When the Washington Redskins plucked Mike Shanahan out of the unemployment line in 2010, it was clear that things were going to change. He cleaned up the locker room, improved the culture and assembled a solid foundation for a bright future.
That bright future, however, will not be achieved by Shanahan or any of his staff, as it is becoming more and more apparent that they are a transitional staff.
Shanahan’s tenure was bumpy even before the current 3-9 debacle. Among other things, he made a spectacle of the lazy Albert Haynesworth and made an awful trade for Donovan McNabb.
More recently, he put his franchise quarterback, Robert Griffin III, in harm’s way, resulting in a serious knee injury the second-year pro is still recovering from.
Now, with his team in dire straits, Shanahan is out of answers and is on the verge of losing his team.
There are a number of issues facing the Redskins, both from a roster standpoint and that of the coaching staff.
As talent goes, the Redskins have a solid collection of young players who will factor into their long-term plans. Alfred Morris, RGIII, Ryan Kerrigan, Jordan Reed, Darrel Young, Trent Williams, David Amerson and Pierre Garcon can be considered the foundation for the future.
Eight players, however, are not enough to field a team, and the presence of just two defenders is alarming in and of itself.
As director of player personnel, Shanahan is responsible for the makeup of the roster. He is responsible for the shoddy offensive line, the undisciplined defense, as well as the coordinators in charge of calling the plays.
Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett tried to turn the Redskins defense into an attacking 3-4 unit without the proper personnel.
With Haslett as defensive coordinator, the Redskins defense has, on average, ranked 23rd in the NFL.
His poor play calling has led to some horrific defensive showings, which reflects poorly on Shanahan’s ability to assess coaching prowess.
On the other side of the ball, Shanahan’s son, Kyle, is in charge of calling the plays on offense.
Statistically speaking, Washington’s offense under Kyle Shanahan has been great, leading the league in rushing last season and this season, currently ranking seventh in the NFL in total offense.
However, Kyle has shown an inability to call a balanced offense, feel the flow of a game, adjust to what a defense is giving, or even show some level of unpredictability.
When three receivers line up to one side, nine times out of 10, the Redskins are running a receiver screen, and defenses have picked up on it.
The success in the run game can be attributed to Mike Shanahan’s prolific zone blocking scheme, and thus does not work in Kyle’s favor.
Game flow has been a major failure of Kyle’s, evidenced by his lopsided play calling and tendency to ignore the success of Morris on the ground.
Last season, the Redskins were 9-1 when Morris carried the ball at least 20 times. This season, Morris has exceeded 20 carries just three times, but the team is 1-2 in those games.
Why? Kyle Shanahan can’t call a game to save his life, let alone win a game.
Against the Denver Broncos, following three straight carries and a touchdown, Morris touched the ball just five times the rest of the game, finishing with 17 carries.
In the meantime, the Redskins threw the ball 24 times, resulting in four interceptions. That’s just one of the worst examples of Kyle Shanahan’s horrendous feel for the game.
So Mike Shanahan has two coordinators who have done very little to help the team win games, which, once again reflects poorly on his overall contribution to the Redskins.
Looking at the way this season has progressed, it is clear that Shanahan and his staff have done all that they can, or will do for the Redskins.
Shanahan’s best successes have come with established teams with experienced quarterbacks. John Elway with the Broncos, Steve Young with the 49ers.
Shanahan can’t get the most out of a young quarterback or a young team for that matter, which is why he isn’t likely to get an extension once his contract expires after next season.
It isn’t the end of the world, though.
As frustrating as it has been to watch the Redskins flounder through most of Shanahan’s tenure, it is exciting to consider that Washington may present an ideal landing spot for an up-and-coming coach.
Look at what Chip Kelly has done for the Philadelphia Eagles, or Jim Harbaugh in San Francisco.
The Eagles will be scary next season, and the Niners are coming off a Super Bowl appearance. The Redskins will be lucky to finish 8-8 next season if they continue at their current pace.
Imagine if Baylor’s Art Briles made the jump to the NFL, hooking back up with RGIII and bringing his innovative offensive mind to Washington.
Briles then brings in a competent defensive coordinator, shifts back to the 4-3, and turns a mediocre defense into a top 15 or even top 10 unit.
While the rest of this season, and probably next season as well, will be difficult to stomach, the foundation for success is in place, and the right coach could take what Shanahan started to the next level.