Nothing could ensure current Washington Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan’s inclusion into the Pro Football Hall of Fame more then the possibility of successfully cultivating, molding and coaching one of the NFL’s most popular quarterbacks in Robert Griffin III.
Having won the Super Bowl twice as a head coach and once as an offensive coordinator in the 1990s, Shanahan has countless winning moments to look back upon during his 25-plus year career before joining the Redskins in 2010.
By all measures, Shanahan should, some day, be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. With eight more wins, Shanahan will enter the top-10 on the NFL’s all-time combined-wins list for coaches, according to his official bio on Redskins.com.
I am sure that if you asked Shanahan which Super Bowl-winning smile he would like to have appear on his bronze bust for enshrinement into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, his answer would be, “The next one.”
He has that kind of wit and humor. More importantly, he also has that confidence.
Whether "the next one" happens with the Washington Redskins and RG3 as their star quarterback is something yet to be determined. The Redskins are building upon their 10-6 record from last season and their future will largely be based on the success of RG3 for this year and for years to come.
Some would argue that Shanahan already had enough credentials for inclusion into Canton, Ohio, prior to joining the Redskins as head coach in January 2010. During his NFL coaching career, Shanahan has been a part of teams that have played in 10 AFC or NFC championship games.
As he enters the fourth year of a five-year, $35 million contract, Shanahan finds himself in a position to direct and guide a talented team that has drive, determination and leadership both on the field and on the sideline. His fortunes multiply when you factor in RG3 as his starting quarterback.
Up until last season, Shanahan had experienced a roller coaster of a ride, mostly downhill, with the Redskins.
The 2012 campaign saw the Redskins become the first team in NFL history to pass for 3,400 yards and rush for 2,700 yards in a single season. It was a Shanahan-led team that completed the fourth five-win turnaround season in franchise history and a worst-to-first turnaround in the highly competitive NFC East division.
This season, Shanahan has assembled a group that returns nearly all of its starters, who have familiarity with their positions, roles and responsibilities.
On offense, they are strong with mostly players returning to their starting role from last season. Defensively, there are far too many variables to even resemble anything close to a cohesive unit.
The Redskins' defensive secondary is in the process of a reconstruction. Not only is second-year defensive coordinator Raheem Morris still new to the organization, but there is an assortment of new players where were acquired either through free agency, the NFL rookie draft or returning from an injury and making an adjustment in 2013.
There’s a lot going on for Shanahan, as with any NFL coach at this point of a new season. One thing that has commanded too much attention already this preseason is RG3 and his playing status following offseason reconstructive knee surgery.
Griffin is diverting a lot of attention away from matters that impact the team. Shanahan should sit down with RG3 and have a chat that might go something like this; “Look, last year I made a mistake by putting you back in the game injured. My plan did not work. I made a mistake last year by allowing you back on the field. This is how we are doing it this time. PERIOD.”
There can be no divisiveness on this issue. It is bad for the Redskins' locker room. RG3 does not need to drag this on by commenting to reporters, as he did earlier this week, about Shanahan’s decision not to allow him to play during the Redskins preseason.
"I don't like it," Griffin said during his regular Monday press conference on Aug. 12, via CBS Sports. "There's some part of it that I do understand. I don't understand all of it."
Shanahan has needed to readdress the issue unnecessarily. The non-issue has become an issue, or based on daily developments “The Issue”, when it comes to the media attention that the story has demanded.
Put the story to bed. Done. Griffin is not playing until Week 1—period, no more questions.
RG3 even addressed reporters Tuesday, as seen on Redskins.com, to clarify his remarks from a day earlier and make certain that reporters and fans did not misinterpret his comments as criticism of Shanahan:
I just want everybody to know that if there’s any questions about a rift between me and coach, or if there’s a conflict. There is no conflict. Coaches coach, I’m a player.
Coach has a plan and I’m abiding by that plan. I’m doing everything that they ask me to do. I trust those guys. They want me to have a long career and that’s what this part of this plan is about.
The time that coach Shanahan devotes to media Q&A’s takes away time he needs to spend on the rest of the team. Shanahan knows a group divided will not conquer. It is a distraction.
Shanahan has the team, the organization and everything else to occupy his time. There are approximately 90 players, some requiring more time than others, in training camp. Slightly more than one third of them will be released in just over two weeks.
Although there have been no plans for an end to an illustrious NFL coaching career, the fact remains that Shanahan has another opportunity to lead a team with a star quarterback to the Super Bowl. That was something he did with John Elway during his time with Denver and Steve Young with San Francisco.
Regardless of the immediate results with RG3 and his return status for a second season as the Redskins starting quarterback, Shanahan can look forward to future winning moments in Washington, offering a reminder that the Pro Football Hall of Fame might want an updated Super Bowl smile for future use.