MFWE: Cincinnati Bengals
The Eagles are out of the playoffs…and so are the Bengals for that matter. So why did we reach out to a Bengals fan? Because of a famous quote that says, “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” As a result, we’ve brought in Bengals afficionado Preston May to give us the inside scoop on new Redskins head coach Jay Gruden! BOOM! We’re talking Jay vs John, the offensive scheme, Andy Dalton, free agency and more!
If you’d like to contact Preston you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @Preston_May821
How similar is Jay to his Super Bowl winning brother Jon?
In the NFL, it’s difficult to not compare family members to one another. It wasn’t the Jets beating the Saints, it was Rex beating Rob. It wasn’t the Broncos beating the Giants, it was Peyton beating Eli. And even in the Superbowl, John Harbaugh beat out his younger brother Jim in the “Harbowl”. And coincidentally (or is it?) in the three sibling rivalries I just listed, the older brother is undefeated! John is 2-0 against Jim, Peyton is 3-0 against Eli, and Rex is 5-0 against Rob. Albeit Rex is only five minutes older than Rob, but he is the older brother nonetheless. Being a little brother myself, I understand the frustration. Always living in your older brother’s shoes and never being able to quite get over the hump of finally beating the person you’ve looked up to for all these years.
So here comes Jay Gruden, brother of Superbowl winning coach Jon Gruden, getting his first chance as an NFL head coach. There are already comparisons between the two in terms of both their mannerisms as well as their coaching styles. If you watch Jay in practice, you would think that Jon gained some weight and decided to go back to coaching. Their playcalling and signaling is very similar and Jay even uses most of the same jargon as Jon. Now that he has the opportunity to run his own team, I believe that Jay has the potential to have the same successes that his older brother had, but he has a lot of work to do before he becomes that coach. Both very talented, offensive minded coaches, but Jay will always be “Jon’s little brother” until he makes his own legacy.
How much did Gruden improved the Bengals offense during his tenure and how good of a job has he done with Andy Dalton?
Jay has served as the Bengals Offensive Coordinator the past three years and took them to the playoffs all three years. Pretty solid start I would say for his first three years as a coordinator in the league, but he has received a lot of criticism lately about the production of Andy Dalton. Dalton came into the league the same year that Gruden arrived in Cincinnati and they achieved success right away. Coming off of a miserable 4-12 season, the Bengals were able to pull off a 9 win season and advance to the playoffs as a Wildcard team. This rapid turnaround was largely in part to the hiring of Jay Gruden, as well as the drafting of AJ Green and Andy Dalton to replace Carson Palmer and Chad Johnson. Dalton and Green adapted to the pro game immediately and both made it to the ProBowl in their rookie seasons.
However, now Dalton has finished his third year in the league and while other teams are quickly finding out what he likes to do, he doesn’t seem to be learning what they like to do and has not shown many signs of improvement. Of course, there were several games this season where Dalton was brilliant. Off the top of my head I think of the Jets game where he threw 5 tds and only 1 pick. But then there are also those atrocious games where his play seemed to be the cause of the loss. Of course the game that comes to mind first is their recent departure from the playoffs against the San Diego Chargers where Dalton threw two very poor interceptions and fumbled while diving for a first down. Although Dalton received much of the blame, Gruden began to receive a lot of scrutiny as well. Was this called for?
Dalton threw the ball 51 times in the game. 51 times! For a quarterback who doesn’t even enter the conversation of being “elite”, 51 times is an absurd number. Now I know Alex Smith threw the ball 46 times in his game, but the Colts/Chiefs game was a shootout. The Chiefs put up 44 points without Jamaal Charles for most of the game, so it’s hard to dispute their offensive gameplan in that one. The Bengals scored 10 points in the game and 0 in the second half. I could understand them throwing 51 times if they were playing catch up the whole game, but they weren’t. The game was easily within reach until Dalton’s second pick about half way through the 4th quarter.
What is Jay Gruden like as a playcaller? What should Redskins fans expect?
In my opinion, Jay Gruden will sometimes call plays somewhat similarly to a bad player in Madden. He’ll call great calls throughout the game while things are going well, but as soon as the momentum swings in the favor of the other team, he’ll try and get it back on one or two plays. The Bengals this year were not a “big play” offense and Dalton is by no means a “big play” quarterback. Rather than calmly call smart plays to lead the offense down the field, Jay would often call plays deep down the middle that would take a long time to develop. And, seeing as our offensive line wasn’t the greatest this year and Dalton’s arm strength has always been in question, this wasn’t always the greatest gameplan. I really don’t think that Dalton is a terrible quarterback, but he needs playcalling to be toward his strengths and not deep plays that he needs to be patient on and stand tall in the pocket.
A perfect example of this is against the Chargers. I believe it was 4th and 3 inside the Chargers 40 yard line in the 4th quarter. Rather than call a play that could have easily kept them alive and pick up the first down, Jay calls for a deep post to Marvin Jones that, if it had been successful, could have changed the game entirely. But, of course Dalton continued his bad day and overthrew Jones and the game was virtually over at that point. If Gruden can keep the emotion out of his playcalling, he should make one heck of a head coach. But that will not come right away.
Good news for Redskins fans is that their offense is more catered to what Jay likes to do. Now I’m not saying he wants to chuck the ball down the field every play, but he definitely likes having that option in his back pocket at all times. RGIII has one of the best arms in the NFL and the Redskins have several speedsters that could run under one of his bombs. The only thing that might be troublesome is Alfred Morris might be seeing less carries than with Shanahan. In Cincinnati, Gruden had two capable backs at his disposal in Gio and The Law Firm but did not use either to their potential. He would involve Gio in the passing game quite often, but wouldn’t give him the carries that he deserved.
Now that Gruden is in Washington, are there any Bengals free agents you expect him to make a run at?
There are a couple of players that I would not be surprised if Gruden targeted as free agents for Washington. One is OT Anthony Collins. The Bengals are paying Andre Smith and Andrew Whitworth a lot of money, so it is likely that they will not resign Anthony Collins even though he has starter talent. The Redskins struggled to protect their coveted quarterback this season, allowing 43 sacks. The last thing Gruden wants to see is his new quarterback keeled over that knee that’s been the topic of conversation all year.
Another player that I could see Gruden potentially targeting is Andrew Hawkins. Hawkins is a restricted free agent but the Bengals may let him go given the development of Marvin Jones and Mohammed Sanu. Hawkins was hurt much of this year, but the two years prior, Hawkins was often used as a slot receiver. He could be a perfect replacement for the aging (some would argue already aged) Santana Moss.
Are you sad to see him leave and can he succeed in Washington?
Overall, Jay Gruden certainly helped the Bengals franchise achieve success these past few seasons but there are still some things that he needs to work on before he will make it as a successful head coach in the league. Is the potential there? Certainly. With experience, he is only going to learn more and get better and better. As a Bengals fan, I wasn’t too upset to see him leave but that is mainly because I was so worked up over seeing Zimmer leave. Gruden’s playcalling and “pass first” coaching style was not a good fit for the team that we have right now, but I think that Washington could be a great fit for him and I would not be surprised to see him turn the team around in the next two or three seasons.
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