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Jay Gruden's Optimism Provides Hope For Redskins Turnaround

January 9, 2014

Jay Gruden has one immediate job -- rebuild player confidence. After a tense and dismal overall four years under predecessor Mike Shanahan, the Washington Redskins need a hug. 

And Gruden is about to give them a bear hug.

The Redskins hired Gruden, who served as the Cincinnati Bengals' offensive coordinator from 2011-13, as their new head coach Jan. 9, and Gruden seemed ready to bounce on multiple challenges ahead. 

"Instill confidence right away," Gruden said of job No. 1.

After that, Gruden's approach sounded as diverse as his résumé, which spans NFL Europe and Arena Football League as a quarterback, and the indoor league plus UFL as a coach in between two NFL stints. Gruden has been everywhere and done everything to earn the promotion to NFL boss, but comes with an eclectic approach. 

The Redskins will probably stay with the 3-4 defense -- given the roster is built for it after four years. But then, Gruden should consider a 4-3. After all, the Redskins have seven free-agent defensive starters, so now's the time to switch if desired. 

Gruden's offense will include a little of everything -- zone read, power blocking and zone blocking. 

"I never found a play I didn't like that works," said Gruden, who will call offensive plays. 

And then there's quarterback Robert Griffin III, whose rocky relationship with Shanahan is now traded for a fresh start under Gruden. Gruden praised Griffin, so that's a good beginning, though the two haven't talked.

"I see a ton of talent," Gruden said of Griffin. "I see every trait every quarterback has to be successful."

And unlike the previous staff, which tried to turn Griffin into a pocket passer last season with mixed results, Gruden will let RGIII be himself. 

"If he doesn't like the play," Gruden said, "I'm not going to call the play."

While the Redskins interviewed five others before Gruden, the others appear to have been merely placeholders and Plan Bs while waiting for the Bengals to lose during the playoffs. It kept the fans interested, but really it was a smokescreen, because other teams were interested in Gruden, too. 

Once Gruden arrived at Redskins Park, it was only hours before the job was his. After a five-year contract was sealed, Gruden was introduced to the media nearly 30 hours after reaching Ashburn, Va.

Throw in the fact that the Redskins kept several assistants connected to Gruden at past coaching stops, and it's apparent he was the team's first choice. Whether those assistants are Gruden's first choice hasn't been decided, despite reports that defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, secondary coach Raheem Morris and tight ends coach Sean McVay will remain. After all, Gruden joked that 350 coaches texted him looking for a job.

Gruden is a little like his famous brother, former NFL coach Jon Gruden, whose intensity earned the nickname "Chuckie." You know, like that doll that killed people in the movies. 

Instead, Gruden is much more casual, which should let the air out of the building for a while. Shanahan loved tension; Gruden appears to be more of a consensus builder, who inspires players to play better through support more than fear. 

But don't think Gruden isn't intense. He can kick some butts when needed, as shown on HBO's "Hard Knocks" during the summer of 2013. Indeed, Washington general manager Bruce Allen said he liked Gruden's "fire in his belly to lead the Washington Redskins this season" and stopped the coaching search immediately.

"It was clear to everybody that Jay was the right person right now," Allen said. 

So Gruden has an eight-month grace period before winning means everything. Rebuilding a 3-13 team with no first-round pick and 21 free agents usually takes time. Shanahan essentially said it would take several years during his tenure.

But Gruden didn't sound like a patient person. 

"We expect to win soon," he said. 

And that's why Gruden's coaching the Redskins.