Speaking exclusively with Redskins.com, head coach Jay Gruden believes the team can become a serious playoff contender with a few changes and by relying on core veteran leadership.
For Redskins head coach Jay Gruden, watching the Eagles lift the Lombardi trophy a few weeks ago was a frustrating experience. Truth be told, it would have been frustrating watching anyone reach the pinnacle not dressed in burgundy and gold.
"I hate to watch any team win the Super Bowl except us. I want everybody to lose except us," Gruden told Larry Michael Wednesday in an exclusive interview with Redskins.com at the NFL Combine in Indianapolis.
The silver lining Gruden has taken from his division rival, however, is that reaching the Super Bowl – even becoming a heavy playoff contender – can be achieved in the course of one offseason. It requires shrewd free agent signings and a smart draft strategy, sure, but also having the right kind of leadership at critical junctures in the season.
"Seeing how you can improve from one year to the next is motivation for all of us," Gruden said. "We can all do it and I think it's something to seriously look at – how they did it, how they went through it and how they got on that roll."
As he continues to evaluate the way in which the Redskins can jump into serious contention this season, Gruden believes the elemental factor rests on continuity.
"We're right there [to being a playoff contender], no doubt about it," he said. The reason for his optimism lays first on having a healthier team.
Because of the massive amounts of injuries the Redskins sustained last year, especially to players in key positions on offense and defense, new faces filtered into the locker room nearly every week.
With nearly the entire coaching staff returning, Gruden is confident that the team will begin offseason workouts in April developing and growing closer as a unit when it often couldn't last fall.
"Chad [Englehart] in the weight room is going to do a great job, Larry [Hess is] going to get these guys' bodies right," Gruden said. "Our coaches are going to do a good job demanding a lot out of them, I just think that we have to focus in and figure out ways we can get better schematically and then make sure that we have great camaraderie, play together both sides of the ball. We've got to get to know each other a little better. We had so many people coming out of our lineup last year, it's hard to get any continuity. So I think the biggest thing we can improve on is our continuity, getting along with one another, rooting for one another to do well and push one another to do great things."
Even before Gruden knows how free agency and the NFL Draft will play out, how they will start to shape certain position groups, his confidence in the team's chances to compete at a high level next year mainly stem from the stable of veterans -- on both sides of the ball -- eager to get the bad taste of last year out of their mouths.
"I think we'll make some necessary changes schematically, player-wise, but for the most part I feel great about our veteran leadership," Gruden said. "Ryan Kerrigan, Preston Smith now a veteran type guy, we've got Swag back there, Josh Norman on defense, Mason Foster linebacker, Jonathan Allen coming back, we've got a good cor guys on defense. Offensively with Jamison coming back again and you know our offensive line is really our meat and potatoes of our team, Vernon Davis, Jordan Reed coming back, the running back situation it will all work. Out. When you have a good offensive and defensive line I think you can compete with anybody at anytime."