Though he said the decision to fire Jay Gruden was made by 8 p.m. Sunday, Washington team president Bruce Allen reportedly didn’t tell Gruden that he was fired until early Monday, with Gruden summoned to the team facility for a 5 a.m. meeting.
A few hours later, Allen was in front of media for a relatively brief (13 minutes) news conference, his first in well over four years.
‘To make a decision like this is a difficult one’
Allen has been with Washington as general manager and president for a decade; his first coaching hire was Mike Shanahan, and Gruden was his second.
On Monday morning, offensive line coach Bill Callahan, who has been with the team since 2015, was named interim head coach.
In his opening statement, Allen said it wasn’t easy to part ways with Gruden.
“To make a decision like this is a difficult one, but it was necessary,” Allen said. “Our 0-5 start is not just disappointing, we had much different expectations for the beginning of the season. We owe it to our fans, our millions of fans, not just in the great nation’s capital but across the world, the organization, the players, the coaches and their families to do everything we can to win. Under Bill’s leadership and the programs he’s going to put in, and the discipline and execution, we believe we’re giving us the best opportunity to beat the Miami Dolphins and for the rest of the year.”
Over the next few minutes, Allen was asked several questions but didn’t give concrete answers. Here’s a sampling:
What is the plan at quarterback and with rookie Dwayne Haskins:
“It will be up to coach Callahan who plays at any position, the same way it was up to coach Gruden on who’s going to play. We’re thrilled to have Dwayne here, we think his future is very bright, and whatever gives coach Callahan the formula for success I’m sure he’s going to do.”
On reports that Gruden didn’t want to draft Haskins, the 15th pick in the draft:
“You know, when you take a first-round player, it gets a lot of publicity. Seventh-rounders don’t get much publicity. All the coaches were involved in our draft meetings; when we’re setting the draft board the coaches are involved and they sign off on everything. As far as Dwayne, we’re excited as hell to have him on this football team and we think he has a great future ahead of him. He’s working very hard, he’s learning the system, and when coach Callahan decides to put him in, he’ll make that decision, but Jay was excited about Dwayne and I think he probably talked to several of you from OTAs and training camp about how well he was doing.”
On Allen’s own responsibility and accountability for Washington’s record this year and over the past 10 years:
“We’re all involved in this. I don’t ever want to hide from our record, I don’t want to hide from things that didn’t go the way we wanted them to do. All we can do is work. Do I believe in the group that’s here? Yes. I think Doug [Williams] and Kyle [Smith] had a great draft; I think they’ve had a few great drafts. I see what the coaches are trying to accomplish, and I see what people do at the stadium; they’re great workers. They care about this team, they care about this franchise ...
“I promise you that I never thought of standing here midseason with a coaching change. We all have hopes and dreams, the same way the fans do and the players that are working out right now, trying to get better. All we can do is try to improve tomorrow. I would like to change the result of a game or two, or a season. But you can’t. All you can deal with is today and tomorrow and that’s what we’re going to do.”
Are fans owed an apology, especially in light of Sunday, when Patriots fans took over FedEx Field?
“Well, I appreciate the fact that the Patriots have a great fan base and they’ve had tremendous success and Bill Belichick’s probably the best coach in NFL history, so I’m sure many of our fans put their tickets on the second market and made some money off it, people from the Northeast. All we can do is try to improve our product. These games, we weren’t close in. We’ve lost five games, and we didn’t lose them in the last second, we lost these games decisively. And we have to change that. And our fans deserve that. And this market deserves that. We’re in the nation’s capital and it deserves better than that, and we have to get it done.”
On the culture of the team:
“You know, the culture is actually damn good. 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. In free agency we brought in Landon Collins, a great leader, great player, wants to win. We haven’t put it together. We’ve made too many mistakes on game day, but the effort of the players and the rest of this organization is fantastic. Doug Williams, his hours if you want to check his timecard, working all the time. Our scouts on the road, working all the time. And they’re trying to find the right formula for success. These players have the ability and we just have to execute it.”
On why so little of what he implements leads to success:
“You know, I don’t necessarily agree with the premise that it’s never. Last year at this time we’re in first place and we’re doing well, so it was working pretty damn good. Unfortunately our quarterback got injured. The pieces are here for a winning team. We have to put them in the right place, believe in each other, and keep fighting for a goal. There’s only one way you win: you have to work and you have to get better and you have to beat your opponent. And that’s what we have to do. And I believe these players and these coaches will do that.”