Mike Shanahan has once again moved the goal posts for evaluating his increasingly mediocre tenure with the Washington Redskins. Shanahan told the Washington Post that the rest of the 2012 season will be about evaluation.
This is just one more excuse for another disappointing season in D.C. Sadly, this kind of face-saving spin has become standard practice for Shanahan.
By constantly changing expectations for success, Shanahan has altered how his tenure should be judged.
After going 6-10 in his first year with the Redskins, Shanahan claimed the job was bigger than he thought. When he followed that up with a 5-11 record, Shanahan emphasized the job would take five years.
So Shanahan gave up prime draft picks for the star quarterback he supposedly needed to make things work.
Yet his third year sees the Redskins at 3-6 and once again propping up the NFC East. How does this qualify as progress?
Shanahan has so far failed to get the Redskins out of the division basement, let alone close to playoff contention. However, Redskins fans need not worry, the excuses for a third year of futility are already in place.
Shanahan can point to season-ending injuries to Adam Carriker, Fred Davis and Brian Orakpo. Yet those injuries reveal the poor quality depth put in place by Shanahan's regime.
He can also herald the quick strides made by Robert Griffin III and the need to continue his development. However, it was Shanahan who took two seasons to get the right quarterback in place.
He paid the heavy trade price, for the botched Donovan McNabb deal and embarrassing John Beck, Rex Grossman flip-flop.
His supporters would argue that Griffin was worth the wait because he fits Shanahan's system.Yet the Redskins aren't playing Shanahan's system this season, they are playing Griffin's.
While that has succeeded in ensuring a smooth adjustment, will it mean more transition next term? Probably.
It was Shanahan who changed a perennial top-10 defense to a 3-4. The basis was a flimsy argument suggesting turnovers are somehow scheme-dependant.
Despite these follies, Shanahan is still afforded the luxury of writing off a season midstream. Andy Reid would surely jump at the chance to be granted such leniency.
There's a wonderful scene in Steven Soderburgh's masterpiece Traffic. Michael Douglas' newly-appointed drugs czar is having the facts of life explained to him by his cynical predecessor.
The predecessor offers the story of leaving two letters for the new man, to be used when trouble strikes. The first letter glibly advises blaming the "other guy." The second simply suggests the new man writes "two letters" of his own.
Shanahan spent his first two seasons in D.C. blaming the "other guy." Now it might be time to write those two letters.
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