9 Candidates to Replace Mike Shanahan as Washington Redskins' Head Coach
Following the 45-10 shellacking at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs, the end appears to be nigh for Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan and his staff. Falling to 3-10 on the season, Shanahan's record with the 'Skins stands at 24-37, which puts him at a near-Jim Zorn level of failure.
Though the ax has yet to fall, Shanahan's exit is a foregone conclusion, and the team must seek a new head coach capable of fixing the flaws and turning the Redskins from chumps to champs.
With any luck, the Redskins won't struggle to find anyone interested in the job because of the talents of Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris in particular. Washington's pursuits will range from promising college coaches, NFL coordinators ready for a shot and experienced former coaches looking for their next gig.
Here is a look at some possible candidates to replace Shanahan as the Redskins' head coach.
Greg Roman, Offensive Coordinator, San Francisco 49ers
Probably not a popular option because of the steep drop in offensive success for the San Francisco 49ers, but Greg Roman deserves a look as the next coach for the Redskins.
Injuries have played a big part in the problems in San Francisco, particularly the paltry 178.3 passing yards per game, but Colin Kaepernick's average skills as a passer can't be ignored. The Niners were successful last season because they ran the ball well with Kaepernick and Frank Gore the same way the Redskins did with Griffin and Alfred Morris.
Without the read-option, the Niners offense doesn't work because Kaepernick is not a polished passer.
If Roman were to come to Washington and implement his offense with a better passing quarterback like RGIII, the Redskins might have a more formidable offense.
Darrell Bevell, Offensive Coordinator, Seattle Seahawks
Robert Griffin III may have won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2012, but Russell Wilson was by far the best rookie quarterback last season. Wilson started all 16 games, threw 26 touchdowns, rushed for another four and led the Seattle Seahawks to the playoffs.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has gotten the most out of Wilson, who was viewed as undersized for an NFL quarterback. Imagine what he could do with the immensely more physically gifted RGIII.
Balance and efficiency are the hallmarks of Bevell's offense, which are things Kyle Shanahan could learn. The Seahawks average 356.6 yards per game, a league-best 8.8 yards per pass attempt and a third-best 141.3 rushing yards per game.
It wouldn't be too hard to implement a system that gives Morris and Griffin ample touches, as well as work in a no-huddle offense that has proven effective across the NFL.
Mike Zimmer, Defensive Coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals
However dysfunctional Washington's offense is, the defense is downright atrocious. It gives up an average of 372 yards per game, 22nd in the NFL, as well as a league-high 31.3 points per game. Jim Haslett introduced the 3-4 scheme but never ran it properly.
Enter Cincinnati Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, who has coached the Bengals defense to three top-10 finishes in five full seasons and currently has his defense ranked eighth in the NFL.
Defense isn't the sexy pick, and with talent like RGIII and Morris demanding to be utilized properly, Zimmer isn't likely to get the first call to succeed Shanahan. Jim Haslett has failed to implement the 3-4 defense, but Zimmer has been running the scheme with great success.
However, Zimmer was in the mix for a head coaching job before this season began, with the Cleveland Browns ultimately choosing Rob Chudzinski, an offensive coordinator, for the job.
Jon Gruden, Former Head Coach, Oakland Raiders/Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jon Gruden may be one of the more divisive names that have entered into any coaching conversation. Some see him as a coach with a Super Bowl victory, an overall winning record and a bright offensive mind.
Others see him as a good coach who earned his legacy with the Tony Dungy-built Tampa Bay Buccaneers and hasn't done much else.
Regardless of the perspective, Gruden has earned respect in regard to his grasp of the game and breadth of knowledge. Implementing his knowledge has been a problem, since Tampa's greatest successes came as a result of its defense, which was a top-10 unit in all but one of Gruden's years thanks to coordinator Monte Kiffin.
Gruden is a coach who would expect his players to mold to his system, as opposed to molding his system to his players.
RGIII is a unique athlete, both a gifted passer and blazing runner, and Gruden can't try to fit him into the same box he used with Brad Johnson, Rich Gannon, Chris Simms, Bruce Gradkowski or Brian Griese, to name more than a few.
It may be a long shot to begin with given how comfortable Gruden has become working in the booth for ESPN.
Lovie Smith, Former Head Coach, Chicago Bears
Though the Chicago Bears defense finished just four of Lovie Smith's nine seasons in the top 10, Smith was still one of the best defensive coaches in the NFL. The Bears finished fifth in the NFL last season, but this season, the first without Smith, they are ranked 18th overall and are allowing a league-worst 153.6 rushing yards per game.
Needless to say, the absence of Lovie Smith in Chicago shows his value as a coach.
For the Redskins, Smith's history of coaching solid defenses presents a perfect situation, considering the failure of Jim Haslett and the 3-4 defense. Smith ran a rock-solid 4-3 in Chicago, and the Redskins have the personnel geared toward the traditional scheme.
Bringing in Smith as head coach would mean the defensive wrongs are righted, Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan can return to the trenches where they made their names in college, and the likes of Barry Cofield, Jarvis Jenkins and Stephen Bowen become part of a defensive tackle rotation.
Smith would take care of the defensive woes, which would leave the door wide open for an up-and-coming offensive genius to handle the RGIII conundrum.
Bill Cowher, Former Head Coach, Pittsburgh Steelers
Bill Cowher may be one of the most desired head coaches in the NFL year in and year out despite having been out of the game since the 2006-07 season. He finished his career with the Pittsburgh Steelers with an impressive 149-90-1 record, including a Super Bowl victory in 2005.
According to Cowher in an interview with Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, he "had the best job in the league; I didn't get out of it to get back in it."
That sort of rains on the parade, but Cowher is just 56 and may get the itch to get back in the game in a year or two.
Cowher wasn't the genius behind the smothering Steelers defense; that was Dick LeBeau. He wasn't in charge of the offense either; that fell to Ken Whisenhunt in Cowher's later years. What Cowher would be for the Redskins is a coach who commands the respect of his players and staff, who is hard-nosed but not stubborn to a fault.
Cowher is the kind of coach who can motivate a team and bring it together. If the Redskins need anything, it is a force to bring things together.
And with Cowher would come a long list of coordinators wanting to work on his staff, which would give the Redskins their pick of the litter, as it were.
Art Briles, Head Coach, Baylor Bears
What could be better than to bring in the offensive mind responsible for the electric college career of Robert Griffin III, Baylor head coach Art Briles?
Briles and Griffin arrived at Baylor in 2008, and aside from the year Griffin was injured, the pair created an amazing offensive attack, with the Bears finishing with the second-best offense in the college ranks in 2011.
But even after Griffin left, Briles continued his offensive assault on the NCAA. In the two seasons since parting ways with Griffin, Briles and Baylor have had the top-ranked offense in the country.
Briles built an offense where Griffin would move around and pick his receivers. That spread the defense out to the point where Griffin could do whatever he wanted through the air or with his legs.
Perhaps it is fate to have the genius behind Griffin's rise to fame in college enter into the conversation to save his former quarterback's career and the team around him. Perhaps it is just as much of an omen, though.
The last time a pass-happy, wide-open offensive-minded college coach graced the Redskins' sidelines, it was Steve Spurrier with his Fun 'n' Gun offense that ruined quarterback Patrick Ramsey and made the team a joke.
Not even the 10-year contract extension Briles just signed will stop the Redskins from asking after his services.
David Shaw, Head Coach, Stanford Cardinal
Give David Shaw one more year at Stanford, and he'll have just as much Division I coaching experience as his predecessor Jim Harbaugh did before he made the jump to the NFL. Shaw preceded Harbaugh as quarterbacks coach with the Oakland Raiders under Jon Gruden.
Shaw told MMQB's Peter King that his offense runs on the same principle Gruden's did: "What you want to do on offense is present the illusion of sophistication but all in all remain very simple and basic."
Shaw's approach is almost the antithesis of Kyle Shanahan's, which presents no illusion whatsoever and relies on defenses being dumb more than anything else. In case he hadn't noticed, defenses learn and tend to make you pay for it.
The Redskins need a coach like Shaw who can instill a better culture as well as do amazing things with the offensive personnel.
Kevin Sumlin, Head Coach, Texas A&M
There is no shortage of spread-offense coaches in the college ranks, and with the increasing emphasis on explosive offenses in the NFL, guys like Kevin Sumlin are going to be hot commodities.
For the Redskins, Sumlin would bring a dynamic offensive attack that could make Griffin the focal point of the offense the way the Redskins failed to do.
Griffin isn't the type of improvising quarterback that Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel is, but he thrives when he has options down the field, which Sumlin's offense is designed to create.
It would require a significant upgrade at receiver and may come at the cost of Morris being a workhorse, which would be a tough call to make.
In a move to preserve their offensive genius head coach, the Aggies extended Sumlin through 2019, but that isn't likely to stop him from eventually making the jump to the NFL. And maybe Dan Snyder decides to open up his checkbook again, this time to buy his own promising college coach.