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Could Jon Gruden be the Trump Card?

January 31, 2017
Kirk Cousins is a free-agent and his supporters are coming out swinging.

Jay Gruden said last week to reporters in Mobile that he fully anticipated Cousins’ return in 2017. So did Bruce Allen. I’m pretty sure Allen is not as sold on Cousins as Gruden is and others like Sean McVay, Kyle Shanahan and Mike Shanahan are, but he could be inching closer.

On Sunday night’s ESPN Pro Bowl broadcast, Jon Gruden was even more effusive in his praise saying that Cousins is “far and away their best player.”

Gruden, the older brother of Jay and a Super Bowl winning head coach, went on to say “I believe Kirk Cousins is a guy you can win with. I think he’s going nowhere.”

OK, so everybody is making proclamations that Kirk Cousins is staying. Maybe they mean just in 2017, but that will be determined later.

Jon Gruden has a bias towards Cousins beyond the fact that his younger brothers’ NFL head coaching opportunity hangs in the balance. As I first reported a few years ago, while working at another radio station, Cousins started working with the elder Gruden during the off-season.

This was when Robert Griffin III was still the starter and while Jay was Cousin’s head coach, after he was benched and kept off the field, down the stretch, in an awful 2014 season.

Cousins, to his credit, wanted to work with Jon at the “F.F.C.A” (Fired Football Coaches Association, made infamous by Gruden on ESPN) and it apparently helped. He wasn’t allowed to work with the younger Gruden at that time of the year and he strengthened his relationship with the older Gruden. 

All Cousins has done since that point is help deliver 17 wins, a division title and 9,083 passing yards along with 54 passing touchdowns and nine rushing scores. That's all. 

Now, as we all know, Cousins has more than done his part and he's a free agent. He's not leaving for just a compensatory pick. Everybody knows that. The Redskins have options and they really control all the cards. Cousins' value & the viewpoints of his worth are largely mixed in legitimate NFL circles but he plays a position that has a very limited success ratio and he's played well. He's not elite but he's good to very good. If he walks, the Redskins will regret it and Jay Gruden will be put in a brutal spot. 

Make no mistake, the elder Gruden knows that his younger brother has virtually no chance at success in 2017, without Cousins.

That’s the truth. Everybody knows it and should know it. If they did have success without Cousins, it would be a mini-miracle.

So here’s a question that got me thinking: Could Jon Gruden be Jay Gruden and Kirk Cousins’ not-so secret weapon when it comes to securing a long-term deal with the Redskins?

Scoff if you wish, but here’s my point and why I think his opinions and analysis carries a ton of weight.

Jon is not only a prominent analyst with a huge stage, but he’s also somebody that Bruce Allen trusts implicitly. The two have a long-standing relationship that directly led to Jay getting the Redskins job. 

You might remember that Allen and Jon worked together in Oakland with the Raiders, when they were last good before this past season.

(Jon Gruden & Bruce Allen at Redskins Park - Photo courtesy of The Washington Post)

Allen won the Executive of the Year award in Oakland in 2002, after Gruden left to become the head coach of the Tampa Bay Bucs, winning a Super Bowl in his first season in Tampa, over Allen’s Raiders.

The head coach that replaced Gruden was Bill Callahan. See how this all works?

After Gruden’s Bucs beat Allen and Callahan’s Raiders in the Super Bowl, Allen eventually joined Gruden in Tampa replacing Rich McKay, whose relationship with Gruden soured.

Allen and Gruden together rebuilt the Bucs from a (5-11) team to having three winning seasons in their final four years together.

Gruden and Allen were eventually fired by the Bucs after a second consecutive (9-7) season in 2008. Gruden has never coached another game while Allen took over the Skins in late 2009.

While the older Gruden has chosen to stay away, while getting paid extremely well by ESPN with very little pressure, his influence is still extremely strong.

He could have replaced Mike Shanahan if he wanted the job. He didn’t, but his brother sure did. The older Gruden wanted his brother to have the gig as well, so he leaned on his longtime friend, Allen, to hire him. We all know how that has turned out as the younger Gruden enters year number four of his tenure in Washington.

Yes, Scot McCloughan is in charge of the 53-man roster and makes the day-to-day football decisions but make no mistake about this: Bruce Allen is the top dog. He’s the man who makes things happen inside Redskins Park because Dan Snyder empowered him.

Allen is not known for his football acumen, instead, his specialty is the business side of the NFL and politics. In a political town, you lean on advisors when you have a tough decision to make.

I can’t possibly say this for sure, but if Jon Gruden knows that the future of his younger brother is in peril because of his quarterbacks’ future and if Jon Gruden has the influence that I know he has with Bruce Allen, could Jon’s evaluation combined with Jay’s evaluation and desire out-weigh any desire to try and recoup a large compensation package for Cousins via the non-exclusive tag? Could it all lead to a lucrative long-term deal and stability for both Cousins and the younger Gruden? Even at a much higher price tag than Allen wants to pay? 

It makes sense to me. Perhaps you don’t give the older Gruden’s influence as much credence as I do, but that’s probably because you abhor the idea of the “Tampa connection” that many fans are frustrated with and you are ignoring the reality of how life works.

We all lean on those we respect and value for advice and consultation. Whether it’s a friend, a wife or a parent – we all do it. Sometimes we don’t listen and a lot of times we do. This is what human beings do.

At last check, Bruce Allen was a human being who controls a sports franchise that is worth nearly three BILLION dollars and one that has an awful stadium situation and a poor 20-plus year history.

Allen’s plan last year was to not pay Kirk Cousins fairly for what he had done and what the market dictated. He made that decision. He screwed up badly and Cousins threw for nearly 5,000 yards.

Now the Redskins are in an awful bind. It stands to reason that after thinking he had all the answers last year and how badly that turned out, he would turn to one of his close friends for consultation on what to do with Cousins.

The older Gruden doesn’t make any decisions but his influence and recommendation are still highly valuable to an executive like Allen who is in a very tricky situation.

That influence and opinion could lead the Redskins to finally doing the right thing and securing Kirk Cousins long-term. Hopefully for Allen, he’s doing more than just listening. 

Chris Russell has covered the Washington Redskins for six seasons for multiple media outlets and was a part of the Redskins Radio Network broadcast team for the last five. He covers the Redskins for Monumental Network (,, & Warpath Magazine. Listen to Chris on Washington D.C.'s # 1 sports radio station, 106.7 The FAN