Mike Shanahan: Fate of Redskins Coach Hinges on 6th Pick in 2012 NFL Draft

Gary DavenportNFL AnalystFebruary 29, 2012

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 01:  Head coach Mike Shanahan of the Washington Redskins watches from the sidelines against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on January 1, 2012 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Rob Carr/Getty Images

The Washington Redskins have been one of the most talked-about teams in the National Football League this offseason, due in no small part to the fact that the Redskins' desperate search for a quarterback has thrust them to the very top of the Peyton Manning and Robert Griffin III rumor mills.

The desperation in the nation's capital is somewhat understandable, given that Washington's quarterback corps presently consists of Rex Grossman and John Beck (who make "shock and awe" look like "shocked and awful"), and the rather precarious position of head coach Mike Shanahan, who Super Bowl rings or no, likely finds himself on the hot seat after a mediocre 11-21 record in his two years at the helm of the Redskins.

However, as Dan Daly of the Washington Times points out, sometimes the desperation borne of the need for a franchise quarterback can send teams scrambling in circles, chasing their own tails as the team spirals down the drain.

With 32 franchises, there aren’t nearly enough Pro Bowl-caliber quarterbacks to go around. Thus, clubs will bend over backward to acquire one, sometimes successfully (Eli Manning), sometimes not (where have you gone, Ryan Leaf?).

That makes the Redskins' first pick in April's NFL draft an absolute deal-breaker for both the franchise and Shanahan, as the direction the team takes with the sixth overall selection may well determine whether Shanahan's third year in Washington is his last.

If the Redskins choose to pay the ransom that the St. Louis Rams are reportedly seeking for the rights to choose Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III with the second overall pick, then coach and quarterback will become inextricably intertwined, as how quickly Griffin adapts to the NFL may determine how quickly Shanahan could potentially be scanning the help-wanted ads.

The best bet for Shanahan's job security may well be if the Redskins can acquire a quarterback such as Peyton Manning or Matt Flynn in free agency, which would enable the team to use the sixth pick on other needs or trade down and stockpile picks to plug holes. That would probably boost Washington's short-term chances of success more than drafting Griffin would.

However, should the Redskins miss out on the free agent signal-callers and Griffin, it's possible that Washington could panic and reach for Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill, which would be a potentially disastrous gamble on a relatively unproven quarterback who will likely need time to develop in the National Football League.

Regardless of which path Mike Shanahan and the Redskins take with the sixth pick this year, Shanahan had best be sure he chooses wisely. If he's not careful then the he may find that at season's end the path he chose led him straight to the unemployment line.