Jay Gruden on Washington’s draft strategy: Daniel Snyder ‘would come in off his yacht and make the pick’

Jay Gruden was the head coach in Washington for five-plus seasons. The team went just 35-49-1 during his tenure, making the playoffs as the 9-7 NFC East champions during his second season and then never again. After that 2017 campaign, the team slowly backslid to 8-7-1, then 7-9, 7-9 again, and finally 0-5 before Gruden was fired during the 2019 season. 

There are a number of reasons why the team didn’t take the next step, including but not limited to the organization’s disastrous handling of its quarterback situation. How much of what happened and how much could be laid at the feet of the front office is up for debate, but it appears Gruden hasn’t gotten over one specific aspect of his time with Washington. 

In an interview with the Washington Post regarding former vice president of player personnel Kyle Smith (who recently left for a role with the Atlanta Falcons), Gruden took aim at team owner Daniel Snyder, whom Gruden says interfered with the draft process. 

“Every year that I was there, we had a pretty good draft class, with a couple exceptions,” Gruden told the Post. “[Smith] was really good about listening to the coaches because the coaches also did evaluations. … When it came our time to pick, we’d always talk about the picks, where we’d like to go, what happens if [the player] is gone, and did all our scenarios. And then [owner Daniel Snyder] would come in off his yacht and make the pick.”

The table below shows Washington’s round-by-round draft picks during Gruden’s tenure with the team, with bold names representing the players who eventually became either starters or rotational contributors in Washington or elsewhere. The team actually did fairly well, all things considered, but it’s well-known that Snyder pounded the table for specific players, including 2019 first-rounder Dwayne Haskins, who was unceremoniously released by the team during the 2020 season. 

Year 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
2019 Dwayne Haskins, Montez Sweat N/A Terry McLaurin Bryce Love, Wes Martin Ross Pierschbacher, Cole Holcomb Kelvin Harmon Jimmy Moreland, Jordan Brailford
2018 Daron Payne Derrius Guice Geron Christian Troy Apke Tim Settle Shaun Dion Hamilton Greg Stroman, Trey Quinn
2017 Jonathan Alen Ryan Anderson Fabian Moreau Samaje Perine, Montae Nicholson Jeremy Sprinkle Chase Roullier, Robert Davis Josh Harvey-Clemons, Joshua Holsey
2016 Josh Doctson Su’a Cravens Kendall Fuller N/A Matt Ionnidis Nate Sudfeld Steven Daniels, Ketih Marshall
2015 Brandon Scherff Preston Smith Matt Jones Jamison Crowder, Arie Kouandjio Martrell Spaight Kysheon Jarrett, Tevin Mitchel, Evan Spencer Austin Reiter
2014 N/A Trent Murphy Morgan Moses, Spencer Long Bashaud Breeland Ryan Grant Lache Seastrunk Ted Bolser, Zach Hocker

Snyder revamped the team’s front office, scouting department, and coaching staff after letting go of Gruden and others, but there is, of course, always the potential that he could interfere again. If and when he does, it seems unlikely to go well.

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