Daniel Snyder has a difficult decision to make in the offseason.
If there's one thing that we can be certain of in Washington, it's that Daniel Snyder is going nowhere. Those calling for his head will inevitably be disappointed when the 2014 season rears its head. However, any remnants of the Mike Shanahan regime must be swept aside if there is to be any joy gleaned from football in D.C.
In 2010, there was hope. Snyder handed over football decisions to Shanahan and Bruce Allen, although it was Shanahan who had the final say on player personnel. Allen was the general manager, but his drafting record with Oakland and Tampa Bay was mixed.
This left the balance of power shifted too far in the other direction, with Shanahan's personnel decisions left unchallenged. While he cleaned out the dead wood and shifted the focus to the draft, it could be argued that, outside of Alfred Morris, only his first-round draft choices have been a true success.
Yes, the likes of Leonard Hankerson, Roy Helu, Aldrick Robinson and Perry Riley have seen good playing time, but only Riley has looked anything like convincing or consistent.
Then there have been baffling choices like Chris Thompson and Jawan Jamison; running backs taken in this year's draft when the offensive line was in dire need of strengthening. Speaking of the O-line, where's 2012 third-round pick Josh LeRibeus? Out of shape and on the inactive list.
At the end of 2012, Kevin Ewoldt at HogsHaven.com took a look at Shanahan's three years of drafting up to that point. The worrying conclusion he drew was that the median round Shanahan was drafting at was the sixth.
Building a roster from low-round draft picks isn't going to bring success to the organisation. He was given a pass because of the need to craft a younger roster. Trading down for value was a good decision in the first couple of years, but the number and age of players becomes inconsequential if they aren't of the required standard.
Trading away future first-rounders to pick up a franchise quarterback was a big risk, and in 2012 it paid off. Robert Griffin III—as well as a defense that finally stepped up—elevated the team to new levels when the coach seemed to have given up, but the way the season ended cast a shadow over 2013. Next year will define the young quarterback's future.
Blaming the cap penalty is another way Shanahan and Allen have been granted a pass. However, it was their choice to front-load the contracts in an uncapped year, and the possibility of recrimination must have entered their minds at some point.
Regardless of how unethical it was for the other owners to punish Washington—and Dallas—it was the actions of Shanahan and Allen that led the team to that position.
That's the final home game for London Fletcher..and perhaps Santana Moss, Brian Orakpo, most of the secondary, Mike Shanahan, etc.— Chris Russell (@Russellmania980) December 22, 2013
Moving past the head coach and GM, there has been universal failure on the part of almost all the position coaches, too. Jim Haslett has been under fire for the entirety of Shanahan's reign, while the rest seem to have been brought in on favors.
Raheem Morris, while having held a head coaching job at Tampa Bay, has Buccaneers connections with Allen. Kyle Shanahan has talent and found success with Gary Kubiak at the Texans, but Kubiak's relationship with Shanahan runs back to his father at the Broncos.
Bob Slowik had never been a linebackers coach before he came to Washington, while special teams coordinator Keith Burns has 10 years under Shanahan in Denver. Burns had never held a position as high as the one he gained this year, and the same was true of quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur upon his hiring.
When San Diego's A.J. Smith was brought in, it seemed that there would be another set of eyes evaluating talent for the then-upcoming draft. However, it's unclear what role Smith holds with the team, and Smith's son Kyle had already been brought in as a scout.
There's nothing essentially wrong with hiring staff you are familiar with; as a coach, you know with whom you work best and that inevitably helps with a smooth transition. However, the first requirement should be qualification and experience, which hasn't been universally addressed here.
If Shanahan is to be fired, his staff should go with him. While Snyder got it right when he decided to abstain from football matters, he granted too much power to one person, and that mistake has marred the development of the football team.
It's vital that the next regime involves a general manager who can operate in a true partnership with the head coach, pooling their collective knowledge and moving the team forward.
Regardless of the new dawn that the arrival of Shanahan promised, that just hasn't happened. The fact that the team had its most successful season after the coach had apparently given up says everything we need to know.