Mike Shanahan Leaves the Washington Redskins in Better Shape

Published: Dec 31, 2013 12:54pm EST
By Lance Rinker, Managing Editor for Konsume Sports

Please Note: This article was updated Dec 31, 2013 @ 12:54pm EST


It’s unfortunate that Mike Shanahan’s tenure with the Washington Redskins ended the way it did, but after the many different twists and turns over the last six plus weeks of the regular season there really wasn’t any other way it could have ended. Between the leaks and rumors, as well as the rumors surrounding those leaks and rumors, this organization became the laughing stock of the NFL – to the point of being far more distasteful to watch and follow than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers during their 0-8 stretch.

Mike Shanahan and his team created their own distractions this season and he ultimately lost the faith and confidence of the fans and, depending on what rumors and leaks you want to believe, certain players and members of the coaching staff.

While it’s easy to use the excuse of not being able to put together consistent performances, or having to deal with the cap penalty of $36MM over the past two seasons, or finishing the season 3-13. But the fact of the matter is that not every team that’s losing games in pretty spectacular fashion falls apart the way the Redskins did this season, just look at the Atlanta Falcons, Minnesota Vikings, or even the New York Giants.

The fact of the matter is, even when you move past all of the drama and speculation of whether Shanahan wanted to continue to coach this team or not, he lost 10 or more games three out of the four seasons he was with the team. Norv Turner is the only other head coach in Redskins history to have lost 10 or more games three different seasons while leading the team. That’s not to say there haven’t been some unappetizing seasons with others at the helm, but it helps put into perspective how little success Shanahan actually had with the team.

In Shanahan’s press conference after his dismissal he made the comment that he believes the organization is in better shape than it was four years ago when he was brought on. Some may pick that statement apart and give Shanahan flack for it but he’s not misleading anyone with his beliefs there. The team didn’t have a franchise quarterback, their franchise running back was clearly on the downside of his career, their star wide receiver was declining as well, and the defense was an absolute mess.

Fast forward to now and they have a franchise quarterback, possibly two, a franchise running back in his prime, a solid number one receiver, an offensive line that was pieced together and actually performed better than expected this year, as well as a defense that needs to be revamped but isn’t completely devoid of talent. I’m not sure how anyone can say the organization is worse off now than they were before Mike Shanahan took over.

Things are only looking up for the team though as they are done with the cap penalties that completely hamstrung them the last two seasons, and enter 2014 with upwards of $40MM in cap space. While they don’t get to reap what they have sewn with the first round draft pick they traded away (number two overall), they at least have the cap space available to dramatically improve the team through free agency and some late round draft picks.

Now that team owner Dan Snyder and General Manager Bruce Allen have cleaned house of the entire coaching staff they begin searching for the next head coach of the Washington Redskins. Reporters at Bruce Allen’s press conference tried to pin him down with questions about whom that next head coach would be but all he would say is that they are looking for someone that can best put into words how they would turn this team into a winner, regardless of scheme.

As we take a look at the possible replacements for Shanahan there are a few obvious candidates such as John Gruden and Bill Cowher, because you know how Dan Snyder loves to make the flashy move, but also coaches that could make a bit more sense such as Bill O’Brien, Art Briles, Lovie Smith, or even Norv Turner.

Those with NFL coaching experience

John Gruden and Bill Cowher head this list, though Lovie Smith and Norv Turner each have their own fair share of experience coaching in the NFL with success.

Gruden is the ultimate long-shot to coach any team in 2014 as he has a cushy job as an analyst and recently signed an extension to continue doing so. There are conflicting reports as to whether Bill Cowher is ready to step back into a head coaching position or not, but if he is then he would certainly be Dan Snyder’s wet dream.

If the Redskins want to go in the direction of a defensive minded coach then Lovie Smith would be the best man for the job. He has a history of greatly improving a team’s defense, as any team he has coached as a defensive or head coach have typically gone from bottom of the league to top 10 within a single season and was one of the architects of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dominant Tampa-2 defensive scheme.

Smith also has a career head coaching record of 81-63, has playoff success under his belt, winning three division titles, leading the Bears to Super Bowl XLI, and earning a coach of the year award in 2005.

If the Redskins are looking for more of an offensive minded coach who can continue to develop Robert Griffin III into the franchise quarterback many believe he can be, then Norv Turner is likely the best available man for the job.

Turner coached the Redskins from 1994 to 2000, led them to a winning record four different times during that time, won the NFC East in 2000 and won a playoff game in that same season. He was able to do that without a franchise quarterback or even a solid receiving core, and also managed to create a top 10 offense twice in his tenure the first time around.

Throughout his entire career as a coach, Turner has developed a top-12 passing attack in 15 of the 23 years he has coached and most recently accomplished that with the Cleveland Browns this season. He has also been able to develop offenses into top-12 scoring offenses 11 different times throughout his career. The man is quite literally an offensive genius and if anyone out there can do that with Griffin and the Redskins then he most likely could.

College Coaches

Baylor head coach Art Briles tops the list of college coach candidates because he coached Griffin at Baylor, and we can’t forget how Griffin was reportedly privately lobbying for Briles to become the next Redskins head coach.

Briles is a fantastic college head coach and someone I believe could be successful in the NFL, but I think the Redskins would have more success luring Jon Gruden out of the broadcast booth than they would in getting Briles to leave Texas. He just signed a 10-year, $40MM, contract extension with Baylor, he’s built himself a nationally recognized program there, and they are about to open up a new $260MM stadium.

I’m not certain a job offer from the Washington Redskins is enough to pull him away from one of the better jobs in college football.

Finally, the hottest name in coaching right now is Bill O’Brien from Penn State.

O’Brien has experience coaching in the NFL as he was the offensive coordinator for the New England Patriots in 2011, working with Tom Brady and helping lead their offense to putting up over 500 points in a single season (the third time the team accomplished that in franchise history). He then took his experience with the Patriots and managed to lead a Penn State Nittany Lions team that was in shambles, being buried in shame, and led them to back-to-back winning seasons.

Basically he managed to rebuild a Penn State program that had just been rocked with mountains of penalties, disgust, ill-will, and a perceived inability to win anytime soon, in just two years.

Not only was he able to rebuild the Nittany Lions, rather quickly, into a winning team amid the sanctions and turmoil he was also responsible for developing two quarterbacks into solid playmakers under center – Penn State’s current signal caller, Christian Hackenberg, and previous one in Matt McGloin.

Matt McGloin went undrafted this past year, even though O’Brien lobbied teams on his behalf because he believed he would be a capable starter in the NFL, and now McGloin has proven that his success in college was no fluke. He’s not a star by any means but he did start six games for the Oakland Raiders this season and while his record is just 1-6, he did at least prove he can handle starting in the NFL with a bit more development. At worst he’s a quality back-up, which says a lot about O’Brien’s ability to develop talent where others may not see it.

For the Washington Redskins, they are in better shape than they were four years ago when Mike Shanahan was hired. Their next foray into hiring the next head coach of the team has to be done properly or they risk sewing more dysfunction into an already questionable organization. You need the right guy, the right leader for this team and it may not be in the popular choices in Gruden, Cowher, or even Art Briles. 


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Lance Rinker
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