Owner Dan Snyder and President Bruce Allen summoned coach Jay Gruden to the Washington team’s facility before dawn Monday to tell him he was being fired.
“It was a brief conversation,” Allen said.
Now comes a longer conversation about the status of the floundering franchise that has won just two playoff games in Snyder’s two decades of ownership and zero during Allen’s tenure. Gruden is out after an 0-5 start to his sixth season and is the latest in a long line of Washington coaches to take the fall for significant organizational shortcomings.
“To make a decision like this is difficult, but it was necessary,” Allen said in a 13-minute news conference. “Our 0-5 start is not just disappointing. We had much different expectations for the beginning of the season.”
The team went 35-49-1 overall under Gruden, with one playoff appearance in the 2015 season. A popular coach among players and a smart offensive mind, Gruden struggled in preparing his teams: Washington went 1-5 in season openers and lost a win-and-get-in game in Week 17 in 2016 against the New York Giants, who had nothing to play for.
Despite never before being a head coach in the NFL, and despite never winning more than nine games in a season, Gruden managed to stick around longer than anyone else who’s held that job during Snyder’s unsuccessful stint as owner.
(At) San Francisco 31, Cleveland 3: Richard Sherman has a strong message for anyone still doubting the unbeaten San Francisco 49ers.
“Don’t flip-flop,” Sherman said after the 49ers thumped the Browns. “If you said we weren’t going to make it, you said we were some way early on, stick with that position. Hold it. Don’t try to give us credit now. At least stick by you word because I want you to sound like an idiot at the end. We know what we have in the building.”
What the 49ers have is their best start since Joe Montana was throwing touchdowns to Jerry Rice.
But it wasn’t the passing game that carried San Francisco past Cleveland. A steady, pounding running game and a dominant defensive effort did the trick this time.
Matt Breida ran 83 yards for a touchdown on San Francisco’s first play from scrimmage, Baker Mayfield was harassed into his worst game as a pro, and the 49ers stayed unbeaten for their best start in nearly 30 years.
Even then, there were some questioning San Francisco’s legitimacy.
“I feel like they’re going to say that all year about us,” said Breida, who had 114 yards on 11 carries. “I don’t think anyone expected us to be 4-0 this year, to be honest. Probably expected us to be 0-4. They can say whatever they want. All that matters is who’s in this locker room.”
Tevin Coleman added a 19-yard score as part of a dominant ground game on a day when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo passed for 181 yards and kicker Robbie Gould missed a pair of field goal attempts and had a third try blocked.
San Francisco (4-0) joined the 5-0 New England Patriots as the only remaining undefeated teams in the NFL. It’s the first time the 49ers have won their first four games since 1990.
“It’s a good start is really all it is,” Garoppolo said. “We have a good mindset in that locker room.”
The Browns (2-3) are headed the opposite direction after losing two of three, with fresh concerns about their young quarterback.
“You can’t have mistakes. You can’t have turnovers. You can’t have drops. You can’t have penalties,” Cleveland coach Freddie Kitchens said. “Offensively, that kind of summed us up. We just shot ourselves in the foot too many times.”
Mayfield had a horrible game. The No. 1 overall pick last year, Mayfiaeld completed 8 of 22 passes for a career-low 100 yards, had a 13.4 passer rating, threw two interceptions, fumbled twice and was sacked four times before being pulled in the fourth quarter.
It’s the first time in Mayfield’s 18 career starts that he failed to throw a touchdown pass.
“It was like one step forward, two back,” Mayfield said. “No rhythm for the offense to get into. And when we did, we just got down in the red zone and didn’t finish. The inconsistency is killing us right now.”
Things were rough all around for Mayfield.
San Francisco defensive end Nick Bosa poked fun at the Browns quarterback after forcing Mayfield into a hurried incompletion in the second quarter. Bosa, the second overall draft pick, got up and pretended to wave a flag and plant it in the turf as the crowd roared. It was a clear shot at Mayfield, who planted an Oklahoma flag in the turf after leading the Sooners to win over Bosa and Ohio State in 2017.
“I think everybody knows what that was for,” Bosa said. “Just wanted to get payback. He had it coming.”
San Francisco forced four turnovers overall.
The 49ers were coming off a bye and had two weeks to prepare, while the Browns flew cross country.
Breida raced past the Browns’ front line and went untouched on his long touchdown run, waving to safety Demarious Randall as he sprinted into the end zone with the 49ers longest run of the season.
Fans at Levi’s Stadium barely settled back into their seats when Sherman picked off Mayfield near midfield, setting a rough tone for Cleveland’s second-year quarterback.
Breida and Coleman combined for 211 rushing yards as San Francisco outgained Cleveland 275-102 on the ground.
Jones heading to Raiders
Receiver Zay Jones is going from the end of the Buffalo Bills bench to landing a fresh start with the Raiders after being traded to Oakland, a person familiar with the deal confirmed to the Associated Press.
Buffalo acquired a fifth-round pick in the 2021 draft, according to the person who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the trade has not been announced. ESPN.com first reported the deal.
The trade comes as both teams enter their bye weeks, and a day after Jones sat on the Bills bench for all but one snap in a 14-7 win at Tennessee.
Rookie Duke Williams took over Jones’ role as the No. 3 receiver and scored the decisive touchdown on a 7-yard catch in the fourth quarter a day after being promoted from the practice squad. Jones was upbeat following the game, and drew praise from Williams for providing him support before and during the game.
Jones’ benching came a week after he was faulted for not helping break up one of three interceptions thrown by Josh Allen in a 16-10 loss to New England. He also had a potential go-ahead touchdown glance off his fingertips in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
Buffalo is 4-1, while Oakland improved to 3-2 following a 24-21 win over Chicago in a game played at London.
Tweets crack back on Lewan
Bills defensive tackle Jordan Phillips found another opening to beat Taylor Lewan (Michigan) — this time on social media.
Lean, the Titans’ three-time Pro Bowl left tackle, gave a shout-out Monday on Twitter to Bills defensive end Shaq Lawson for his production as a first-round pick with a screen shot of Lawson’s stats through Sunday’s 14-7 win by Buffalo. Lawson had no tackles or sacks in the game.
Phillips, a defensive tackle who had a career-high three sacks by halftime, wrote that Lewan, back after a four-game suspension, should get drug tested again and called him a “soft cry baby.”
Phillips then shared a couple of videos of Lawson tying up Lewan so he could get his second sack followed by a tweet with a screen grab of a story for Lewan failing a drug test earlier this year with “People don’t forget @taylorlewan77.”
Giants coach Pat Shurmur (Michigan State) said that Sterling Shepard is back in the concussion protocol for the second time this season, probably ruling the wide receiver out for Thursday’s game against the Patriots.
... The Titans have released kicker Cairo Santos a day after he missed three field goals and had a fourth blocked.
... The Patriots have released tight end Ben Watson.