Oct 27, 2013; Denver, CO, USA; Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan on the sidelines in the fourth quarter against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

End of A(nother) Error in Washington


Getting thrown out of office is pretty common in Washington. Especially when it comes to head football coaches.

Mike Shanahan joins the long list of coaches dismissed by owner Dan Snyder. They’ve come in all shapes and sizes, from cagey veterans like Marty Schottenheimer to college sensations like Steve Spurrier to in-over-their-head types like Jim Zorn. Even Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs came back for a second act and some of that “Snyder Money.”

And now Shanahan, his face as red as the team’s insensitive nickname, has a pink slip to match.

Before we get to the speculation of who might replace him, let’s be clear about Shanny’s fate: there’s no question that he deserved to be fired. As much as the media tried to make Robert Griffin III into some uncoachable diva, the fact is Shanahan is the one who should have had the sense to pull him out of that playoff game vs. Seattle last year. Remember, Washington had a 10-point lead at home (and a capable backup QB), and Griffin was noticeably hobbled even before his blew out his knee. Well, noticeable to everyone on the planet except Shanahan.

Shanny’s excuse was that Griffin told the coach he could continue playing. Well, every player will tell his coach that. Football is a tough guy’s game, and Griffin is an extreme competitor from a military family, so of course he’d insist that he could soldier on. That’s why coaches are there to make those tough decisions.

As valiant as it may have been for Griffin to vow to come back from surgery and be “All In for Week 1,” again, Shanahan was the man who should have put his foot down and say the best strategy would have been to keep Griffin sideline the first few weeks and delay his season debut until after after Washington’s week 5 bye. Instead, he let Griffin start the season opener after no pre-season reps and limited practice. All season, it was obvious to observers and opponents that Griffin wasn’t fully healthy.

Returning to all-star form after a serious injury is hard enough in the NFL, but regaining your health is even tougher when your coach keeps throwing you under a bus.

Shanny eventually blamed Griffin’s cozy relationship with Snyder as the root of Washington’s problems. I find it rather sad and pathetic that an allegedly legendary coach would be bothered by an owner providing car service for a star QB’s then-fiancée after a road game… or by the fact that the owner supplied security for the star QB when he went out in D.C. These are non-issues, and if they really rankled Shanahan, then maybe he’s not cut out to be a head coach anymore.

Remember, part of Shanahan’s agreement to come to Washington was that he (not Snyder) would have total control. In fact, a recent Washington Post report detailing the Shanahan era confirmed that, over their 4 years together, “Snyder largely complied with Shanahan’s requests, large and small.”

So under Shanahan’s control, Washington was once again a dysfunctional mess with a roster lacking depth. And when the going got tough, tough-guy My-Way Mike pointed the finger at everyone but himself. “The reports kept coming, a new one surfacing almost each Sunday,” according to that same article in the Post, “with those inside and outside the organization suspecting that Shanahan was behind the leaks.” Based on how his tenure played out, I think Shanahan’s disappointing act in Washington may have been his final one in the NFL.

As for who’s left behind, the same media that hailed Griffin as a mature leader who said all the right things, a ready-made star who remained humble despite his other-worldly talents, was easily convinced that RGIII had turned into “RG-Me.” The media has always been the first on a star player bandwagon and then the first to jump off the sinking ship once it takes on water (and they’re usually the ones fueling the fire). Bandwagon… ship… water, fire… lotta mixed metaphors there, but you get the idea: they build ‘em up and tear ‘em down, and it’s never been more glaring than the coverage of Griffin in 2013 compared with 2012.

That said, at some point the whispers about Griffin get hard to ignore. Since Shanahan’s dismissal, we’ve heard that Griffin had heated exchanges with wide receivers and apparently bragged about his influence with ownership, according to Sally Jenkins of the Washington Post. And there was the widely reported quote from backup QB Kirk Cousins: I’m sure Mr. Snyder and Robert and those people will have a lot of input as to who the [coaching] hire is.”

While Jenkins’ column pretty clearly pegged RGIII as a problem and potential hindrance that would give pause to any coach considering the gig in Washington, her colleague at the Post Jason Reid says Griffin “tops the list of reasons why the job has appeal.”

As for who the next coach will be, so far it seems Washington has interviewed or shown interest in every name on the coaching carousel short of exhuming Lombardi: Bengals coordinators Mike Zimmer and Jay Gruden, offensive coordinators Darrell Bevell (Seahawks), Jim Caldwell (Ravens), and Greg Roman (49ers), Ken Whisenhunt (Chargers), defensive coordinators Perry Fewell (Giants) and Sean McDermott (Panthers), Cowboys special teams coordinator Rich Bisaccia, and Vanderbilt head coach James Franklin. And of course Griffin’s old coach from Baylor, Art Briles, is speculated to be in the mix as well, even though both parties claim there’s been no contact (yet).

Briles is obviously a good football coach, but has zero NFL experience. And given all the perceptions about Griffin’s control over the franchise, whether real or imagined, if he’s further placated by the hire of his college coach, then the dysfunctional football circus is likely to continue long after the clown-faced Shanahan left town.

Either way, it should once again be an interesting offseason, and under current ownership they’ve always “won” more during the offseason than they do in the Fall. They’ll be in the headlines again no matter who they hire as their next head coach, and with their recent salary-cap penalty finally lifted they’ll have about $20 million in cap space to spend on new toys for Snyder and Griffin. If you listen closely, you can almost hear that all-too-familiar refrain being chanted around the beltway: “Spring Champs!”

Tags: Art Briles Carolina Panthers Cincinnati Bengals Dallas Cowboys Darrell Bevell Greg Roman James Franklin Jay Gruden Jim Caldwell Ken Whisenhunt Kirk Cousins Kyle Shanahan Mike Shanahan Mike Zimmer New York Giants Nfl Coaching Carousel Nfl Coaching Changes Perry Fewell Redskins Rg3 RGIII Rich Bisaccia Riggos Rag Robert Griffin Iii San Diego Chargers San Francisco 49ers Sean McDermott Seattle Seahawks Washington Post Washington Redskins

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