By the time the clock ran out on an embarrassing 45-10 home loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, the Washington Redskins season had gone from "minor car accident" to "franchise-changing train wreck."
I know it's easy to overreact to losses like those and seasons like these, and this is still a talented young team with cap space awaiting them in 2014. The wheels have come off this year, which probably makes the Redskins look worse than they truly are. Nowadays in the NFL, nobody is bad for long. This can be fixed pretty quickly.
However, this debacle combined with an increase in chatter regarding front-office and locker-room turmoil in D.C. might have caused the scales to tip on head coach Mike Shanahan's future.
|Mike Shanahan in Washington|
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I don't know if the final straw was added when alleged tension between Shanahan, owner Daniel Snyder and franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III was made public by ESPN's Dan Graziano earlier this weekend, or whether that came when the Chiefs took a 31-0 lead in the second quarter Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field, but the camel's back is officially broken regardless.
I know Shanahan apparently wanted five full years to fix all of the things that ailed this franchise when he came on board in 2010, but nothing is or should be guaranteed in the billion-dollar world of professional sports. Besides, a divorce at this point might be mutual anyway. Hell, according to that ESPN.com report, he was ready to walk away a year ago.
This hasn't worked, period, and it's unclear whether Shanahan even wants to stick around for what would probably be a lame-duck 2014 season.
The organization can't stick with the status quo, and it can't possibly give up on Griffin. The 23-year-old is the biggest investment ever made by this franchise, and they have to give him a full third season—one in which he isn't fresh off of major knee surgery—to get a better feel for the ROI regarding last year's epic draft pick trade with the St. Louis Rams.
But if you can't maintain the status quo as a team that is now guaranteed to lose 10-plus games for the third time in Shanahan's four-year reign, and if you can't trade Griffin, and if Snyder can't fire himself, it only makes sense to gut the coaching staff.
Find a head coach who can work with and get along with Griffin. Let him find an offensive coordinator who isn't a blood relative. Implement an offense that is less stubborn regarding zone blocking and read-option tendencies—one that will protect, not endanger, the organization's most prized possession.
Of course, you can't stop there. The defense has once again been horrendous, giving up more than 30 points per game. Personnel changes will likely be the key there, and those should come with Washington having money to spend this spring. Regardless, Jim Haslett might not have a role in that new regime.
Oh, and those special teams. That unit entered Week 14 ranked dead last in the NFL by Football Outsiders. And then they proceeded to give up two return touchdowns and a slew of big gains on top of those.
Special teams coach Keith Burns can't keep his job. Sure, special-teams struggles have a lot to do with a depth (or a lack thereof), and $36 million worth of league-imposed salary cap sanctions handcuffed this team when it came to acquiring talent the last two offseasons. But when you're this bad, it's not just about the personnel.
The sanctions can't be an excuse for this five-game losing streak or another losing season. They don't fully cover this team for trailing by at least 24 points in four separate games this year. They don't explain what happened to the 'Skins Sunday and they definitely don't justify what has happened to a healthy, experienced offensive line, which has lost the ability to pass protect.
None of it makes sense, especially considering that—with those sanctions in place—this team was good enough to win the NFC East last year despite not having its best defensive player for virtually the entire season.
Things have become so bad since that even Donovan McNabb is in full troll mode now.
The Redskins need to be revamped. They need new inside linebackers, new defensive backs, new interior offensive linemen, better reserves and special teamers. They need a new offensive approach in order to cater to Griffin and the under-appreciated Alfred Morris. They need an offensive coordinator who will be held accountable for poor results.
The core is still in place, and it's a pretty good one. But the first step involves parting ways with Shanahan, his son and the special-teams coach he handpicked to replace Danny Smith.
I don't know if Shanahan was necessarily promised five years, but he has indicated that was what he wanted to get from Snyder in order to complete the rebuilding process.
I told the owner when he hired me, 'This is not gonna happen overnight. You hire me for five years, you're gonna have to give us that time.' We're getting there.
But keeping Shanahan around now based on some sort of four-year-old handshake agreement about lasting the full duration of his contract would be silly and counterproductive. The truth is that they "got there" in 2012, and now they've lost it again. The rebuild was basically complete, but it hasn't stuck.
Snyder isn't a patient man—he fired six coaches in 10 years before hiring Shanahan—and sometimes that's been detrimental to this organization. But if he decides to end the Shanahan era a year earlier than originally expected, he'll have made the right decision.