It was as if Jay Gruden knew he'd get one last game in Washington and, after five-plus years in which he had less say than most coaches, wanted to go out his way, with his guy: Colt McCoy. Gruden said after the desultory 33-7 loss to the Patriots in Week 5 that he'd been given enough time to turn the Redskins' franchise around, and finally, after an 0-5 start to the 2019 season, President Bruce Allen and ownership agreed. Gruden was fired before any domestic flights took off Monday morning from Washington Dulles International Airport.
Gruden fell short, just like all the other Redskins coaches of the last 26 years. The once-proud franchise has won two playoff games over that span, none since 2005. It has only played in seven playoff games since Dan Snyder bought the team in 1999, including just two over the last 11 seasons. They haven't made a single NFC Championship Game since winning Super Bowl XXVI after the 1991 season.
Gruden took over in 2014, as the Robert Griffin III era wound down, and he left in the early days of rookie quarterback Dwayne Haskins' career. Considering the relative lack of talent throughout those years, I always thought Gruden did well to win at least seven games in each season between 2015 and '18, after finishing his first season 4-12. He was a difficult offensive coach to prepare for, although his inability to settle on the right defensive coordinator (he employed three in six seasons) or find a quarterback he believed in -- other than McCoy -- doomed his tenure. Gruden didn't exactly raise the Titanic like Marvin Lewis did in Cincinnati, but Gruden did as well as one would expect, considering all the instability. Former general manager Scot McCloughan lasted only two full seasons (2015-16) in the role, with Allen eventually heading up a team-building group that includes Doug Williams. It's an organizational structure unlike any other in the league.
The team's ambivalence regarding former quarterback Kirk Cousinswas well-documented, and Gruden reportedly didn't want to draftDwayne Haskins, whom Washington selected 15th overall in the 2019 NFL Draft. That is a dysfunctional situation for any player to deal with, much less a first-round quarterback. Venerable NFL assistant (and former Raiders head coach) Bill Callahan will take over in the interim, with an expected emphasis on the running game to follow. A quick change to Haskins isn't coming, as Callahan confirmed Monday that Haskins is not a candidate to start this week.
There is no saving this 2019 Redskins team, and any incoming coach has an uphill climb to relevance. Many of the position groups on the roster are among the league's worst, although the stout defensive line, anchored by Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne, is something to build off. The next coach will ultimately have to sell Snyder on his ability to turn Haskins into a lasting starter. It's unclear if Bruce Allen will continue in his role, with Washington logging just two winning seasons since Allen first joined the team ahead of the 2010 season, and any new coach needs front-office stability to have a chance. Left tackle Trent Williams' holdout continues indefinitely, while there are notable players -- like cornerback Josh Norman, tight end Jordan Reed and possibly pass rusher Ryan Kerrigan -- likely nearing the end of their time in a Redskins uniform.
The NFL has a lot of great stories to tell after five weeks, but the increasingly crowded bottom of the league isn't one of them. The Redskins are one of four winless outfits after Week 5, and four more teams have won only one game. It should be hard for this many teams to be this bad in a league built to promote parity, but the Miami Dolphins are getting competition from all corners for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. The Redskins and Dolphins will face off in a Week 6 matchup that feels like a no-win situation for Miami. The Bengals and Dolphins meet in Week 16 in another key game for the No. 1 overall pick.
The increased pool of potential sellers could make this month spicier than usual. The NFL trade deadline is still three weeks away -- Oct. 29 -- and teams should be more willing than usual to begin looking ahead to the 2020 offseason, with an expiring collective bargaining agreement and plenty of uncertainty on tap.
In this week's Debrief, I'm taking a look at potential trade targets after Week 5, most of whom come from teams that could be vying with the Dolphins for that top pick:
Receiver Emmanuel Sanders, cornerback Chris Harris and defensive end Derek Wolfe, Denver Broncos: NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported before Sunday's win by the Broncos that just about anyone exceptVon Miller could be available in a trade if the team continues to struggle. Perhaps the Broncos were watching "NFL GameDay Morning" and gained inspiration from Ian before their victory in front of the Broncos faithful in Los Angeles, although it's hard to imagine this team rallying enough to change its long-term fate.
The 1-4 Broncos face the Titans, Chiefs and Colts before the trade deadline, and even a 3-5 record might not be enough to stop John Elway from looking for value. The veteran Sanders is the most logical target. Teams like the Patriots, Saints and even Raiders should be looking for receiver help, and Sanders has shown he's recovered from the Achilles surgery he underwent last year. Even after a quiet day in Los Angeles, Sanders is on pace for nearly 1,000 yards in the final year of his current contract.
Harris, like Sanders, is on the final year of his contract. Harris didn't get the extension he wanted from Elway before the season, although the two sides agreed on a raise for 2019. Wolfe wasn't playing well early in the year before suffering a high ankle sprain, but he's another contract-year player who could draw interest. Only a winning streak by the Broncos seems likely to prevent Elway from saying goodbye to some of the last remaining pieces of the team's 2015 championship team.
Receiver A.J. Green, Cincinnati Bengals: Teams are bound to come calling about Green. While trading a "career Bengal" like Green, drafted fourth overall by the team in 2011, is anathema to president Mike Brown, Green could be the exception that proves the rule. He's struggled to stay healthy for three years running, having played in just nine games last season and zero so far in 2019, and he's in the last year of his contract. Green could still reportedly fetch a first-round pick, presumably in a deal with a team confident it could sign Green long-term, presuming he's recovered from an ankle injury.
A trade of Green would be a surprise, but these are dark times in Cincinnati. The Bengals fell to 0-5 on Sunday after being thoroughly dominated for three-and-a-half quarters by the Cardinals, another previously winless team. Andy Dalton rallied with two late fourth-quarter touchdowns before the Bengals' defense caved in and gave up a game-ending field-goal drive. The announced attendance in Cincinnati included almost 20,000 empty seats, and many of those fans left before Dalton got the team moving.
Receiver Stefon Diggs, Minnesota Vikings: The 3-2 Vikings are certainly not looking to punt on this season, and Diggs remains a valuable receiver, even if he's not getting the ball much (he's on pace for a career low 73 targets). Trading Diggs would only make sense if he could bring value in the form of a quality veteran who could help for the 2019 season, rather than a draft pick. Would a swap involving A.J. Green or Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey really be that out there for a front office that has proven extremely resourceful fitting contracts under the salary cap in recent years?
Diggs did not do a convincing job expressing his desire to stay in town after missing practice Wednesday, and he was even less convincing after catching three passes for 44 yards in an easy Vikings win Sunday. Diggs confirmed he was fined more than $200,000 for missing practices and meetings on Monday and Wednesday. Like so many facets of this rocky Vikings season, Diggs' status and happiness feels very week-to-week at this point.
Running back Kenyan Drake, Miami Dolphins: There aren't that many tradable assets left in Miami, with the team having dealt Laremy Tunsil, Kenny Stills, Minkah Fitzpatrick and Kiko Alonso since late August. Drake, however, can play. He is in the final year of his rookie contract and may be the only player on the entire offense, other than rookie receiver Preston Williams, capable of making defenders miss. Put him on an explosive offense like the Eagles or Chiefs, and he could fly.
Left tackle Trent Williams, Washington Redskins: Allen was asked at his press conference following Gruden's firing whether the team would consider trading Williams, who remains a holdout because of a disagreement with the team. Allen said, "No, not at this time."
The Redskins would be foolish not to listen to offers as the trade deadline approaches. They could wait until the offseason to trade Williams, but is the price tag going to change for the better? If Laremy Tunsil was worth a bounty to the Texans, who sent two first-rounders and a second-round pick to Miami for Tunsil and Stills, Williams should still be worth at least a first-round pick. His relationship with the team appears unsalvageable, and it's not like Williams' problem was with Gruden.
Cornerback Josh Norman, Redskins: There's virtually no chance Norman is on the Redskins' roster next year at his current $12 million salary. Washington probably couldn't get much for the eighth-year pro, who ranks tied for 90th in Pro Football Focus' coverage grades, at this stage of his career, but they may as well salary-dump now rather than later.
Cornerback Janoris Jenkins, New York Giants: The Giants face the Patriots, Cardinals and Lions before the trade deadline. Unless they win two of those three games, Big Blue will be 3-5 at midseason at best and should be open to moving Jenkins, who has one more expensive year left on his contract. Jenkins is not among the top 80 cornerbacks in Pro Football Focus' coverage grades this season, so it's not like he's going to turn around this Giants defense. But a different team could see Jenkins' talent and believe the 30-year-old could still make a difference.
Cornerback Jalen Ramsey, Jacksonville Jaguars: Ramsey, who has missed two games with a back issue, has made it clear that his trade request stands with the organization. Owner Shad Khan smartly has also made it clear the team isn't interested in trading him. Giving up on your best players is rarely smart business, and Khan's public stance is only going to cause any interested teams to raise their offers. The Jaguars are in the mix in the AFC South at 2-3, and the current regime of Tom Coughlin and Doug Marrone should be happy that Khan isn't necessarily looking to the future. But if the Jaguars slide in the next few weeks and a strong offer comes Jacksonville's way, Khan will have to consider what vision of the Jaguars he sees in the coming years. It's certainly possible that vision includes Ramsey, but not Coughlin.
UNSTOPPABLE PERFORMANCE: Deshaun Watson, QB, Texans
HONORABLE MENTIONS:Panthers RB Christian McCaffreywas the Panthers' offense in a 34-27 win over the Jags. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers played what he felt was his "best game of the season" in Sunday's win over the Cowboys, helping Green Bay jump out to a 31-3 lead in Dallas despite failing to throw a single touchdown pass or top 240 yards.
Unstoppable Performance is presented by Courtyard by Marriott, the Official Hotel of the NFL.