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Washington Redskins HC Jay Gruden Conference Call

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Jay Gruden chimes in on friend and former colleague, and current Rams HC Sean McVay

New York Giants v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

Washington Redskins HC Jay Gruden

(On what it’s like coaching against a guy that he gave an opportunity to and helped raise in the NFL)

“Obviously, I was excited for (Rams Head Coach) Sean (McVay) to get the job. He earned it and deserved it. He did a lot of good things with the Redskins and got a head coaching job. Now, the only way to approach it’s another game. We have a very important game to play and we’re 0-1 and we’ve got to try and get our first win and that’s the only focus that we have. We just have to go from there, but after the game I’m sure I’ll talk to Sean, right now it’s about trying to get our first win.”

(On if he always assumed that Coach McVay would get a head coaching job)

“Well, honestly I didn’t think he’d get one this quick (laughs). He’s pretty young, but we had some success on offense and he did great things with (Redskins QB) Kirk Cousins obviously and he’s very organized. The whole trick is to get in front of a room and I had a feeling that once he got in front of a room, some general managers and some owners that he would be able to get in there because he’s very presentable, he’s very knowledgeable, very smart, he’s a very loyal guy and very passionate about the game. So, there’s a lot to like about Sean once you get to know him. I just didn’t know that people would give him that opportunity at such a young age, but once they started giving him interviews, I figured that he would get one of them because like I said, he has all of those traits to be a good head coach.”

(On the status of Redskins S Su’a Cravens)

“There’s no update. He’s on left quad (exempt/left squad) right now and he’s dealing with personal issues. But we drafted him and he had some great moments last year for us as a young player, as a 21-year-old kid. Playing, we put him at DIME linebacker to start, we tried to move him to safety this year in the offseason, he was making good progress and then the personal issues hit him. We hope he gets well and hope that he figures out what he wants to do in life and we support him either way.”

(On the difficulty of facing a colleague that knows him so well and vice versa)

“Not really. I just know that knowing what we do offensively, it’s going to be hard for our defense. They’re going to give us a lot of different formations, a lot of change-of-tempos offensively, quick counts, speed breaks, no huddle, a lot of different formations, a lot of stacks and they’ve got a good running game with (Rams RB) Todd Gurley and he changes it up with good play-action passes. I can tell them what he likes, but stopping it is another issue because you stop certain things but then they hit you with the running game or they hit you with the play-pass or hit you with the bunch-stack deal and the quick game and it’s a great changeup. He’s got a great changeup to his offense right now and when you’re in a groove offensively and you have your whole playbook open, it’s very hard to stop. The best way to stop them is to get them in third and long and make them one dimensional or get a big lead and make them one dimensional. It’s easier said than done, but that’s obviously the goal.”

(On what stood out on tape about the offense that shows him Coach McVay has made his imprint already)

“I just said, yeah, he just has a great ability to change it up. You don’t know what’s coming. You think, first and 10, stop Todd Gurley and then they do a play-pass and launch it over your head or they do a boot leg and hit somebody in the flat for a gain of nine and then they come back – he’s just got a great way of changing up the tempos and keeping you off balance. That’s what this offense is built around with the quick passes, boot legs that are friendly for the quarterback and then obviously staying out of third and longs is the key. But, if you can keep the offense friendly for the quarterback, you can have a lot of success because there’s a lot of ways that you can attack the defense and not make it too difficult on the ‘Q’ (quarterback).

(On what his initial idea was to hand over play calling duties to McVay at such a young age)

“I think when I first got the job here, I didn’t want to just totally change the entire system. Some of the terminology in place here in the running game and some of the play-action passes and keepers and all that stuff. So, the drop-back game we tried to implement from what I’ve known from over the past with my brother (Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers Head Coach Jon Gruden) and in Cincinnati and Sean has a great idea of that also because he was with us in Tampa Bay for a year and he was also with me in the UFL (United Football League) for one year. So, I felt like just from talking to the quarterbacks, instead of me having to tell him what the call to the quarterback and so forth, it was quicker to let him do it. We came up with the game plans together and situational – type football we came up together and then I still had a little bit of input, but I let him handle it because he was good and did a fine job.”

(On if there’s something about his personality that makes him a good play caller)

“He’s detailed. He’s very detailed in what he’s teaching. He’s got a system that he believes in – he knows he has a good combination from what he learned from the Shanahans and obviously what he learned from my brother and hopefully here from me a little bit, so, it’s a combination. And it’s important to protect the quarterback, which is I think the most important thing you can do as far as a play caller. You can have all the big plays in the world, but you have to protect the quarterback, so he’s got a good foundation for protections and getting the quarterback out of the pocket and getting him off the same spot and letting him move around and be comfortable. That’s all key.”

(On what he saw from Rams QB Jared Goff in the first game and if he can already see McVay’s imprint on him)

“Yeah, obviously they scored a lot of points and they were in great situations. The defense got two touchdowns for them and they had a big lead, so it’s a lot easier for a play caller, without a doubt. You’re comfortable and your whole playbook is open. It’s a little bit more difficult when you’re trailing by seven or 10 or something like that and you have third and longs that you’ve got to deal with. But you can see his imprint without a doubt. The play-passes, the nakeds (boot legs), to the running game and obviously the drop-back passing game with all the stacks and all the different formations that you’re going to get. He’s done a good job of implementing it, making it easy for Jared and Jared did a great job of executing and that’s what you’ve got to have. You’ve got to have a guy that can handle calling all those plays and formations, but then you have to execute it and Jared did a good job.”

(On if there was anything that McVay struggled with when he first started as the play caller in Washington)

“Not really. We worked on the game plan together. We had O-line coaches help in the running game, I helped with third downs, we had a coach help with the red zone, so it wasn’t like Sean was the only one putting the game plan together. We had a lot of people, a lot of input in the game plan. I’m sure he has that there with (Rams Offensive Line) Coach (Aaron) Kromer and (Rams Tight Ends Coach) Shane (Waldron) and the other coaches he has there, (Rams Offensive Coordinator Matt) LaFleur, they’re helping with the game plan. Once you have a game plan in, you have your situations and you have your first 15 (plays of the game) and then it’s just a steady flow of how to call the plays. It’s a matter of how you use the people around you and I’m sure he’s got the resources to have good people around and help him.”

(On how often he has stayed in touch with McVay since he got the Rams job)

“We stay in touch all the time. I haven’t talked to him today, but we stay in touch quite a bit. I’ve known him for a long time. His family and my family go way back. My dad worked for his grandfather with the 49ers as a scout. Obviously we worked together. My dad coached his dad at Indiana, so we go way back as far as our families are concerned. We’ll be friends for the long haul I would think.”

(On if there are a couple things that stick out in his mind about Kirk Cousins development with McVay as the offensive coordinator)

“I just think the total package, not just Sean. I think (then Redskins Quarterbacks Coach Matt) Cavanaugh had a little bit of input in that also, he did good things with him as a quarterback coach. It was a team effort with Kirk and ultimately, a quarterback has to do it and Kirk has done a good job of establishing himself as a starter. It’s a matter of getting to know your quarterback, trying to make him comfortable, trying to protect the quarterback and not making every play really, really hard. There are certain plays that you try to make easy for the quarterback, whether it’s quick game or getting a bootleg and getting down flat or maybe a crosser that’s open – sometimes it’s easier than others, but I think for the most part, we came up with a system that Kirk was comfortable with and we were able to implement it and Kirk was able to execute it.”

(On the instinct of improvisation element when play calling)

“Well you have your scripts for every situation. You have 120-150 plays sometimes on your game plan call sheet, but you have your scripts as far as third and two-to-five, third and six-to-nine, third and 10-plus – whatever it is, you have short yardage, goal line, you have redzone, redzone third downs, so you go by the script of what you practiced. You’re not going to deviate off of that. Now, what you’re going to call as far as when you’re going to call your play-actions and your running game and all that stuff, that’s the important thing, to mix it in there. But, once you get down you become one dimensional and then your script becomes very, very tight and small and that’s where it becomes difficult. Fortunately for Sean, he didn’t have to deal with that last week, hopefully he will this week (laughs). But, that’s the whole goal of this offense and anybody’s offense, quite frankly. You look around the league and there was a lot of offenses that struggled, the majority of those were down and got in a lot of third downs and couldn’t get any rhythm going. You have to convert on third downs. I don’t know what the Rams were last week, but we were three-for-10 and that just makes it hard for the play caller because the next drive you’ve got to get something going instead of maintaining the ball and field position and all that stuff where you can keep the defense off balance. Each game is different, different challenges, but it’s very important for the playmaker to adjust and Sean’s always done a pretty good job of that.”

(On what he saw from the Rams defense on film)

“It’s a (Rams Defensive Coordinator) Wade Phillips blueprint without a doubt. He’s an excellent football coach, we know that and he’s got great personnel. He had great personnel in Denver. I don’t know how many Pro Bowlers he had over there, I don’t know how many he’s got this year. He’s got five first-round picks on the defensive line, he’s got (Rams LB Alec) Ogletree, he’s got a heck of a corner (Rams CB Trumaine Johnson) who is a Pro Bowl type corner. (Rams S Lamarcus) Joyner is playing excellent. (Rams LB Mark) Barron, I don’t know if he’s a Pro Bowler, but he damn near looks like one. So, they’ve got a very talented defense over there and when you have talented cover guys and you can play man-to-man and rush five or four and get home with your four-man pressures, you can be very successful no matter what you call. But his system is very solid and very sound – people know what they’re doing, they don’t have any coverage mess-ups, the quarterback is always, always getting hurried, at least (Indianapolis QB Scott) Tolzien was. I mean, every play he was getting hit or had somebody in his face. When you disrupt the timing of routes and you have four-man rushes and five-man rushes that get to the quarterback, you’re going to have a ton of success on defense and that’s the look of a Wade Phillips defense right there.”

(On how difficult it is to project what the Rams will do with DT Aaron Donald)

“We know where he’s going to be – he’s going to be a three-tech and he’s going to rush and he’s going to rush hard. He’s a heck of a pass rusher, the best three-technique pass rusher and we just played a great one in (Philadelphia DT) Fletcher Cox. Now, okay, we’re done with Fletcher Cox and now we’ve got Aaron Donald, so two great challenges, two of the best three-techniques in the game back-to-back weeks. Our guards have got to ready. They have to strap it up and protect because he’s got every move you want – he can power rush you, he can spin you, he can rip you, he gets off the snap with great tempo and he’s fast, so it will be a great challenge. Then you’ve got (Rams OLB Robert) Quinn over there and (Rams DT Michael) Brockers, they’ve got a nonstop arsenal of pass rushers. (Rams OLB) Connor Barwin still looks good. They’re a good football team.”


It’s not like Coach McVay needed the validation, but it’s clear his former team has taken notice of his ability, and how he has the Los Angeles Rams playing right now. Nothing would ramp up the hype like another W, and heading to San Francisco with a 2-0 record.