Jay Gruden has agreed to become the next head coach of the Washington Redskins, per league source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) January 9, 2014
Gruden is leaving his offensive coordinator duties with the Cincinnati Bengals behind, and he has a huge task ahead of him in turning around a team that finished an abysmal 3-13 in 2013.
There is plenty of excitement with this signing, but no clear verdict can be given until everyone sees if Gruden can improve the play of quarterback Robert Griffin III. As the offensive coordinator responsible for quarterback Andy Dalton putting up some of the best numbers ever as a rookie passer, Gruden is the right coach to reshape and rebuild the man they call RG3.
If you can look past the postseason failures, the Bengals' rise to a topflight NFL offense has been nothing short of remarkable during Gruden's tenure.
He took an offense that was ranked 22nd in the NFL in 2010 and—with a rookie quarterback at the helm—improved the Bengals to the sixth-best offense in the NFL in just three years. The much-maligned Dalton raised his game as well, improving from a 48.9 Total QBR in 2012 to 55.9 in 2013.
Over in Washington, Griffin regressed in nearly every aspect of his game in 2013. Injuries are partly to blame here, but the relationship between Griffin and Shanahan, who has a reputation as an autocrat, soured over the past year, as detailed in this piece by Kent Babb and Mark Maske of the Washington Post.
Gruden is known for his openness and candor with his players, which will be necessary as he builds trust with Griffin in the early going. According to Bleacher Report's Dan Pompei, this virtue is not lost on Bengals quarterbacks coach Ken Zampese:
He's very open to input. I'm having the time of my life because of it. Everything you can think of you want to do, you can at least say. He is willing to allow for ideas to be spread and talked about. Not everybody likes to hear all those things. But he's either faking it or enjoying it.
These direct lines of communication will help Griffin detail in which types of schemes and packages he is most comfortable, which will be important for repairing his confidence and easing tensions. Gruden's willingness to take input from players and coaches alike should help unify the locker room as a whole.
What is the most important thing Gruden can do to improve the play of RGIII?
Beyond mending fences and establishing a presence, a new offensive scheme needs to take shape, and Gruden's schemes bode well for developing Griffin as a pocket passer.
Gruden's West Coast offensive philosophy, which favors quick passing plays to open up vertical routes and play action, can be especially dangerous with the mobility of Griffin.
By utilizing the quick, horizontal routes of the West Coast offense with runs by Griffin and running back Alfred Morris, Gruden should have ample opportunity to keep defenses off-balance. His offensive philosophy should also improve Griffin's ability as a pocket passer, as the quick timing routes and vertical combination routes will force Griffin to sharpen his mechanics.
If that can be accomplished, the Redskins will be a very dangerous team under Gruden, and RG3 will be back to lighting up a league he looked set to take over as rookie.