals lined-up in a wildcat formation, the Redskins defense just knew it was a run, DeAngelo Hall was screaming to realign and it resulted in AJ Green torching safety DeJon Gomes for six points?

Yeah. That one.

During an interview with Adam Schein and Rich Gannon on SiriusXM NFL Radio this week, Bengals offensive coordinator Jay Gruden had some pretty interesting things to say about ol’ Jim Haslett. And, in particular, the wildcat pass that went for 73 yards and a touchdown.

We had a pretty good indication that they were gonna be in Cover-0 when we went wildcat with whoever we had back there other than a quarterback, whether it’s a running back or wide receiver. It took a little bit of time, but the free safety came out of the middle of the field, and came in the box, and we knew we had A.J. one-on-one against a safety.

In other words, the Redskins defense was treated like a bass fish and the Bengals posed as a shiny new lure with glittery stuff and those neon-colored strings.

The Bengals threw the line out, let it linger a bit and watched as the bass inched closer and closer to the hook. Once the Redskins got close enough, the Bengals yanked the rod and hooked ‘em.

From there, it was as simple as reeling them in.

"And it was just Mo’s [Sanu] job to just launch it as high and as deep as he could and let A.J. run under it,” Gruden explained. “And he threw a great ball, a much better ball than he did in practice, that’s for sure. It worked out great, obviously.”

Nothing like a kick in Haslett’s teeth while he’s down!

After just admitting that he came, saw and conquered Haslett on the first play of the game, Gruden is sure to let you know that he and his staff didn’t even have total confidence in the player most responsible for the play’s success.

A gullible defense was all the Bengals needed.

The result—albeit expected after the defensive shift—was actually prettier than Gruden anticipated.

As Dan Steinberg mentions in his Washington Post column, Rich Gannon then goes on to ask Gruden how long the Bengals had practiced that play and how long it had taken the offense to perfect it in order to consider it game-ready. Surely, that play wasn’t just installed.

Gruden answered:

Actually, it was just for this game. Because Coach Haslett, I was just watching their wildcat reel. And every wildcat snap they had, they played Cover-0. And I’ve been waiting for it. We practiced it this week, and I told them on Wednesday when we installed our group that this was gonna be play one of the game against the Redskins. We practiced it four or five times throughout the week, and made sure we protected it number one, and gave him a chance to step into it and launch it. And he did.

Remember when I said I was wrong about Haslett?

According to Jay Gruden, a quick film study of wildcat plays ran against the Redskins defense in recent years is all you need for an easy seven points when facing Jim Haslett.

During his scheduled press conference on Thursday, Haslett didn’t help his case by admitting that he knew Sanu was a threat to throw out of the wildcat formation. Although it was nice to hear him acknowledge the possibility of a pass, I don’t think Haslett made fans feel any better.

“We just didn’t know he could throw 50 yards on a rope,” Haslett said. “We knew the background. We just didn’t know he could launch one right on the money.”

Yea. He definitely didn’t make fans feel better.


+ As Haslett later points out, DeAngelo Hall was suppose to be the guy on Green and Gomes was suppose to take quarterback Andy Dalton, who was split wide. When you look at the game tape, you can actually see Hall yelling at Gomes to make the switch and Gomes brushes him off. Suddenly the ball is snapped and everyone but Hall — who is in retreat mode at that point — has their eyes in the backfield and their momentum playing run.

++ I don’t mean to sound like I have anything against Jay Gruden or how he went about speaking with the media. He was honest. And the only reason it may sound as if he was being “brutally” honest is because Jim Haslett allowed it. Just because they’re coaches and on the sidelines doesn’t mean they aren’t competitors. I respect Gruden for doing his homework — as little work as it may have required.