Washington Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan Facing Do-or-Die Season?

Greg StarddardContributor IIIMay 21, 2011

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 26:  Head coach Mike Shanahan of the Washington Redskins watches the action during the game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on December 26, 2010 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

Someone needs to tell Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan that John Elway isn't walking through that door. Shannon Sharpe isn't walking through that door. Neither is Terrell Davis. And while you're at it, remind Coach Shanahan he's playing for an owner with the least amount of patience in the NFL, besides Oakland Raiders owner Al "fire up the overhead projector" Davis.

In short, Shanahan must win this season or he could be on shaky ground.

One thing I've learned while living and reporting in the Washington D.C. area is that Redskins owner Daniel Snyder wants a Super Bowl more than anything. He'll do just about anything to get it.

He goes through head coaches like drinking a glass of water. The list is long, and the losses for the burgundy and gold keep piling up. Stability in the head coaching ranks with the Skins isn't something Snyder is known for. And I know I'm also on a short lease because he's been known to go after writers too.

In some respects, Shanahan is digging his own grave. His first problem can be found at home: his son. I'm not sure if Kyle Shanahan is a good offensive coordinator or not. Heck, I'm not sure if he's actually calling the shots or if his father is making offensive strategic decisions on the down low. I know this. Whatever they did last season didn't work, and I see no reason to have faith that things will change.

It's been a bumpy ride in D.C. so far for Shanny. He spent most of last season fighting with Albert Haynesworth and Donovan McNabb. Well, perhaps he wasn't fighting with McNabb as much as he was disagreeing with his veteran quarterback. Shanny seemed to be more interested in proving to Redskins Nation that he was in charge, and no one else.  Hey Mike: We know you're the head coach. Now go coach, and win some freakin' games!

Look, I'm not supporting Haynesworth by any stretch of the imagination. He's proved to be a knucklehead. We all know that. We've seen that. His pending criminal cases in Northern Virginia certainly give us reason to doubt him. But Shanahan spent too much time on this guy last season. And when he moved on, he created yet another distraction: McNabb.

If Shanahan wants to keep his job with the Skins, he better go out and find a starting quarterback and quit insulting our intelligence with this John Beck nonsense.

Now wait, don't put me on full blast just yet. I know Beck may have potential, or at least I hope he does for Shanahan's sake. But can Beck win 10 or 11 games this season? Can Beck get the Skins to the playoffs? If he doesn't,  guess who's gonna be a little peeved? You guessed it. Danny Boy.

I appreciate the Elway years in Denver. It was fun to watch. Great Quarterback. Hall of Famer.  He won two rings. But folks, it ain't 1997! It's 2011 and Shanahan needs to realize that. You can't rest on your laurels in the National Football League. It's very much a "what have you done for me lately" league these days. Owners want a ring just as bad as the players. And Danny Boy is the hungriest of all. Why? Because he's never tasted the fruits of a Super Bowl championship.

I've been around long enough in Washington to remember Snyder being at odds with former Skins head coach Norv Turner. The rumors of Snyder racing down from the owners box to rip Turner a new one in an office next to the locker room at FedEx Field, as the story goes. Loud voices, an angry owner, and another high profile loss for the Skins and Turner. 

We all know what happened to Turner. See Ya! Fair or not, Snyder gave him his walking papers.  And as Jay-Z says: On to the next one.

Marty Schottenheimer lasted only one year under Snyder—8-8 wasn't good enough. Marty is a good coach. Couldn't win any playoff games, but still a good coach. But it wasn't enough.  Steve "ol' ball coach" Spurrier got a huge contract from Snyder—$25 million I believe. Did he last in D.C.? Nope. Not even close. Barely made it halfway through his five-year contract. Are you listening Shanny?

The Jim Zorn fiasco was just that. A fiasco. Everyone knew he wasn't head coaching material in the NFL. Zorn knew it too. He was just as surprised as all of us when Snyder offered him the gig.  He expected to get  a coordinator's position or perhaps a quarterback coaching job. Instead, he got the big office. And a short time later Zorn got the big bye-bye. Humiliated, scorned, criticized, and basically run out of town. 

I'm telling you, Danny Boy doesn't play.

You'd think armed with all of this information, Shanahan would be more prepared. Right? You know, find a good quarterback to lead the Skins back to playoffs. McNabb was worth a shot. He still had a little left in the tank, but apparently not enough if you listen to father and son. 

So, their solution: Let's give the job to an untested signal caller. Do you think Snyder has the patience to wait for Beck to mature into an NFL quarterback? Big money in Vegas says no.

I can hear the cries of the Shanahan faithful from the banks of the Potomac to the Colorado Rockies. He's a proven NFL head coach. He has two Super Bowl rings. He's rebuilding the Redskins. He needs time in D.C. to put together his team. He's a smart coach.

Look, I get it. I've heard it, and I appreciate his credentials. I'm a huge Oakland Raiders fan and I'll be the first to admit he probably got the short end of the stick during his time in the Bay Area. But that was yesteryear.

For the life of me I can't understand why Shanahan would tie his longevity in Washington to a quarterback with little experience. Of all the signal-callers currently on the Skins roster, McNabb is the best.

I realize that's not saying much when you're talking about Beck and Rex Grossman. But of the three, I think McNabb gives them the best shot at the playoffs. Can McNabb get the Skins back to the playoffs? I don't know. My gut says no. And my head says neither can Beck or Grossman.

With so much on the line this year, given the reputation of Synder, why didn't Shanny draft a quarterback? Why not take a chance on one of the many young guns that were available in the NFL Draft? He might have struck gold. Christian Ponder of Florida State was available. So was Andy Dalton of TCU. As was Colin Kaepernick of Nevada. And Ryan Mallett of Arkansas. Rick Stanzi of Iowa. All decent prospects.

If you didn't want McNabb, trade or release him, and bring in a youngster to compete with Beck. And while you're at it, sign a veteran backup who you and your son actually believe in.

Shanahan wants everyone to know he's in charge. He has an image of no-nonsense. Personally, I could care less about his tough guy image. I'm more concerned with him fielding a winning team in the District of Columbia. I don't want to see him fighting with his players through the media.   Could care less about his "my way or the highway attitude."

If Shanny doesn't win this season, watch out. Two years of losing for Danny Boy isn't usually tolerated in Washington D.C. And I'm pretty sure if he doesn't get to the playoffs or make a run in the playoffs this year, Snyder's history indicates he won't get a third year with the Skins, regardless of the length of his contract.

Mike Shanahan, you're on the clock.