The atmosphere Jay Gruden would create seemed like something Washington needed. Not because the players disliked Mike Shanahan, but because it would be different. After the end of last season, different was welcomed.
And, for one player at least, different was needed.
Funny thing is, that's what they're saying in Cincinnati, too. At least to some degree. Here's what ESPN Bengals reporter Coley Harvey wrote in an item on quarterback Andy Dalton.
"Credit Cincinnati's new offensive coordinator for sending the right message through the media in February when he promised from the NFL combine to be just the disciplinarian the team needs. He felt there were players on the team who hadn't been coached hard lately who needed to be. Dalton was one of them, he said. He wanted Dalton and receiver A.J. Green to blossom into bigger leaders as they entered their fourth seasons.
"If a guy's not performing at a high level, there's a reason," [offensive coordinator Hue] Jackson said in February. "They have work to do, but it's my job as leader of the group, along with the head coach, to create that environment to be all they can be."
"Jackson has been known for much of his career as being a Mike Zimmer-type of coach, one who isn't afraid to check players. He will be the first to curse them out when they've done wrong and shower them with praise when they've done right. It's clear that Jackson's prodding has been received by Dalton.
"He's going to push guys," Dalton said of Jackson's coaching style Monday. "[Former offensive coordinator] Jay [Gruden] had a different style than what Hue is going to bring. Guys are just going to have to get used to how Hue does things. Obviously, we haven't been out to practice yet, so I don't know exactly what it's going to be like with Hue running everything now, but it is going to be a little different than Jay."
That's not to say Gruden's style didn't work. The Bengals went from 32nd to 20th in total yards in the three years before Gruden arrived as offensive coordinator. Under him, they went 20th, 22nd and 10th in total yards. They also went 18th, 12th and sixth in total points (in the three years prior: 32, 22 and 22).
And he helped Dalton play better than many thought he could. But three straight one-and-done playoff appearances, with a sputtering offense, led some to believe the Bengals' offense might be better off with a new voice. Enter Jackson.
That said, the Redskins hope Gruden's voice is exactly the one that takes them places. One thing to note: The Redskins coach who might be the biggest disciplinarian could be special-teams coach Ben Kotwica, who has a military background. A coach like this is needed; too many player-friendly coaches can lead to issues (just like if all were disciplinarians). But we still don't know how Gruden will be as a head coach.
Anyway, if the Redskins do improve this season, there will be many contributing factors: a physically better Robert Griffin III and signing receivers DeSean Jackson and Andre Roberts. But one thing Gruden had in Cincinnati was a strong relationship with Dalton. If he develops one with Griffin, that, too, would help.
If not, the Redskins will look for their own disciplinarian in a few years.