5 Coaches Washington Redskins Absolutely Must Pursue to Replace Mike Shanahan
As we speak, Mike Shanahan is the head football coach of the Washington Redskins. Still, despite the financial incentive owner Daniel Snyder has to retain his services, Snyder has plenty of reasons to cut Shanahan's tenure a year short.
Question is, in the event Snyder fires Shanahan, whom should he pursue to replace him?
Seeing that the deteriorating relationship between Robert Griffin III and Shanahan was at the forefront of Washington's disappointing 2013 season, Snyder would be best served by pursuing a coach who can get the most out of Griffin.
There's also Snyder's affection for going after the flashy name. He needs to end it.
From Shanahan to Joe Gibbs and Steve Spurrier, Snyder placed a higher premium on a coach's celebrity than on his recent work.
And what does he have to show for it? Three playoff appearances and just one playoff win.
In pursuing Shanahan's replacement, Snyder needs to hire a coach on merit, not just reputation.
With that said, here are five candidates he should pursue.
Hired by Chargers head coach Mike McCoy as the offensive coordinator, Whisenhunt has played an integral role in the resurgence of Philip Rivers.
As USA Today's Lindsay Jones states, behind an offensive philosophy that features the short passing game, Rivers has been reborn.
After a down year in 2012, Rivers is having a career year in 2013. He is on pace to set career highs in accuracy, turnovers and passer rating.
And Rivers isn't the first quarterback to have success under Whisenhunt's direction.
Whisenhunt was involved in the development of a young Ben Roethlisberger, and he rejuvenated a battered Kurt Warner as well.
Despite his struggles with Kevin Kolb and Matt Leinart—who haven't they struggled with?—Whisenhunt's track record indicates that he could aid Griffin in his development.
Then there's the impact he can have on the defense. While he's earned his chops on the offensive side of the ball, Whisenhunt knows some defense—at least, who to hire to lead it anyway.
Shanahan undoubtedly faltered with his hiring of Jim Haslett, a 4-3 coach, to coach the Redskins' 3-4 defense.
Whisenhunt, on the other hand, was successful—for the most part—in delegating Ray Horton and Billy Davis to lead his defense in Arizona.
Outside of 2011, the Cardinals never finished worse than 20th in total defense. And even then, they were one of the best teams at forcing turnovers.
With such a glowing resume, Snyder would be hard-pressed to find a better candidate.
The Redskins have talent—they did have Super Bowl aspirations prior to the season, after all. Add a coach like Whisenhunt, and Washington could be looking at a quick turnaround in 2014.
Like Whisenhunt, Lovie Smith isn't a flashy name, but his resume speaks for itself.
In nine seasons with the Chicago Bears, Smith tallied 81 wins, one Super Bowl appearance and had seven wins or more in every season but one, his first.
So, why was Smith fired again?
Oh yeah, he failed to make the postseason in 2011 and 2012 with a backup quarterback and an injured Jay Cutler under center.
For a franchise that just last season celebrated its first winning season since 2007, Washington should be banging on Smith's door as we speak—especially with a defensive unit that ranks as one of the NFL's worst.
Under Smith, Chicago boasted a quality—and sometimes elite—defense that consistently was among the league's best at forcing turnovers.
The lone lingering question with Smith is on the offensive side of the ball.
He wasn't always blessed with great talent at quarterback in Chicago—Rex Grossman and Kyle Orton, I'm talking about you—but he did err in who he hired to direct the offense.
Both Mike Tice and Mike Martz were poor fits to lead the Chicago offense, and the team—and quarterback—suffered because of it.
Considering how much is invested in Griffin, Smith will need to have an offensive coordinator in mind to develop the young QB if Snyder is to consider hiring him.
Nonetheless, with his defensive prowess, you can be assured that under Smith's direction, Washington won't duplicate this season's point differential of minus-130 points.
Not the Gruden you were expecting, right? As much as Jay's brother, Jon Gruden, fits Snyder's profile of hiring big-name coaches, he's not really a fit for Washington.
Aside from his quarterback camp on ESPN with the NFL's top quarterback prospects, when have you seen Jon Gruden work with a young quarterback like Griffin?
Chris Simms? Bruce Gradkowski? Fact is that he's rode the likes of Brad Johnson, Rich Gannon and Jeff Garcia to success.
Now, if you're looking for someone to bring along a young quarterback, Jay Gruden is your guy. Look what he's done with Andy Dalton.
Knocked for his lack of arm strength and the scheme he ran at TCU going into the draft, Dalton is currently an owner of 78 career touchdowns and has the Cincinnati Bengals on the cusp of their third straight postseason appearance.
Anybody see that coming?
Then there's the fact that Gruden does have some experience as a head coach, albeit in the Arena Football League.
It may not be the ideal place you'd like a coach to gather experience, but it's experience nonetheless.
He would need to find a quality defensive coordinator to bring with him, but his arrival could bolster both Griffin's and Washington's long-term outlook.
While Greg Roman finds himself in the Jim Zorn category (he has no head coaching experience), his work with a quarterback very similar to Griffin should be enough for Snyder to overlook this factor.
Perceived as a bust, former No. 1 overall pick Smith maximized his potential under Roman's direction. But it's Roman's work with Kaepernick that should catch Snyder's eye.
Just like Griffin, Kaepernick utilized the read-option and took the league by storm in 2012.
Fast-forward to 2013. In an effort to keep Kaepernick healthy, the read-option is no longer a major facet of the 49ers offense.
While Kaepernick has endured his struggles as a result of this, he is peaking at the right time and has begun to display a higher comfort level in throwing from the pocket.
Completing only 57 percent of his passes on the season, in his last four games, Kaepernick has completed over 61 percent of his passes.
Considering that Griffin's health and development as a pocket passer is a major concern for the Redskins, Roman would be an ideal coach to foster a similar growth in Griffin's game.
Add in how Roman has emphasized the running game in San Francisco, and his arrival would bode well for Alfred Morris' production going forward as well.
While his previous venture into the college ranks was unsuccessful, Snyder shouldn't be deterred from looking again.
From Jim Harbaugh to Chip Kelly, former college coaches are having success on the NFL level.
Judging from what Bill O'Brien has done in his short stint at Penn State, he very well could be the latest to do so in the NFL.
Replacing a legend like Joe Paterno wasn't even the biggest obstacle O'Brien faced after being hired by Penn State in 2012. Sanctions coming from the Jerry Sandusky scandal left O'Brien's Nittany Lions short on talent, as scholarships were lost and players were permitted to transfer without penalty.
And what did O'Brien do? He led Penn State to an 8-4 record in 2012 and a 7-5 record in 2013.
Even with such success, the main reason Washington should pursue O'Brien is his work with quarterbacks.
In his first season under the helm, O'Brien transformed a lightly regarded quarterback in Matt McGloin into one of the nation's best quarterbacks.
While McGloin went undrafted, he parlayed his successful campaign under O'Brien into a starting gig with the Oakland Raiders.
In addition to his work with McGloin, O'Brien has coached Big Ten Freshman of the Year Christian Hackenberg and a guy named Tom Brady in the NFL.
From his tutelage under the tight-lipped Bill Belichick to his work with the aforementioned quarterbacks, O'Brien could be an elixir to the circus that followed the Redskins in 2013.
Question is, would O'Brien be willing to leave Penn State?
With ESPN.com's Adam Schefter reporting that O'Brien is seeking to reduce the NFL buyout in his contract, it's possible that he may be willing to do so.
In the event he is, Snyder would be wise to gauge his interest. If he can turn McGloin into an NFL starting quarterback, what could he do with a talent like Griffin?
This is certainly a question Snyder might want to find an answer for.