Anytime an NFL team fails to meet expectations, scrutiny is bound to find its way to the head football coach. With the Washington Redskins' 24-16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles in Week 11 all but dashing their playoff hopes, Mike Shanahan is sure to draw the ire of Washington fans.
Hence the question, what does Shanahan have to do to return in 2014?
A record of 24-34 in his tenure in Washington, Shanahan certainly doesn't have a track record that would spare him from getting a pink slip on the NFL's Black Monday.
Regardless if you're an owner of two Super Bowl Rings, not many coaches will survive a four-year stretch with only one winning season and one playoff berth.
Why is #MikeShanahan a head coach in the NFL?— Chris Nardello (@Nardo4420) November 18, 2013
Still, as bleak as things appear in Washington, there remains a means by which Shanahan can save his job.
Finish the Season Strong
Compiling a winning streak at the tail end of a lost season won't mend the wounds of failed expectations.
Still, history has shown that doing so can go a long way in keeping an embattled head coach off the unemployment line.
Perhaps the best example of this is Ron Rivera. Before being dubbed "Riverboat Ron," the word most attached to Rivera's name by fans was some variation of fired—ever heard of FireRonRivera.com?
After starting 1-5 and 1-6 in 2011 and 2012, the Rivera-led Carolina Panthers ended the seasons by going 5-5 and 6-3.
A 6-10 and 7-9 season are nothing to be proud of, but by ending the seasons on a positive note Rivera was able to stave off the calls for his job by pointing to his team's late-season success as a precursor of things to come.
If Shanahan has designs on actually earning his pay in 2014—opposed to getting paid not to coach, aka getting fired—it behoove him to get the Redskins on a similar track.
With only two teams on Washington's remaining schedule owning winning records, a 4-2 or 3-3 finish would seem to be a necessity for Shanahan to stay employed.
Changes to the Coaching Staff
Hot stretch to end the season or not, there will surely be coaching casualties for a team that has fallen far short of meeting the Super Bowl expectations set before the season.
If not Shanahan, then a high-ranking member of his coaching staff will have to be served up as the sacrificial lamb for the failed season.
With an inconsistent offense and struggling defense, two prime candidates to be offed would have to be Kyle Shanahan and Jim Haslett.
Seeing that the Washington offense has had its moments of proficiency—and that the offensive coordinator and head coach share a last name—Haslett would seem to be the ideal candidate to get the boot.
Nonetheless, while Haslett's ouster would quench the fanbase's thirst for penance, Shanahan would still need to find a viable replacement.
Develop Robert Griffin III
Even with reports arising and discussed by Stephen A. Smith of ESPN (h/t CBS DC) that Shanahan wasn't in favor of trading up for Griffin in the 2012 NFL draft, his job is tied to the former Baylor quarterback.
If Shanahan can't get the most out of Griffin, than Daniel Snyder will find someone who will. It's just that simple; that's life in the quarterback-driven NFL.
Snyder's had a coach of Shanahan's caliber already, Joe Gibbs, but he hasn't had a quarterback as talented as Griffin.
So, the first order of business for Shanahan is determining how to best utilize Griffin. Is Griffin best served being a pocket passer or a read-option quarterback?
For Shanahan's sake, the Redskins' remaining six games better answer this question.
A good string of performances by Griffin to end the season and Washington can overlook Shanahan's past indiscretions because, hey, he's getting the most out of the franchise quarterback.
But endure a rough ending and the Redskins' focus quickly turns to finding a solution to right their sputtering quarterback situation—a solution that could include pairing the franchise quarterback with another head coach.
With a defense that has allowed 31.1 points per game, the scrooge most responsible for Washington fans not getting their Christmas wish—of another home playoff game—is Haslett, not Shanahan.
What Will Happen to Mike Shanahan?
The Skins will finally have salary-cap space to use in 2014, per a report by Steve Shoup of SB Nation's Hogs Haven. As Shanahan relayed to Joseph White of the Associated Press, via WTOP 103.5 FM, the $36 million in cap penalties that the Redskins endured played a factor in the team's performance this season.
"Because we do have the ability to get more depth, we've got the ability to add some players on both sides of the football, and that gives you a chance to get better as a football team," Shanahan said.
Sign the right pieces, which may be a tough task considering Snyder's history of poor free-agency spending and the defense can be turned into a respectable unit at the very least.
For this reason, expect Shanahan to return as coach of the Redskins in 2014, albeit with his seat on preheat.
Shanahan will essentially be 2014's version of Rex Ryan—a lame duck coach who essentially has the ultimatum of win or go home, literally.
It's not an ideal situation for Shanahan, but it certainly beats the alternative for both parties.
Fire him and the Skins' 2014 season will be resigned to a new coach vetting which players to build around and which ones to let go.
All in all, save a horrid finish to the season, you can count on Shanahan trolling the Washington sideline in 2014.