Finally, Mike Shanahan Uses The R-Word To Describe His Task With The Redskins

Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabbMike Shanahan used the forbidden word “rebuild” to described the state of the Washington Redskins when he took the head coach job last season.

Shanahan spoke of the conversation he had with son Kyle about the risks of leaving the Houston Texans’ high powered offense to take the offensive coordinator position with the ‘Skins.

“I’m the one that told Kyle not to come,” Shanahan said as quoted by “I said, ‘This is going to be a work in progress, it’s not going to happen overnight. You’re with an established team, you’ve got your ducks in order.’ I said, ‘We’re going to have to rebuild this football team, starting on offense.’

“He understood that and he enjoyed the challenge, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Shanahan supposedly said something like that to Daniel Snyder before he accepted the offer to lead the team. If he were more forthcoming to fans from the beginning, we might be more tolerant of the team’s current performance. Where Jim Zorn was too candid for his own good, Shanahan is far too cagey.

That is more style point than criticism. It’s Shanny’s way as he explained in his first press conference with Washington sports writers: “You know how this works. You ask the questions and I don’t answer them.”

But, I wish these pro football people understood that they are not dealing with paying customers. They are coping with fan allegiance. We are owed better assessments by the leaders of the organization. Fans of the Redskins and every other old line sports franchise that represent a region own a piece of the team. That is, we see the Redskins as a public utility. How well they perform affects the public commonwealth.

Alas, Shanahan is not forthcoming. We are left to guess his motive and intent. That is a poor prism to assess his track record.

A popular parlor game is to compare Shanahan’s record to Jim Zorn at the same points in their tenure. It has not been flattering. Lets take a look at the win-loss record for each Redskins coach of the Snyder era after 24 games. To track progression, we show the record in eight-game sets.

COACH  1st 8-Games  2nd 8-Games  3rd 8-Games Record
Schottenheimer  3-5 5-3 8-8
Spurrier 4-4 3-5 3-5 10-14
Gibbs II 3-5 3-5 5-3 11-13
Zorn 6-2 2-6 2-6 10-14
Shanahan 4-4 2-6 3-5 9-15

Winning is the only thing that counts, but rankings give us another evaluation point of progression. Since offense has been the chronic affliction of the Redskins, we look at the NFL offensive ranks for scores in the first and second season of each coach.

Schottenheimer  28
Spurrier 25 22
Gibbs 31 13
Zorn 28 26
Shanahan 25 27

Shanahan is the only Snyder era coach with season-to-season regression in points. The Redskins kept the aging Gibbs gang in Zorn’s tenure. Shanahan began the process of weeding them out last season. It was the time to use the word “rebuild” to reset everyone’s expectation and how long it would take. But Shanahan blundered by kicking Jason Campbell off the island first instead of Albert Haynesworth.

Not that Campbell was ever any more than a try-hard journeyman. Quarterback was not the most critical weakness on the Redskins in spite of the sentiment of a large segment of the fan base. Superficial thinking is forgivable in fans. It is inexcusable in coaches. Fans have occupations that leaves them no time to think deeply about building winning football teams. They want playmaking quarterbacks who throw the long ball and playmaking cornerbacks who intercept a lot of passes.

Pro coaches forsake their families to focus on building teams. They should think holistically about every attribute of players and their value to the scheme. Better thinking there should have moved Shanny to remove Haynesworth as his first move before his mega-bonus was due. In the aftermath of trading Campbell on the cheap (a low pick in the 2012 Draft! Are you kidding me?), Shanahan is on his third quarterback since 2010 with an inexperienced player who is older than Campbell, but whose potential ceiling is less than Campbell’s career average.

We had a right to expect better of Mike Shanahan. His quarterback decisions are why he is under fire. Cold Hard Football Facts had a withering criticism of Shanahan and Pete Carroll (Seahawks) in their November 7, 2011 post 10 things We Learned: Stellar Week 9 Edition.

“There are only two franchises that don’t have their quarterback of the present, near-past or future on the roster: Seattle and Washington. And it’s no coincidence that they’re both about as threatening offensively as Switzerland.

“John Beck is No. 31 among the league’s qualifying passing leaders in rating, with Rex Grossman right behind at No. 33. There’s been a lot of teeth-gnashing about which QB should start, when the obvious answer has been “Neither!” Same goes for Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst in San Diego – a pair of retreads who have had their chances and failed.

“Maybe Carroll and Shanahan – offensive gurus both – thought they were more important than the talent. Maybe they just couldn’t come up with the move they needed to make in the offseason, and had to just grin and bear it. But the worst part is, neither team has been bad enough to get the No. 1 pick, and a shot at Andrew Luck.”

It is hard to accept that the Redskins are 3.5-point underdogs to the 1-7 Miami Dolphins. Looking at their quarterbacks and injuries, it is distressingly easy to understand why the betting public sees it that way.

They are wrong, though. The defense has enough umph to pull this game out by a score of something like 9-7. UPDATE: News accounts report that Rex Grossman will start at quarterback in the Miami game. Lets make this score 14-7 Redskins.


Anthony Brown

About Anthony Brown

Lifelong Redskins fan and blogger about football and life since 2004. Joined MVN's Hog Heaven blog in 2005 and then moved Redskins Hog Heaven to Bolguin Network. Believes that the course of a season is pre-ordained by management decisions made during the offseason. Can occasionally be found on the This Given Sunday blog and he does guest posts.