*With any front office change, there is the risk of coaching change. Instead, general manager Scot McCloughan and head coach Jay Gruden had a great relationship in 2015. *
It's not always the case that a general manager joining a new team gets along with the returning head coach. Differing perspectives about how the franchise will be run and how the team's future will look can lead to butting heads, and generally a regime change will be in order. It's about trust.
That never seemed to be an issue at Redskins Park once Scot McCloughan took over as general manager last January and began determining how to construct the best possible roster right away. After leading the Redskins to a four-win season in 2014, head coach Jay Gruden embraced his new GM's plan without any previous rapport, and the results were evident.
"Excellent," McCloughan said last week in Mobile, Ala., of his relationship with Gruden. "You know, and we meet daily. The passion he has for the position – the head coach – and how he makes the coaches coach the players, how important it is to him to be successful and be a competitive team – I loved it. It was a great year. It was one of the best years I've had with a coach. You know, it's one of those things where it's tough for a head coach going into his second year and coming off a four-win record, and to see how he competed and battled every day, and how he made those coaches better and those players better."
McCloughan said he wasn't surprised that both of them got along so well and so quickly. Both come from football families and backgrounds, which McCloughan jokingly lamented.
"It's sad, but that's all we know," he said. "But, he's got a great personality and like I said, I just love the fact that the passion he has to be a head coach and help us win."
What certainly helped their union was the team's progression this year, specifically as it made its push into December to capture the NFC East division and earn a playoff appearance. That success in the final month showed off how this collaboration has gone -- McCloughan brought in players with playoff experience, Gruden kept them hungry and motivated to finish the task.
The addition of other veteran coaches was just as important for Gruden himself, who could rely on them as he ventured into new territory as the man in charge.
"You know you're going to have tough days, you're going to have tough weeks in the NFL, especially as long as our season is," McCloughan said. "And to have a [offensive line coach Bill] Callahan who's been a head coach, to have a [quarterbacks coach Matt] Cavanaugh who's been around so long as a quarterback coach for Jay [Gruden] to lean on them. And he does. It's not all about Jay, it's about all of us, and we all lean on each other."
The marriage has meant that communication is open and opinions are always available to bend based on each other's thoughts and feedback.
"I think we do everything together. We work very closely. He'll listen to everybody's opinion — position coaches, coordinators, mine — and then we'll make a decision together," Gruden said of working with McCloughan. "I think it'll be the right decisions that's best for this franchise moving forward. Not all of them are going to be the popular ones but I think ultimately it's going to be what we think is right for this organization moving forward and that's all we can do."
Both know the Redskins "have a long ways to go," but with McCloughan gaining everyone's, and specifically his, confidence with personnel decisions, Gruden knows the foundation is fertile.
"We have to challenge ourselves as a staff to make sure we get the right pieces in place and coach the heck out of them," Gruden said. "Like I said, I feel good about the nucleus. I feel good about the coaching staff that we have. If we can keep everybody moving forward, have some stability there, go from there."