After enduring a season that proved to be an unmitigated disaster, the Washington Redskins will now look to Jay Gruden as the man to right the ship.
On Thursday morning, the Redskins signed the 46-year-old then-offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals to a deal that reportedly spans five years, per NFL Insider Ian Rapoport.
You can tell a team's true feelings in a contract. How badly did the #Skins want Jay Gruden? Enough to lock him in for 5. Rare for 1st timer— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) January 9, 2014
At first glance, the move looks like a solid one for the ailing Redskins franchise. Let's take a look at the pros and cons to Gruden's hiring.
Gruden Will Mesh with RG3
Let's start with the positives.
Griffin is reportedly interested in playing in a pro-style offense instead of the read-option that he relied on so heavily during his rookie season. Seeing as Gruden employed a West-Coast-type offense with the Bengals, that should be a great fit for RG3.
Granted, Mike Shanahan also runs a West Coast offense—differing from Gruden's—but it clearly did not work well in 2013. Shanahan favored a stretch running game with plenty of bunch passing formations last year, per Chris B. Brown of Grantland. Gruden’s Bengals tended more toward power and man schemes that saw a lot of pulling, according to Grantland's Robert Mays, tending away from Shanahan's famous zone-blocking scheme.
The bottom line is that a change, but not a completely radical one, should do RG3 a lot of good.
Additionally, Gruden has what it takes to mold quarterbacks into solid NFL-caliber passers. Just look at Andy Dalton, who has improved his passer rating, passing yards and touchdown passes in each of his first three years, all of which were spent under Gruden.
RG3 could use similar help as his game clearly remains unpolished, and Gruden is a great candidate to help him.
Gruden has Prior Success as a Head Coach
Granted, this will be Gruden's first season as a head coach in the NFL, but he spent several successful seasons coaching arena football—compiling a 93-61 overall record with two championships.
Of course, arena football is significantly different from the NFL, but coaches have shown decent success moving into the NFL from other leagues.
Take Marc Trestman for example, who coached the Chicago Bears in 2013 after leaving the CFL. Trestman led the Bears to an 8-6 start, despite quarterback Jay Cutler's extended absence, only to collapse during the season's final two games. Yet, for the first season as an NFL coach, that should be viewed as a success.
The Redskins would certainly be thrilled if Gruden could help them rebound from a 3-13 record to around .500. Don't count that possibility out just yet.
The Bengals Weren't Exactly an Offensive Powerhouse Under Gruden
Not all is great with Gruden, however.
His best season with the Bengals was in 2013, when Cincinnati ranked 10th in total offensive yardage. In 2012, they ranked 22nd in offensive yardage, and that came one year after they were 20th in that category in 2011 and 18th in points per game.
Much of Cincinnati's offensive success was also due to the the prowess of their defense, which time and time again stopped opponents to give the Bengals favorable field position.
Additionally, Andy Dalton didn't exactly step up in big games. Much of which was heaped on his shoulders and rightfully so. But don't forget the man who was calling the plays—Gruden.
As B/R's James Dudko notes, if Gruden is to take the credit for Dalton's regular-season success, he must also receive some of the flak for the three playoff losses during his tenure.
That's not to say Gruden wasn't successful. Rather, one shouldn't buy into his success too much because of the aforementioned reasons.
Lack of NFL Experience as a Head Coach
Is Gruden's lack of experience as an NFL head coach an issue?
As previously noted, Gruden has plenty of head coaching experience, but he lacks experience coaching in the NFL.
Trestman's somewhat successful story does show it is possible, and in some cases likely, upon transferring to the NFL. But at the same time, the NFL is a whole other animal.
Gruden obviously understands how to be relatively successful when it comes to the X's and O's of NFL-style play.
But the real question is whether he can actually run an NFL team. We'll find out in 2014.