New coach Gruden latest to tackle Redskins turmoil
ASHBURN, Va. — The face was different, the words familiar. Like Mike Shanahan and nearly every recent Washington Redskins coach, Jay Gruden is anxious to declare an end to franchise's days of dysfunction.
"I don't know what happened last year," Gruden said. "I know that interviewing with Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen and everybody here that the passion for excellence is there. All they want to do is win, and they're going to provide me with every avenue to win."
Gruden was introduced Thursday as the man charged with ending the perpetual state of turmoil the team has endured under owner Snyder and recently under general manager Allen.
Gruden was a given a five-year contact for his first NFL head coaching gig, taking over a 3-13 team that has finished last in the NFC East in five of the last six seasons.
"We HAVE to get it right," said Allen, who led the search and interviewed six candidates. "We need to get the franchise back on track in a winning direction. ... We were looking for a new leader, somebody who can inspire our football team. We knew it was more than just X and Os, it was about finding the right person to build a team chemistry that we needed."
Gruden is Snyder's eighth coach in 16 seasons as an NFL owner. Unlike Shanahan, who was fired last week, Gruden will not have final say over all football matters. He'll report to Allen, who has taken charge of assembling the roster and other personnel decisions.
The 46-year-old Gruden has spent the last three seasons as the offensive coordinator of the Cincinnati Bengals, where his skill in helping to develop Andy Dalton will no doubt be of use when he takes on the task of grooming another young franchise quarterback, Robert Griffin III.
Gruden praised the talents of Griffin and spoke of the need to build a "genuine" trust with the quarterback, who regressed this season after winning the AP's Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2012. Griffin returned from major knee surgery to start 13 games, but he publicly disagreed with some of Shanahan's decisions, struggled as a drop-back passer and was benched for the final three weeks.
Pete Carroll told Percy Harvin that the Seattle Seahawks were considering placing him on injured reserve to open up a roster spot ahead of the postseason.
Harvin's response: "Coach I'm ready to play ball."
That conversation less than two weeks ago was the start of a return that took another significant step on Thursday when Carroll announced Harvin would play on Saturday against New Orleans in an NFC divisional playoff game.
Harvin missed the first 21/2; months of the season following hip surgery in early August. He returned in Week 11 against Minnesota and caught one pass and had a 58-yard kickoff return. Harvin was then sidelined again by what Carroll called "soreness."
Panthers wide receiver Steve Smith said Thursday his injured left knee isn't coming along quite as well as he'd hoped.
Smith practiced for the second straight day on a limited basis, saying, "It didn't feel as great as I thought it'd feel."
He said he "overdid it a little" in practice.
Smith estimates he's "57 percent" healthy, down from 71 percent he mentioned on Wednesday.
As for whether he'll play Sunday against the 49ers in the NFC divisional playoffs, Smith said "I'll have to see" today.
At 34, Smith remains an integral part of Carolina's offense.
The franchise's all-time leader in receptions, yards receiving and touchdowns finished the season with 64 catches for 745 yards and four touchdowns. He's also valuable in that he often requires double coverage, thus opening up things for other receivers as well as the team's running backs.