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The Butterflies Are There, But Jay Gruden’s Ready

Posted Aug 7, 2014

Jay Gruden tonight will conduct his first game as a head coach in the NFL, as his Redskins take on the New England Patriots in both teams’ 2014 preseason opener.

Jay Gruden has had two “debut games” as a head coach, but nothing will compare to what he’ll feel tonight as he steps out onto the FedExField turf for the very first time.

Gruden will be making his debut as head coach of the Washington Redskins, and although it’s just a preseason matchup against the New England Patriots, the 47 year old said the game will still have that “first day of school” feel attached to it.

“I’m going to be excited, obviously, running out for the first time,” he told the media Wednesday at the team’s training camp home in Richmond, Va.

Gruden has had two other stints as a head coach in football, but never in the National Football League. From 1998 to 2001, he was head coach of the Arena Football League’s Orlando Predators, and in 2010, he spent a season as the head coach of the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League, before spending three years as the Cincinnati Bengals’ offensive coordinator.

Gruden’s post-college football career dates back to 1990, when he was quarterback of the Barcelona Dragons and the Sacramento Surge of the World League of American Football (WLAF). Since that time, Gruden has soaked in a lot of different coaching methods from a lot of different head coaches — including his own brother, Jon, with whom he spent seven seasons from 2002 to 2008 with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Accordingly, Gruden knows he has a lot more responsibilities on his plate as the head coach — more than the average fan might consider. For example:

• How should the team come out for pregame warmups?

• Which coaches will be on the sidelines, and which coaches will be in the booth?

• What will his team’s replay strategy be? Who all will be involved in those decisions?

Gruden, with the help of his staff and general manager Bruce Allen, addressed those very issues on Wednesday, even practicing how the various positional groups will run out on the field for warmups.

“My biggest thing is I want to make sure we keep order on the sideline, we look like we know what we’re doing, and it’s not a big chaotic situation on the sideline,” Gruden said. “Sometimes you have 90 guys on the sideline and you’re looking for people all over the place, guys have got their helmets off, pads off and they’ve got to go in the game. We got to make sure we have some order and we look like we know what we’re doing.”

Gruden also said he’s not likely to get cute in his first game as an NFL head coach by running abnormal formations or pulling a few trick plays out of his hat to try to impress the Hall of Fame-bound head coach on the other sideline, Bill Belichick.

“It’s all about playing football — letting these guys play,” Gruden said. “We want to line up, see if our guys can come off the ball and block for the running backs, see if our running backs can run, break tackles, fall forward, make people miss, see if our receivers can get off the jam and run some routes, see if our quarterbacks can stand in there and throw it. Defensively, we’ve got to line up and smash them and get off blocks and pursue the football and find out who can cover and run and tackle.”

For Gruden, tonight’s opportunity is something he’s dreamed about for quite a while. And although he’s not oblivious enough to completely ignore the accomplishment, Gruden said he owes it to his team, the coaching staff and Redskins fans to not get caught up in that moment.

“(The) butterflies will be there before the game, but once the game starts, man, it’s business,” Gruden said. “And the biggest thing is (to) get our guys out there and let them perform and try to find our best 53 moving forward.”

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REDSKINS ON TV: Don’t forget to catch all the action between the Washington Redskins and the New England Patriots at 7:30 p.m. Thursday on NBC-4 and Comcast SportsNet! 

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