On January 22nd, the Jaguars officially hired former Washington head coach Jay Gruden as the team’s new offensive coordinator. Since then, Gruden has remained out of the news diligently working behind the scenes with the Jaguars’ offensive staff to get acclimated to his new role and perform a thorough evaluation of the roster.
Yesterday, Gruden broke his silence in a sit-down interview with Jaguars.com and senior writer John Oehser. Gruden expressed his excitement to return to coaching after being unceremoniously fired by Washington only five games into the season.
Gruden went over a variety of topics with Oesher, including why he returned to coaching, why specifically with the Jaguars, the team’s quarterback situation, and much more. With the additions of both Gruden and quarterbacks coach Ben McAdoo the Jaguars will have the leadership needed on the offensive coaching staff for the young personnel currently on the team.
Our first time sitting down with new OC Jay Gruden... coming soon to https://t.co/6z7qBUbQGN— Ashlyn Sullivan (@ashlynrsullivan) February 26, 2020
He was on the 6th hole of the golf course when Marrone called about the opportunity... now he says he's fired up to coach a young offense with a lot of potential pic.twitter.com/CtXuPElYvY
“I love Florida and I thought it would be a great opportunity to get back in with a young quarterback (Gardner Minshew II), and with (veteran quarterback) Nick (Foles) – and see what happens,” Gruden told Oesher when asked why he felt comfortable with coming to Jacksonville to coach the Jaguars.
Gruden indicated that meetings with the full offensive staff and getting comfortable with the variety of voices in the room made for an easy decision, noting that there was a positive energy. “Everybody knows the feet are to the fire a little bit. We’ve got to get things done, but that’s pro football.”
When discussing the team’s quarterback situation, Gruden took a similar stance to Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone and general manager Dave Caldwell. Gruden praised Nick foles for his strong arm, pocket passing, accuracy and his past success, admitting that last season’s struggles didn’t only on Foles’ shoulders following an injury which knocked the quarterback out for nine games.
“A lot of times when the quarterback struggles, it’s on the quarterback,” said Gruden. “A lot of times when the quarterback has success, he probably gets too much credit. But Nick didn’t have a lot of opportunities to make some plays in some of these games that he failed in.”
The Jaguars turned to rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew II, who had plenty of success including throwing for over 3,000 yards passing and totaling 21 touchdowns with just six interceptions. Gruden called the young quarterback “an exciting player” — a player people tend to gravitate to due to his personality and energy.
“Nothing against Nick; Nick’s still a great quarterback. They’re two different quarterbacks. Both of them have a lot to work with,” Gruden continued. “...Gardner has great energy. He has the escapability that you need nowadays in pro football because things aren’t always going to be perfect. And he obviously has the leadership skills that are necessary to be at that position. (Smiling) So, let the competition begin”
A competition between the quarterbacks will take place during training camp. All three of Gruden, Caldwell, and Marrone have been in lockstep when discussing the starting quarterback situation. Gruden later stated in the interview that the decision will be Marrone’s to make, but he’s excited to watch it play out.
Notes from Gruden’s interview with Jaguars.com:
- Gruden noted with Oesher that receiver Dede Westbrook played in the slot for the first time in his career last season, adding “you could see there were some things he was working through there” — Westbrook played the team’s ‘F’ position for the majority of the season.
- Gruden feels good about the team’s offensive line, noting that Cam Robinson needs to get healthy after playing hurt the majority of 2019 recovering from a torn ACL suffered in 2018. Gruden praised the play of left guard Andrew Norwell and center Brandon Linder, and right tackle Jawaan Taylor, stating that right guard A.J. Cann, “does some good things at right guard.”
- The Jaguars could be adding a third-down running back. Gruden indicated during his interview that it is important for everybody to have a third-down running back who can be a receiver of sorts, indicating that “that position is something we (Jaguars) need to look at.” Running back Leonard Fournette caught 76 passes last season for 522 yards. Note: Former Washington running back Chris Thompson is set to become a free agent.
- Gruden admitted something the team needs to work on is at the tight end position — specifically what type of tight end the team will implement. “It would be nice if it was all-encompassing: ‘Hey, this guy’s a great blocker, a great route-runner and can do everything…’ There’s not many of those.”