Following another down year for the Washington Redskins offense, Kyle Shanahan has faced criticism after just his first season as offensive coordinator.
Although expectations may have been high with the 32-year-old Shanahan after such stellar offensive production with the Houston Texans, the Redskins finished last season ranked 25th in scoring (18.9 points per game) and 30th in rushing yards per game (91 rushing yards per game). The arguable “upside” could be the ‘Skins 245 passing yards per game, good for eighth best in the league.
Stellar? Far from it. Surprising? Not really.
But before we behead Shanahan and his offensive gameplans, like many appear to be doing, shouldn’t we at least give this guy some time?
Whether or not the Redskins would execute the disastrous McNabb trade again if given the opportunity is irrelevant, but it remains rumored that Kyle Shanahan was never on-board for bringing on the 12-year veteran.
According to Pete Prisco of CBSSports.com, the quick collapse of McNabb and the sudden rise of John Beck is a Kyle Shanahan production.
“The son doesn’t like [McNabb],” one source told Prisco, according to Pro Football Talk.
“Mike Shanahan listened to his son’s recommendation to sit [McNabb] down, a son who has more power than most offensive coordinators in the NFL, probably because he has the same last name as the head coach,” Prisco writes.
While I won’t say that I necessarily agreed with the benching of McNabb with three minutes to go in Week 8, I also don’t think there’s a strong enough argument out there to convince someone otherwise. The team wasn’t moving, there has been speculation since the end of the season about McNabb refusing to wear wristbands (used for playcalling) during the year and the Redskins were fishing for anything at that point.
So with that being said, I wouldn’t argue against Prisco’s reporting or opinion. I would argue that Prisco’s tone is negative and slightly against Kyle Shanahan, but I wouldn’t say it’s off base.
On the other hand, Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk doesn’t sound very convincing with his post about Shanahan being “rampantly obsessive-compulsive.” In fact, Florio’s comments come as being quite ridiculous.
In an interview with Zig Fracassi and Solomon Wilcots on Sirius XM Radio, Redskins quarterback Rex Grossman spoke about the complexity and benefit of Shanahan’s offense.
“During the course of a regular game, Kyle Shanahan wants you to run the offense exactly how he wants it, down to the amount of hitches you take to go through your progressions,” Grossman said. “And if you really study that and rep that in practice, then it becomes a lot easier during the game.”
Apparently this doesn’t go over well with Florio. “Think about that one,” Florio writes. “Kyle Shanahan wants the quarterback ‘to run the offense exactly how he wants it, down to the amount of hitches you take to go through your progressions’.”
“In the 1970s, the media and the fans bemoaned the trend away from quarterbacks calling their own plays, not just as audibles but in the huddle,” Florio continues. ”The younger Shanahan’s attitude confirms that the trend away from quarterback decision-making has resulted in today’s OCD coaches want their signal-callers to receive signals and follow orders like robots, both before and during the play.”
While Florio’s comments continue to baffle me, let’s chalk it up to the fact that trading for McNabb wasn’t necessarily tops on Kyle Shanahan’s wish list. Even so, Shanahan worked with the tools he was given. Referring to their relationship as nothing less than professional, general manager Bruce Allen has even said that Shanahan and McNabb “gelled” really well—both on the field and during practice.
So from the very beginning, Shanahan was working with a quarterback that was less than ideal for his offensive scheme. He then inherited a receiving crew that featured a 28-year-old rookie as their No. 2 (don’t judge, I’m a huge Anthony Armstrong fan), a backfield with more unproven question marks than answers and a lousy offensive line that struggled to block a majority of the defenses they faced.
With a rookie blocking the blind side, a surprising no-namer at left guard (yes, I’m a Lichtensteiger fan), a washed-up center and an injury-plagued right side, the Washington Redskins offense was doomed from the start.
It’s my belief that Mike Shanahan’s zone-blocking scheme can get the most production out of unprolific linemen, but it won’t happen overnight. And as a direct result, that’s why the Redskins running game struggled even when using a plethora of running backs (injuries, of course, didn’t help the situation).
Perhaps too many remember the instant success of Kyle Shanahan when he was promoted to offensive coordinator of the Houston Texans in 2008. In just his first season as coordinator, the Texans ranked third in the league in yards per game (382) and averaged just shy of 23 points per game.
But it should also be noted that Shanahan’s cast in 2008 was far from average. Even having played just 11 games that season, Shanahan was fortunate enough to have Matt Schaub as his quarterback. And even with a short season for Schaub, he ranked seventh among quarterbacks with a 92.7-rating and over 3,000 passing yards.
Shanahan’s running back that season also helped to boost his freshman campaign as coordinator, as Steve Slaton shocked the league with over 1,200 rushing yards (sixth best in the NFL) and 377 receiving yards.
In addition, Shanahan had the league’s best receiver that year, Andre Johnson. Arguably the best receiver every year, Johnson was especially beastly in 2008 when he hauled in 115 receptions for 1,575 yards. And to help bolster his receiving corps that season, Shanahan was blessed with tight end Owen Daniels, who brought in 70 receptions for 862 yards that season, good for third best in the league (edging out Chris Cooley by 13 yards).
Did the pieces fall in place for the young Shanahan in his first season as offensive coordinator? Absolutely. But we must not forget that he had worked with this offense for years prior, serving as both wide receivers coach in 2006 and quarterbacks coach in 2007.
The Houston Texans’ 2008 campaign and their success on offense was no fluke. Kyle Shanahan knows X’s and O’s, and he needs the time. Not only the time, but the patience from fans. There’s no reason to doubt that, and before long, Shanahan will have the ball flying in DC the same way it did in Houston just three short years ago.
Special thanks to Pete Prisco and Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, as well as Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post.