ASHBURN — As Bruce Allen fielded questions in a rare press conference Monday, the Redskins president wasn’t asked about what led to coach Jay Gruden’s firing. Gruden became the fifth coach to be dismissed under owner Dan Snyder, and, after an 0-5 start, most people understood why.
Instead, Mr. Allen was asked, repeatedly, to explain his own shortcomings, as well as the failures of the organization he has run since late 2009.
Under Mr. Allen, the Redskins are 59-89-1 with only two playoff appearances in that span. Under Snyder, the Redskins are 139-185-1 the last 20 years.
But the son of George Allen, the iconic Redskins coach of the 1970s, dismissed questions about deep-rooted dysfunction and mismanagement, insisting that the franchise is close to a turnaround.
“The culture is actually damn good,” the team president told reporters. “These people care. We have a very young core of players that we have brought in here who are accustomed to winning. If you look at the record of these guys they’re accustomed to winning. They want to win.”
Just five games into the schedule, 2019 already seems to encapsulate a little of everything that has gone wrong for the franchise over the past 20 years. From being demolished on the field to being embarrassed off, the Redskins are clearly among the NFL’s dregs, with no easy fix in sight.
Allen said the Redskins will wait until after the season before seeking a permanent replacement for Gruden. On Monday, Washington named Bill Callahan as the interim, promoting him from offensive line coach.
“There’s no magic formula,” said Callahan, who hasn’t been a head coach in the NFL since his time with the Oakland Raiders in 2003.
After firing Gruden, Snyder will look to hire his seventh head coach, or ninth if you include interims. Washington hasn’t made an in-season coaching change since 2000, when Snyder dismissed Norv Turner and named Terry Robiskie as the interim.
Allen has long been a target of scorn from fans, many of whom argued on social media and on sports talk radio that the owner’s right-hand man should have been sent packing along with the coach.
After Sunday’s loss, one person was seen holding a banner that read “FIRE BRUCE ALLEN” and stood behind NBC Sports Washington’s postgame show at FedEx Field — before security promptly confiscated the sign. Others have tweeted hashtags calling for Allen’s job, while some have even bought shirts that demanded a change.
Asked why fans should have any confidence in Allen’s and Snyder’s leadership of the franchise, Allen said it was a “fair question.”
“I don’t ever want to hide from our record,” Allen said. “I don’t want to hide from things that didn’t go the way we wanted them to go. All we can do is work. And do I believe in the group that’s here? Yes. … I’m not saying I care more than anyone, but I absolutely want what’s best for the Washington Redskins and we’re going to make sure we do it.”
The lead-up to Gruden’s firing shouldn’t come as a surprise. The 52-year-old was on rocky footing from the moment the Redskins waited weeks after last season to inform him that he would return for a sixth season. In May, he joked that if he didn’t make the playoffs in 2019, he’d be fired.
Meeting with reporters this offseason, Allen justified keeping Gruden and the coaching staff because he felt the team was “close” to playoff contention. That status quo, however, turned out to be a mistake.
The Redskins’ season quickly fell apart, starting in the offseason with left tackle Trent Williams’ holdout. Allen noted how the Redskins’ five losses “weren’t close.” Injuries, too, became a factor as the Redskins were without players like the talented but brittle tight end Jordan Reed and offensive line slawart Brandon Scherff.
Gruden’s firing was greeted skeptically — even derisively — by players and media around the league.
Former NFL general manager Michael Lombardi said the move was akin to “throwing deck chairs off the Titanic” in a radio interview on 106.7 The Fan. Former quarterback Sage Rosenfels tweeted “one of the luckiest things that happened to me was being traded away from the Redskins.”
Whoever Snyder chooses to be the next coach, the person will likely be expected to oversee the development of Dwayne Haskins. Callahan said the first-rounder won’t be a contender to start Sunday against the Miami Dolphins, but many in the organization, including Mr. Allen, have said the rookie quarterback is a key to the franchise’s future.
Allen did not reveal, nor was he asked, what qualities he was looking for in a future head coach. But in Snyder’s tenure, the Redskins have tried all types: the hot college coach (Steve Spurrier), the well-respected NFL legend (Mike Shanahan) and a young, offensive guru (Gruden).
None of it has worked consistently.
“The pieces are here for a winning team,” Allen said. “We have to put them in the right place, believe in each other, and keep fighting for our goal. There’s only one way you win. You have to work. You have to get better and you have to beat your opponent. And that’s what we have to do.”
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