LANDOVER, Md. (AP) — For his first preseason game as an NFL head coach, Jay Gruden said his goal was to “eliminate the chaos” on the sideline.
Did he succeed?
“It was chaotic more so for me than everybody else,” the Washington Redskins coach said with a chuckle. “It was a little crazy just with all the headsets.”
Gruden only needed the offense pumped into his ears during his three years as an offensive coordinator with the Cincinnati Bengals. Now he was monitoring offense, defense and special teams and managing all the constituent parts.
“Having 85 to 90 guys on the sideline,” he said. “It’s rough.”
History will record that Gruden managed his debut just fine. The Redskins beat the New England Patriots 23-6 Thursday night.
“Unfortunately,” he said, “it doesn’t count.”
Robert Griffin III played only one series, and Tom Brady and most of the Patriots starters didn’t play at all in a game that served mostly as an audition for players trying to move up the depth chart or simply make the roster.
Griffin completed 2 of 4 passes for 9 yards, and Alfred Morris ran for 27 yards in an 11-play drive that ended with a 39-yard field goal from Kai Forbath. Forbath hit the right upright from 34 yards, but he was given a second chance because the Redskins were whistled for delay of game.
“We came out and did what we wanted to do,” Griffin said. “Got the 1’s in and out, had an effective drive. Got some points, almost had a touchdown.”
That was enough Griffin for Gruden, who is in charge of reviving the Redskins — and the franchise quarterback, in particular — after last year’s 3-13 tension-filled season that got coach Mike Shanahan fired.
Gruden, 47, looked boyish manning the sideline in a burgundy horizontal-striped team shirt, while New England’s Bill Belichick sported the more traditional Patriots short-sleeve blue — it was too warm for his hoodie.
Griffin, who didn’t get to play in the preseason a year ago while rehabbing from major knee surgery, said Gruden was “funny” on the sideline — an adjective most definitely not associated with Shanahan.
“He’s not telling me knock-knock jokes as he’s giving me plays,” Griffin said, “But just on the sideline, you kind of get to see how (the coaches) dialogue. They have a good time on the sideline and that’s good to see.”
The Patriots held sway earlier in the week when the teams held three days of joint practices at Washington’s training camp facility in Richmond, Virginia. The sessions showed the Redskins have a ways to go before they can match the polish and efficiency of a perennial Super Bowl contender.
So Thursday turned into a well-deserved day off for all but nine of New England’s projected opening day starting 22, including Brady, top offseason acquisition Darrelle Revis, receivers Danny Amendola and Julian Edelman and linebacker Jerod Mayo. Tight end Rob Gronkowski also remains out as he recovers from knee surgery.
The backups failed to do much to pick up the slack. Ryan Mallett started at quarterback and completed 5 of 12 passes for 55 yards. Second-round pick Jimmy Garoppolo played the second half and went 8 for 12 for 141 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown to Brian Tyms.
“I didn’t think really we did very many things the way we wanted to do them tonight,” Belichick said. “We just weren’t very good in any phase of the game. We had the ball on the ground. Didn’t play well enough on defense. Didn’t move the ball, were in too many long-yardage situations. Not good enough in the kicking game. So just overall, we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The Redskins’ prized free agent pickup, receiver DeSean Jackson, was also sidelined after hurting his left ankle during Wednesday’s practice. Among others sitting out for Washington were receiver Pierre Garcon, safety Ryan Clark and safety Phillip Thomas — all nursing hamstring injuries.
Kirk Cousins and Colt McCoy each threw touchdown passes for the Redskins, who have won seven consecutive preseason games. Last year they won more games in the preseason (four) than in the regular season (three).
Cousins finished 9 for 13 for 103 yards. McCoy was 8 for 9 for 102 yards.
Notes: Patriots second-year defensive tackle Chris Jones left with an ankle injury. … Forbath, facing a challenge from draft pick Zach Hocker, was short on a 46-yard attempt and put a kickoff out of bounds, while Hocker made field goals from 27 and 39 yards.
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