Washington Redskins Head Coach Jay Gruden shared some of his leadership—and leisure—tips with members of the Loudoun County Chamber of Commerce during luncheon Friday at The National in Lansdowne.
Interviewed by Redskins’ broadcaster Larry Michael, Gruden discussed growing up in a football home—his father, Jim, was an NFL assistance coach and scout—his career as a quarterback—winning four titles and MVP honors in the Arena Football League. As an assistant coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and the Cincinnati Bengals, he built a reputation for developing quarterbacks and as an offensive guru. He was hired by the Redskins in 2014 and led the team to a NFC East championship last season.
“Our goals are not to win the NFC East every year. Our goal is to win Super Bowls,” Gruden said.
The success of last year’s campaign, that ended with a 9-7 record and a trip to the playoffs, helped reinforce to the players that the team is training and preparing well and that the system Gruden installed after replacing Mike Shannahan is working.
Last season got off to a bleak start and in week seven, they were trailing Tampa Bay and appeared headed to a 2-5 record.
“I think I might have called by wife at halftime and said you might want to put a for sale sign in the front yard,” Gruden said. “Luckily, we came back in that game, otherwise I would not be sitting here today.”
The come-from-behind win turned around the season and cemented Kirk Cousins as the team’s starting quarterback.
Among Gruden’s management tips for the business leaders was the importance of getting to know his players individually. He recently invited the team’s rookie class to his Creighton Farms home for a cookout. “You have to take each individual for what they are,” Gruden said, adding he wants to learn how to push their buttons to get the most out of them.
Gruden said his biggest challenge when taking over the head coaching duties was learning to delegate. “I think when I first got the job I was overwhelmed. I thought I could be the offensive coordinator, head coach, do the schedule and do all that stuff,” he said. Gruden soon realized he wasn’t helping the offense and instead let Offensive Coordinator Sean McVay do more. “That was the toughest decision I had to make, to step back from being offensive coordinator to be more of a head coach and oversee everything.”
The coach said that after a loss, he works to build up the confidence of his players. “You’re going to lose in the NFL. There’s only been one undefeated team,” he said. “How we bounce back is really what is going to make or break our season. … I yell at them more after a win than I do after a loss.”
In response to a question from the audience, Gruden said he has not experienced problems with team owner Daniel Snyder getting involved in coaching-level decisions, such as who should start as quarterback. “He’s never been like that. He’s been very supportive of the organization,” Gruden said.
As for the quarterback controversy, “we all wanted RG3 to succeed,” Gruden said. “He was the starting quarterback when I got the job. He was the one I was brought in here to coach.”
“One of the quarterbacks out-played the other one. It wasn’t an easy change for us,” he said.
As for living in Loudoun, the coach is a fan.
“I think it kinda makes me a little upset a little bit that our kids are all grown. They would have a great time growing up in this area,” he said. “It’s a great place to raise a family and it is a great place to live.”
And don’t be surprised if you see him out and about. He named a couple of his favorite haunts near Redskins Park. He said DC Prime is his favorite, but you also may run into him hitting balls at TopGolf or having a cocktail at B