Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan enters his fourth season atop the coaching pyramid for the team and his $7 million per year salary places him among the highest paid coaches in the NFL, according to Forbes.com.
Leading the list of the highest paid NFL coaches in 2013 is New Orleans' Sean Payton, with an annual salary of $8 million. New England's Bill Belichick and Kansas City's Andy Reid tie for second-highest with $7.5 million this year.
Shanahan, Seattle's Pete Carroll and St Louis' head coach Jeff Fisher complete the top five with annual salaries of $7 million each for the upcoming season.
For coach Shanahan, the first half of his five-year contract was hardly something Redskins owner Dan Snyder thought he would be getting when he lured the coach away from his winning ways in the AFC West.
In January 2010, following a highly disappointing 4-12 season, Snyder fired coach Jim Zorn one day after the end of the 2009 regular season. Days later, Snyder announced the hiring of three-time Super Bowl champion coach Mike Shanahan.
Previously with the Denver Broncos, Shanahan led his mile high team to the top of the football world three times in the 1990s—as offensive coordinator in 1994 and back-to-back as head coach in 1997-1998.
Coach Shanahan and the team agreed to a five-year, $35 million contract. Along with the responsibilities of head coach, Shanahan would earn a more lofty title as Vice President of Football Operations—Head Coach.
The added portion to his coaching title would place him alongside Snyder's other recent front office acquisition, General Manager Bruce Allen. Both would become vice president's.
Shanahan would be in charge of all player personnel and coaching. His hiring did not bring about much change in the win-loss column as the team combined for 11 wins in his first two seasons—6-10 in 2010 and 5-11 in 2011. The team remained in last place in the NFC East. Again.
Had Snyder made a disastrous move in hiring Shanahan? Did Shanahan lose his luster and winning formula from over a decade earlier with the Denver Broncos?
Almost exactly halfway through his five-year contract, the team was off on the wrong foot again—losing six of the nine games played before the Redskins bye week.
On November 5, in his postgame news conference following the team's Week 9 loss to the Carolina Panthers, coach Shanahan gave a harsh warning to the players and team as he suggested the remainder of the 2012 season might be a total loss.
"You lose a game like that, now you're playing to see who obviously is going to be on your football team for years to come. I'll get a chance to evaluate players and see where we're at," Shanahan said.
"Obviously, we're not out of it statistically, but now we find out what type of character we've got and how guys keep on fighting through the rest of the season."
And with that, and I am sure some much harsher phrases and terms not suitable for print, the Redskins embarked on a seven-game winning streak to close the regular season.
Following the conclusion of last season and prior to the NFC Wild Card Game against the Seattle Seahawks, Mark Maske of The Washington Post reported, "the Redskins were seriously considering negotiating" a contract extension during the offseason with Coach Mike Shanahan as "a reward" for coaching the Redskins to their first NFC East title since the 1999 season.
Should that be the case, is the Redskins organization prepared to push all of their chips in on the table and gamble on Shanahan?
Would it even be a gamble at this point or has he had an opportunity to mold, shape and develop a team that can be a consistent threat to win the NFC East division, advancing to the playoffs in back-to-back seasons?
Without a doubt, there are a lot of variables that need to be considered and factored into long-term decisions pertaining to the future of the Redskins.
Based on how the team put together a seven-game winning streak to close the 2012 regular season, the offseason acquisitions and the return of some highly talented players from injury for the upcoming season—the ship has been righted and coach Shanahan deserves the money he is paid.
Now he has to earn it.