The trio of Gruden, Garcon, and Jackson worked together in Washington from 2014-16. During a recent radio interview, Gruden discussed one of the ugliest moments in his tenure as head coach, as well as his problems with Garcon and Jackson’s attitudes during that time.
Jay Gruden just publicly ripped DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon
Let’s go all the way back to December 2015, when Jay Gruden was in his second season as the Washington Redskins’ head coach.
With Kirk Cousins as the unquestioned starting quarterback, Washington was about to win the NFC East Division for the second time in four seasons. But to do so, Washington had to defeat the rival Philadelphia Eagles in Week 16.
Washington led 16-10 and sat at the Eagles’ 6-yard line with six seconds left in the first half. Rather than try to score, Cousins famously took a knee.
According to Gruden, Garcon refused to run a fade play at the goal line. Gruden explained what happened from there.
“So [Garcon] stood there, like three yards from a tackle, in a stance like he’s not gonna run it. DeSean is standing there like, ‘Just kick the field goal.’ Kirk panicked, he had nothing to do, so he just took a knee and that was the end of the half. I’ve never seen a receiver actually turn down an opportunity to score a touchdown, which is what happened on that play. Unbelievable.”
Washington wound up winning the game, 38-24. After the earlier incident, Garcon caught a 13-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter.
Gruden made interesting comments about Jackson in 2016
Jay Gruden wasn’t always one who stuck to ‘coach speak’ while coaching the Washington Redskins.
Take the 2016 season, which was DeSean Jackson’s final year in Washington. Jackson ended the year with 56 receptions for 1,005 yards and four touchdowns.
Despite the high yardage total, Jackson ranked fourth on the team in catches. Pierre Garcon led all players with 79 receptions and 1,041 yards.
According to USA Today, Gruden addressed Jackson’s lack of targets in early-December.
“It’s hard to keep a receiver like him happy. He’s a guy that feels like he can dominate the game at all times. If he is not feeling like he’s dominating the game the way he should, he gets a little frustrated. Most great receivers in the history of the game are like that.”
One can interpret Gruden’s comments solely as praise, but others may see some passive-aggressiveness and veiled shots at Jackson.
Jackson signed with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in March 2017. The San Francisco 49ers signed Garcon to a five-year contract that same month, although he only lasted two seasons in California.
Jay Gruden looked back at those days with nostalgia
Jay Gruden sounds like a conflicted man when it comes to discussing DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garcon.
By his own admission, Gruden “loved” coaching the two receivers. With that said, Gruden said he thought the two had “some jealousy issues,” especially after Cousins became the full-time starter in 2015.
“When they got in the huddle, I don’t know what happened, if they gave Kirk a hard time, made Kirk uncomfortable. ‘Throw me the ball,’ ‘throw me the ball,’ it could have been like that. But there wasn’t really the true camaraderie, I would say, between the three of them, in my opinion.”
All three of those figures could be out of the NFL in 2021. Jacksonville didn’t retain Gruden as its offensive coordinator, and the Eagles just cut Jackson after a failed second stint there.
Garcon hasn’t played in the NFL since 2018.