It only took one benching for Mike Shanahan to destroy his reputation in the DMV and the media at large.
Before that, there was talk that Shanahan could be nominated for Coach of the Year. Clearly he had the team buying in, and even though their wins were rocky, they were improving. They were undefeated in the division, got some hard fought wins versus some good teams, and seemed to be on their way to an unlikely playoff berth.
And then, there was the Detroit Lions game.
I feel like every bad story in the Redskins in the last 10 years or so can start and end with "and then their was the Lions game."
In the final two minutes of a game that was likely lost, and with his quarterback getting obliterated behind a shaky offensive line, not to mention throwing some truly boneheaded passes that led to costly interceptions, Shanahan made the bold decision to bench McNabb in favor of football's favorite whipping boy, Rex Grossman.
And all at once, Shanahan's image changed. No longer was the head coach, taking a bad football team and slowly improving them as the season went on, with a long-term plan that was worthy of the benefit of the doubt that most two time Super Bowl winners would get.
No, instead, he was an egomanical, stupid, old, bitter head coach who was desperate to protect his son instead of help his football team win.
And then the Monday Night Massacre happened. Chad Dukes went on the air and demanded reparations and that everyone on the team be fired.
Fans might not have wanted everyone fired, but there was clearly one person they wanted gone—Mike Shanahan.
The two-time Super Bowl winning coach had seemingly destroyed whatever credibility he'd gained. In fact, many moved to discredit his Super Bowl wins, claiming the coach (who has only had five losing seasons in his long NFL career, including this one) had only one those Super Bowl's because he had John Elway.
The cries of "FIRE SHANAHAN!" only grew louder and more venomous when Coach Shanahan decided he would bench McNabb for the remainder of the season.
The Redskins Nation has seemingly made their decision; they'd rather have Donovan McNabb than Shanahan.
Several times over the last few months and especially in the last two weeks, I've seen people claim the Shanahan needs to be let go. That the Redskins should cut their losses and fire the coach.
It all seems so helpless. Just fire Shanahan, get a new, young head coach, rebuild the O-line, draft a young quarterback, wide receiver and running back, switch back to the 4-3 defense, and BAM! We're right black in the playoffs.
"We're sick of losing," Redskins fans say. "We just want to win, and Shanahan isn't winning, so he needs to go."
The question I ask time and time is this; how exactly was Shanahan supposed to take a team that was 4-12 last season and turn them into a playoff/Super Bowl contender in one season?
The problems about this organization have been well known for ages. The big name, free agent busts. The lack of draft picks, and the draft picks that seemingly aren't worth anything at all. The never ending coaching carousel, the endless offensive and defensive coordinators, the lack of stability at quarterback.
Shanahan was expected to walk through the door, snap his fingers, and for everything to be okay, at least in the eyes of fans and the media.
It didn't turn out that way. And now the pitchforks and torches are out, ready to run yet another guy out of town, to bring in another guy, so when that guy goes 5-10 or 6-10 or even 8-8 but still misses the playoffs, they can get run out as well.
The Redskins need stability. Period. One guy, one offensive system, one defensive system, one head coach, for a prolonged period of time.
I know that the fan base wants to win at any cost. But I do not understand this "fire everyone" mentality that seems to bubble to the suffer when the team is struggling. And yes, I know the team has been struggling for a long time.
But all the same, when you look at the other teams that have struggled in recent years, nearly all of them are marked by frequent coaching changes that destabilize the organization once every couple of years. The Bills, the Browns, the Lions and the 49ers have been in shambles in recent years, as the teams dump coaches and quarterbacks every few years in a desperate attempt to improve.
Lost in all of this is that Donovan McNabb has not played well. That is not the opinion of the coaches—this is fact. Donovan has thrown more interceptions this year than any other time in his career. He's been slow getting out the plays and getting out of the huddle, which leads to false start penalties and clock management issues.
He consistently has shown flashes of brilliance followed by baffling, rookie-esque ineptitude. There is no consistency coming from the quarterback position, which makes it hard for the rest of the team. His red zone success rate has never been great, but it has seen an even bigger hit this season, as he's missed guys who were wide open in the end zone.
The blame for all this has largely been laid at the feet of everyone else. He doesn't have an offensive line. He has no wide receivers to throw to or good enough running backs. His defense sucks. The offensive coordinator sucks. He hasn't been given to the tools to succeed.
In a tersely worded, harsh press release fired off by McNabb's agent Fletcher Smith, it was claimed that offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan had refused to add things to the offense that McNabb was more comfortable with, and only took McNabb's advice into consideration once McNabb was benched.
This is a complete false and blatant lie. Since McNabb's first benching in Detroit and the drubbing on Monday Night Football, the offense has utilized more screen passes and checkdowns to Keiland Williams, and has even tried to incorporate the shovel pass that McNabb used in Philly. These plays weren't simply added in when McNabb was benched—it was the same playbook, only a little better operated.
It was clear to anyone who watched the games that McNabb was struggling in all aspects of the game. If Rex Grossman can succeed with all the "bad things" that the team has, even for one game, why can't McNabb do the same?
McNabb's last drive as a Redskin may have been his best, but it was only one of dozens of stalled drive, silly turnovers and boneheaded decisions.
Some fans who disagreed with Grossman starting for the team asked why Shanahan had traded for McNabb at all, and will bring up the fact that Jason Campbell is having great success in Oakland with the Raiders.
Shanahan's reasons are his own, but one has to think part of the problem was pressure from the Redskins fan base, who had long maligned Campbell as the reason for the teams failings. When Campbell was traded, most fans rejoiced. Now, they accuse Shanahan of being an egomaniac that wants to do things his way.
The real question becomes, if the Redskins were to fire Mike Shanahan, who would want to come work for Dan Snyder?
Certainly, no accomplished coach—such as Jon Gruden or Bill Cowher—would want to come to this organization. Coaches who are likely to be fired like Gary Kubiak, Marvin Lewis and John Fox would all be met with a less than favorable (to put it lightly) applause, while young coaches like Josh McDaniels and college coach Jim Harbaugh would need time to implement their system and their way of doing things.
Time is the one thing no Redskins fan is willing to give any head coach.
Give us the playoffs and the Super Bowl or give us death. Give it to us now or get out. No exceptions, no time for growth, no nothing. Don't rebuild, don't take time. Just win.
Love it or hate it, head coach Mike Shanahan gives the team the best chance of getting to a Super Bowl. Period. In his 17 years in the NFL, Shanahan has only had 5 losing seasons. With a good draft class and a solid free agency period, the Redskins could legitimately improve next season.
It requires patience. Patience that the Redskins fans may not have.
I guarantee you this; if Mike Shanahan is fired anytime soon, or even next season, then in 2012, the Redskins will find themselves right back in the same situation they are now; losing team, losing mentality, and a fan base that wants the new guy fired in his first year.
Let's give the coach some time before we break out the pitch forks and torches, otherwise we may never win.