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."