“Winning isn’t everything” — a phrase that rarely rears its ugly head in the game of football. If a coach isn’t always winning, he won’t hold a job. Jay Gruden isn’t a model of consistently winning. He has a career record of 35-44. However, he went 4-12 after inheriting a strapped-for-cap-space team that went 3-13 the year prior with no first-round pick. The following season, his team went 9-7 and won the division. However, the following three seasons he hovered around .500 and missed out on the playoffs every time. You can make excuses about injuries and luck, but the bottom line is Gruden has not been successful.
If Gruden plans to be the Redskins head coach for the foreseeable future he must find a way to convince the front office he deserves the job. There are two ways he can do this. What are they?
Option 1: Gruden must win
A playoff appearance is the easiest way for Gruden to ensure he’ll be back for 2020. Whether it’s with Case Keenum or Dwayne Haskins, if Gruden can rally this team to the postseason, he should be guaranteed a chance to continue his success in the following season. The team is built to win games. They’re strong defensively and plan to run the ball down team’s throats. As long as the quarterback, whoever it may be, can take care of the football, it’s a team that will win seven games at the very least.
The only scenario in which Keenum should be named the starting quarterback is if Gruden believes Keenum gives him a legit shot at the postseason. Whether it’s because he feels Keenum has a better grasp of the playbook, he provides safer play, can run the offense better or combination of some reasoning, as long as Gruden commits, he must live with his decision. He can’t go with Keenum and halfway through the season decide he won’t make the playoffs and choose to go with Haskins.
Option 2: Attach to Haskins
Dwayne Haskins was drafted to be the savior of the franchise. If Gruden doesn’t think he can make the playoffs, he should be willing to start Haskins during Week 1. With attaching to Haskins, Gruden doesn’t need to make the playoffs the priority. He can scheme up a way for Haskins to fill the box score and look good in games, whether or not they’re winning. If Haskins plays well, Gruden will have a chance to plead his case as the right guy for Haskins’ development.
A big season from Haskins will alleviate some of the pressure for Gruden to make the playoffs. Rookie of the Year consideration, impressive statistics, and a .500 record could be enough for the front office to decide Gruden is the correct guy to develop him.
For Gruden to guarantee his job security for the future, he must choose which route he’s going to take. The worst case scenario would be if he tries to play both hands, he’ll end up getting burnt. As long as he can successfully choose one option and roll with it, he’ll be the Redskins head coach in 2020.
Matt Valdovinos is a writer for PFN covering the Washington Redskins. You can follow him @MVScouting on Twitter.