TEMPE, Ariz. — Jay Gruden had opportunities to interview for head coaching jobs last season. But after one season as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator, he didn’t feel right making that move.
“I didn’t want to jump ship after the first phone call,” he said. “I wanted to go in there and see (quarterback) Andy Dalton progress another year, see (receiver) A.J. Green progress another year.”
Following his second season in Cincinnati, the 45-year-old Gruden was ready to listen, partly out of fear that other teams would “stop calling.”
Gruden’s first interview came Thursday at the Cardinals’ complex. After delivering the requisite praise for the organization, the Bidwills and receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Gruden acknowledged that there are issues that need resolving in Arizona.
“Obviously, when you’re looking for a new head coach, there are problems, and a few,” he said. “It’s not like it’s one problem, otherwise they would have identified it and fixed it by now.”
As everyone knows, those issues begin with the quarterback position, where the Cards used four different players — John Skelton, Kevin Kolb, Ryan Lindley and Brian Hoyer — in the starting role last year.
“Obviously, injuries and changes played a big part in that position, but you need stability in that position to be successful,” he said. “There’s not many successful teams in the history of the NFL that can say, ‘Hey, we had a great year. We played four quarterbacks.'”
Gruden was quick to point out that offensive failures do not rest solely on the quarterback, though.
“Sometimes it’s the left tackle, sometimes it’s the right guard, sometimes it’s the tight end running a bad route,” he said.
In terms of his philosophy for developing the quarterback position, Gruden said: “There’s a lot of teams looking for quarterbacks right now like Tom Brady. There’s not many of them out there. It’s important to try to develop somebody that you have in house or continue to look for a quality, top-notch guy. If you don’t have that guy, then you have to develop the skill set that the guys that you have have.
Prior to his two seasons with the Bengals, Gruden’s previous NFL experience came as an offensive assistant with Tampa Bay from 2002-08 under his brother and former Bucs head coach Jon Gruden, who currently serves as a Monday Night Football analyst. Tampa Bay won the Super Bowl in January 2003 and also made the playoffs in 2005 and 2007.
Jay Gruden also was coach of the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League in 2010, but his greatest success came in the Arena Football League, winning four ArenaBowls as a player and two more as a head coach early in his career.
How much does that AFL success mean at this level? “Probably not a lot,” he said.
Gruden has been a hot commodity since last season, when he was credited for Dalton’s progress as a rookie with the Bengals.
In his now-two-year career, Dalton has completed 629 of 1,044 passes (60.2 percent) for 7,067 yards with 47 touchdowns and 29 interceptions for a passer rating of 83.9. He finished the 2012 season ranked 13th in the league in passer rating at 87.4, completing 329 of 528 passes (62.3 percent) for 3,669 yards with 27 TDs and 16 INTs.
Gruden’s overall resume in Cincinnati does not scream smashing success. The Bengals’ offense ranked 22nd in the NFL in yards this season at 332.7 per game but was 12th in scoring at 24.4 points per game and 17th in passing at 223.6 yards per game. Last season, the Bengals’ offense ranked 20th overall (319.9 yards per game), 18th in scoring (21.5 points per game) and 20th in passing at 208.8 yards per game.
Gruden said his agent has spoken with several teams and that an interview is possible with the Philadelphia Eagles next week. He did not name any other teams.