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!”

Dick's Sporting Goods presents "Hell Week":

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

  • ahrcshaw

    “And now Shanahan, his face as red as the team’s insensitive nickname, has a pink slip to match”. Writing is a powerful medium, so remember this is football and not political or selective way of persuasion, you have your thoughts others have theirs and the Red Skins is not an insensitive name. What makes it insensitive to you is how you interpret it in your minds eye and maybe that is what needs to change. If you want to make a case for your lack of compassion for a tried and true nick name do it on another media platform, or at least in jest. Try Cow boy’s or something like that as that would just be another senseless argument for an insensitive name. Go Panthers and pound those 49ers.

    I’ll make a separate comment to the subject once I have settled down.

    • Todd Frank

      okay, so when I say it’s insensitive, you just say it’s only in my minds eye and that’s what needs to change. and you simply state/declare that it “is not.” perhaps you need to change YOUR mind. as for how I write it, that’s up to me. and the way it was mentioned here, comparing Shanny’s skin and the pink slip, WAS in jest. Search my archives, i’ve written more seriously (and in jest) on this topic already.

      thanks for reading.

      • ahrcshaw

        You certainly have the right to say or write what ever you want and I respect that. I will also repeat myself, “I think it is inappropriate to be writing about sensitive football facts, then insert a personal opinion without taking a breath.

        Comparing Shanny’s skin to a pink slip was in jest, but insensitive nickname was not, plain and simple. Discussing the nickname pros and cons would be totally different. Just my humble opinion! Go Panthers and pound those 49ers

        • Todd Frank

          thanks for your opinion. I’m employed by Fansided to give my opinions. They WANT me to insert personal opinions, and add my spin (hence, NFL SPIN Zone). look up “Redskin” in the dictionary and you will find that it’s insensitive by definition. if you are not offended by the team using that word as their name, that is obviously your opinion. if i didn’t add my slants/opinions, you would just be reading facts and box scores.

          • ahrcshaw

            Thanks, I am not offended by the team name so I will let it go at that, Have a good day. Go Panthers and pound those 49ers

  • ahrcshaw

    “He’s back”. This was a very good article and clearly clarifies the problems at Washington. The big problem was Shanahan’s not protecting GR III from (RG III) him self, and apparently trying to promote himself by winning games. No Question Shanahan and his staff used a better O system that worked in favor of RG III, Cam Newton was miss used by Chud in my opinion for the same reason, however Shanahan crossed the line when he allowed the Injury to take place. As far as RGIII control, that’s another problem but even there it ends up with the Coach. There are a lot of ego in any Pro Sport and the Coach has got to manage it as well as the play of the game. You can look at NE, ???? Denver, the Panthers and lot of other teams and see a vast difference in control of the players, to be frank, that is why I hold Rivera so highly as he is a player coach who controls and leads his players. The Panthers are a TEAM, Team.

    Like you I think Shanahan is done in the NFL, and that is a shame as well, as he knows football, yet this situation clearly shows the fallacy of Pro Sports. You have to win to be a winner, you do not have to be a roll model, you don’t have to be smart, you don’t have to be liked, you just have to win. That is not all bad thought, as we as fans have the right to pick an chose, and by the most part the FANS seperate the true sportsman from the Men or women who play the game. Go Panthers and pound those 49ers. This is a very good article that should be read by many.