Well, I am certainly not at a loss for material today. However, one topic that seems to be “hot” at the moment deals with the Washington Redskins and the future of Mike Shanahan as their head coach. Since I live in the DC suburbs, I am inundated with this soap opera. However, I do not root for the Washington Redskins any more or less than I root for any team in the NFL and so I can adopt a bemused attitude with regard to what is going on now, stand back and get ready for the train-wreck.
Let me give you my bottom line up front. The Redskins should NOT fire Mike Shanahan now; and if rational thinking were to prevail in the upper echelons of the Redskins’ organization – for the first time in a very long time let me add –, they will not fire Mike Shanahan when this season is over. Yes, the Redskins have been hugely disappointing this year given that they were a division champion just a year ago. Yes, there are problems within the organization. Nonetheless, Mike Shanahan should remain the coach – and that does not mean that I think he is a great coach because I do not.
The fundamental reasons the Redskins did not do well this year are obvious:
RG3 is not nearly as mobile/agile/fast as he was last year. That forced him to become a pocket passer. He never did that before and he is in a learning curve to become one.
The pass receiving corps for the Redskins taken as a whole is woefully substandard.
Inexperienced QB + Bad pass receivers = Sputtering offense
The Redskins’ defense is nowhere near good enough to survive – let alone win – without an efficient and effective offense.
The Redskins have had a salary cap penalty for the past two seasons that has limited them in terms of signing players.
Exacerbating those issues are the hugely overblown expectations that fans, the Washington media and probably Redskins’ execs too had for a team that was not a great team last year but one that “went on a run” to win their division. Back in August, there were some in this area who were “analyzing” if the Redskins could possibly have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs this year. Seriously…
Firing Mike Shanahan will not cure a single one of those fundamental problems. Firing Mike Shanahan might make Danny Boy Snyder feel good as he flexes his muscles and preens behind a microphone; firing Mike Shanahan will definitely make the fanbase feel good thinking that with him gone the glory days are just around the corner [They are not.]; firing Mike Shanahan will give the scribes in the DC area column material for 3 months.
If one is a Redskins’ fan here are a couple of reasons why keeping Mike Shanahan is the less worse idea:
Danny Boy Snyder has gone shopping for coaches 5 times since he bought the team in the late 90s. When Marty Schottenheimer came to the Skins, he had won about 65% of his NFL games; he lasted a year. When Steve Spurrier came, that would revolutionize NFL football forever; he lasted 2 years. When St. Joseph of Gibbs returned to bring glory back to the franchise, he lasted 4 years. When Jim Zorn came here, people marveled at the boldness of that selection; he lasted 2 years. Then came the Mike Shanahan with his 2 Super Bowl rings and here we are today.
The constant here is the dysfunctional organization known as the Washington Redskins. If Mike Shanahan goes, the same leader of that same dysfunctional organization will be on the prowl to bring in the next genius coach. He has not been able to identify one to date; why should he do so this time – other than blind stupid luck?
I said above that I do not think Mike Shanahan is a particularly good coach. I do not think he is a bad coach; I think he is an ordinary coach. Remember Danny Boy Snyder is paying Mike Shanahan something on the order of $7M per year to be an ordinary coach with a 24-37 record. If you want to make the economic argument that paying top dollar for “ordinary” is a bad business strategy, I will concede that point. However, lest anyone tries to throw those 2 Super Bowl rings at me as evidence that I do not now my ass from the 50-yardline, let me review the bidding for you.
In 1992, Mike Shanahan was hired on to be the offensive coordinator for the SF 49ers. Steve Young, Jerry Rice, John Taylor and Ricky Watters were already there waiting for him to show up. In 92 and 93, the Niners made it to the NFC Conference Championship Game. Not surprisingly, their offense was very good and basking in that reflected glory was the offensive coordinator, Mike Shanahan.
In 1995, Mike Shanahan became the head coach of the Denver Broncos. Waiting for him there were:
Terrell Davis – a runner who gained 2000 yards in a single season who would likely be in the HoF had his career not been cut short by a knee injury.
Gary Zimmerman – an OT who is in the HoF and who made the “All-Decade Team” for the 1980s and for the 1990s.
Shannon Sharpe – a HoF tight end.
John Elway – enough said…
By 1997-1998, that team was winning the Super Bowl and Mike Shanahan was a certified offensive genius. Then John Elway retired after the 98 season; and in the intervening years, Mike Shanahan has won exactly ONE playoff game.
That is why I say he is an “ordinary coach”. When presented with a squad loaded with talent, he does not screw it up; he utilizes that talent and the team wins games. That is the coaching equivalent of that part of the Hippocratic Oath where one pledges to do no harm. However, he has never built up a team to achieve great success nor was he able to maintain the high level of the Broncos as those players aged and moved on. That is what great coaches do.
In his first NFL head-coaching gig, Mike Shanahan and Al Davis locked horns. Things got ugly enough that it all wound up in a court. The acrimony between Shanahan and Davis served as a foreshadowing of future interpersonal issues for Shanahan – and for Al Davis also to be sure. As Shanahan presided over the slow erosion of the Denver Broncos from champions to mediocrity, he drove his QB, Jake Plummer to retirement. Later with the Redskins, Shanahan and Albert Haynesworth famously got into a battle of wills. When Donovan McNabb did not play the way Shanahan thought he would with the Redskins, the problem was that McNabb was not in shape and that he had flawed footwork mechanics. (Funny that Shanahan had not noticed those footwork flaws before; McNabb had only been in the NFL for eleven years playing in 143 regular season games before Shanahan traded to acquire him…) That brings us to the present where …
By all appearances, Mike Shanahan and RG3 are not making nice with one another.
Is this just another example of Shanahan’s difficulty in getting along with folks? Possibly… Is RG3 a diva? Possibly… Is Danny Boy Snyder likely to find a way to ameliorate that situation for the betterment of the team? Not bloody likely…
[Aside: I have a friend who sent me an e-mail last night wherein he referred to Robert Griffin III as “RG(3-10)”. I wish I had thought of that first…]
The Redskins’ team and organization is not in a happy place. They are talent-deficient; they have an ordinary coach; that ordinary coach has his son functioning as the team offensive coordinator and nepotism rarely works; their “face of the franchise QB” has regressed in his play in his second year; their owner’s level of equanimity and finesse in situations such as these makes the proverbial “bull in a china shop” seem like a performance of Swan Lake. This will not end well no matter what Danny Boy Snyder decides to do with his incumbent coach between now and the start of training camp in July 2014.
Unless you are related to someone who is on the team or works for the team, try to flush out your emotional involvement here and watch this situation get worse and worse until it implodes to the point where it emulates the Big Bang – which is how it will eventually end…
But don’t get me wrong, love sports………