- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins wanted a methodical search, hoping to interview numerous candidates. Until they found the guy they knew they had to have. And late in the day Wednesday, near the end of their interviews with Jay Gruden, they knew it was time to act.
It wasn't anything Gruden, the Cincinnati Bengals' offensive coordinator, said in particular. But it was about everything they knew and had heard. They liked his enthusiasm. They liked his vision. They liked his people skills.
"We're sorry for the Bengals' [playoff] loss," Washington Redskins general manager Bruce Allen said. "But it worked out great for us. … Once Jay's interview was about three-quarters through, we knew he was the right guy. It was a unanimous decision."
The Bengals found a quick replacement for Gruden, promoting running backs coach Hue Jackson to offensive coordinator.
The Redskins gave Gruden a five-year deal, a longer one than the typical first-time NFL head coach. But they wanted to provide him with as much confidence as possible to do the job right. Washington also made sure he didn't make it out of town for a scheduled interview with the Minnesota Vikings. Gruden had interviewed with the Tennessee Titans earlier in the week.
But in the end Gruden's familiarity with a number of people already in the Redskins organization made a difference. He worked for Allen while both were at Tampa Bay -- Gruden spent seven seasons as an offensive assistant there -- and also has worked with three members of the coaching staff in the past: defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, secondary coach Raheem Morris and tight ends coach Sean McVay. Gruden said he also was attracted by a desire to work with quarterback Robert Griffin III.
"It's an unbelievable feeling," Gruden said. "It makes you nervous. It makes you excited. A lot of different emotions are knifing through you. I want to get started right now, but there's so much to do before you get started."
Gruden inherits a team that not only went 3-13 this past season, but was the target of one anonymous-source story after another in the final month, poisoning the atmosphere at Redskins Park. They are one year removed from a division title.
"I don't know what happened last year," Gruden said. "All I care about is next year moving forward. We'll forget about the past and look forward to the future."
He said he wasn't bothered by all the negativity that surrounded the franchise this past season -- and throughout various times in the past 15 years.
"I hear [the stories], but I don't always believe all the reports," he said. "I wasn't in the locker room. I was worried about my season and my team. When I'm with the Washington Redskins I'm not going to read about the Eagles or the Cowboys. I'll worry about the Washington Redskins' locker room and making sure we're one team with one goal.
"[But] when you're 3-13, there's not one particular player or reason. There's a lot of reasons and a lot of things that need to be fixed."
Gruden is not the typical Redskins coaching hire under owner Dan Snyder. He lacks the sizzle of coaches such as Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier, Joe Gibbs and Mike Shanahan. But he also didn't come out of nowhere like Jim Zorn.
But Gruden certainly has worked his way up the ladder, having coached in the Arena Football League, the United Football League and three years as the offensive coordinator for the Bengals. He helped develop second-round pick Andy Dalton into an immediate starter and three-time playoff participant for Cincinnati, though his offenses sputtered in each of those three losses.
"If you look at his resume, it's broad, it's deep," Allen said. "He's done every job in football. ... He has a credible resume. His passion is contagious. He's a great people person and he's always been that."
However, he also has a more famous, and accomplished, brother in Jon, a former coach of the Buccaneers and Oakland Raiders, and current broadcaster for ESPN's "Monday Night Football." And that's led to some wondering if he's ready for this sort of opportunity after only three years as a coordinator.
"It's everyone's opinion, they can say I'm ready or not," Gruden said. "I've had to deal with players my whole life. Whatever level you're coaching, whether it's the Arena or UFL, you still have to motivate and coach and teach players to compete and motivate different types of players, good guys and bad guys. You have to weather storms. ... There's a lot of things you can learn from whatever league you coach to get ready. My strength is dealing with players and motivating players and keeping players excited to come to work and playing and not let them get too high or too low."
Gruden was the sixth prospective coach Washington interviewed, but the likely target all along. Allen liked him from their five seasons together in Tampa Bay. But he also said that if the Bengals had defeated San Diego in the first round of the playoffs, the search might have taken a different turn; they would not have had a long meeting with Gruden and instead might have focused harder on San Diego offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt or others.
Allen said even though he knew Gruden well, they last worked together in 2008. Gruden has matured since then. He also didn't get lost in just the offensive positives -- and negatives -- of his time in Cincinnati.
After this past season, Allen wanted a fresh outlook.
"We knew it was more than just X's and O's," Allen said. "It was about finding the right person to build the team chemistry that we needed."