News & Politics

Jay Gruden Comes On Strong in First News Conference as Head Coach

“I don’t know what happened last year, and I don’t care.”

The scene on the field at the Washington season-opening game against Philadelphia in September. Photograph by Carol Ross Joynt.

Assuring fans, “I’m a good reader of people and know [when] I’m being lied to,” and telling the press, “I hear but don’t believe everything you write,” Jay Gruden took the reins of the Washington Redskins at a news conference Thursday. Gruden was hired less than two weeks after Mike Shanahan was fired as head coach, following a dismal 3-13 season, and he was careful to sound upbeat while making clear that he didn’t want to retread the past year. “I don’t know what happened last year, and I don’t care what happened last year,” he told reporters.

But the new head coach, who was offensive coordinator for the Cincinnati Bengals team that lost in the first round of the playoffs last Sunday, also showed he was aware of the controversies that cropped up in Washington in 2013. Calling Robert Griffin III “a great quarterback, very exciting,” Gruden obliquely addressed grumblings that his new quarterback sometimes shifted blame for his woes onto others. “I expect him to take the blame on some throws, to be a great leader,” said Gruden.

Team president Bruce Allen introduced Gruden, calling him “the right coach for this team.” Allen said they talked to dozens of prospects, some on the phone, that “we got to hear new ideas, new plans, new attitude,” and “through the search we kept looking for that leader and teacher.” Gruden, he said, was “the guy—someone with fire in his belly to lead.”

Gruden praised the defense he’s inherited, saying “there’s a core foundation in place,” and seemed to place much of the team’s shortfall on attitude. “I want a sense of confidence instilled in the players right away,” he said. “I want them to know they are going to come into work and get the best. A sense of confidence and a sense of pride, the sooner the better, and then we’ll have a chance to succeed.”

Gruden also returned Allen’s praise, saying of the team’s leadership, “The passion for excellence is there. All they want to do is win. Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen have the people’s best interests at heart.”