Washington Redskins: Ranking the 7 Best Replacements for Mike Shanahan
Despite Sunday's stirring victory on the road against the Seattle Seahawks, Mike Shanahan's second season in D.C. still has to rank as a major disappointment.
With the Washington Redskins facing the prospect of yet another season propping up the NFC East, questions about Shanahan's future with the team will naturally be asked.
After putting forward reasons why Shanahan should be shown the door, fairness dictates that alternatives are offered.
Here is a list of seven excellent candidates who could replace the unpredictable Shanahan in 2012.
7. Greg Manusky, Current Defensive Coordinator, San Diego Chargers
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San Diego Chargers defensive coordinator Greg Manusky is an intelligent assistant who has produced solid units throughout his coaching career.
Manusky moulded the current stout San Francisco 49ers defense and has built on a solid foundation during his first year in San Diego.
The Chargers do not boast the league leading unit of 2010, but injuries and temperament are partly to blame for the slight decline of their defense.
Manusky has plenty of 3-4 experience which would prevent the Redskins undergoing another shift on defense and allow youngsters like Ryan Kerrigan to continue to flourish in the system.
Manusky runs a hybrid 3-4 that features many 1-gap fronts. This blend between three and four man looks could actually suit a lot of the Redskins personnel better than the existing traditional, 2-gap style.
As a former Redskins player, Manusky has some ties to the franchise. He is an up and coming assistant who would bring plenty of enthusiasm and fresh ideas to the job.
But Manusky is also relatively unproven, even as a top-tier assistant. Not all coordinators can successfully make the jump to directing the whole team.
His lack of pedigree would make Manusky a huge gamble and his appointment would likely create little buzz amongst a fan base desperate for a winner.
6. Mike Zimmer, Current Defensive Coordinator, Cincinnati Bengals
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Mike Zimmer is one of the most respected defensive gurus in the game today. During his time in Cincinnati, Zimmer has constructed an aggressive, hard working and disciplined unit.
Under Zimmer the Bengals defense consistently plays better than the sum of its parts. Well versed in both the 4-3 and 3-4 fronts, Zimmer's expertise would turn an emerging defense into a truly fearsome unit.
He is a hard nosed and passionate coach who would instill plenty of aggression in the team, as well as a much needed sense of order at Redskins Park.
Despite consistently producing sound and high ranking defenses, Zimmer has never been a head coach. Turning a floundering franchise over to a man who doesn't have experience at the helm, may not please many.
There is also the question of whether the defensively minded Zimmer would be best suited to address the Redskins biggest problem, namely lack of offense.
But the defense is the strength of the team and Zimmer could make the group even stronger. As a defensive coach he may well favour a more conservative offense, emphasising efficiency over the spectacular.
This kind of offense provides the perfect compliment on a team led by its defense. The effect that Zimmer's tough-minded approach could have on the attitude and culture of the team, cannot be underestimated.
5. Russ Grimm, Current Assistant Head Coach, Arizona Cardinals
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The idea of former players, not matter how great, returning to coach the team is not always the most appealing.
Great players do not often become great head coaches. But Hall of Fame original "Hog" Russ Grimm could provide the kind of positive spark the Redskins need to return to greatness.
Grimm's presence could serve to re-energise the franchise he won three Super Bowls with as one of the dominant offensive linemen to ever play the game.
His route into coaching has also been very impressive and offers some encouragement that Grimm could handle the responsibility of overseeing an entire team.
Grimm has worked with some excellent and well respected coaches such as Bill Cowher and Dick LeBeau.
A respected offensive line coach, Grimm developed a fine front five with the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was a member of the staff who guided the AFC North powerhouse to a Super Bowl title at the end of the 2005 season.
When Cowher retired a year later, Grimm was a prime candidate to succeed him. He was also a front runner for the vacant Arizona Cardinals job.
Fellow Steelers staffer Ken Whisenhunt beat him to the Cardinals position, but Grimm still went along to the desert as assistant head coach.
He was an integral member of the staff which helped steer the upstart Cardinals to a Super Bowl appearance during the 2008-09 season.
He has taken on a leadership role higher than that of a coordinator and proved a success with two franchises.
Grimm's quickly accrued coaching experience, coupled with his strong commitment and passion for the Redskins franchise, could make him well worth a gamble.
4. Brian Billick, Former Super Bowl Winning Head Coach, Baltimore Ravens
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He may have been away from the game since 2007, but Brian Billick has the credentials, experience and personality to be a success in the nation's capital.
The former Baltimore Ravens head coach won a Super Bowl at the conclusion of the 2000 season and consistently kept the Ravens competitive for the next seven seasons.
Billick elevated himself to the head coaching ranks after coordinating perhaps the most explosive offense in league history, the 1998 Minnesota Vikings.
Billick never produced a potent attack in Baltimore and his tremendous success was ironically built on a consistently strong defense.
But after being a pass happy play caller with the Vikes, Billick's willingness to adapt to what he had in Baltimore stands in his favour.
Quickly recognising that defense would carry his team, Billick ensured his offense would emphasise controlling the clock and protecting the football.
A lot of coaches in his position may have been reluctant to go as far away from their natural instincts as Billick did.
His frequently defiant attitude also helped to create a strong siege mentality amongst the Ravens. This would be a useful trait to bring to a Redskins franchise that has often been treated with derision during Dan Snyder's tumultuous ownership.
Billick's failure to build an effective offense during nine seasons in Baltimore has to count against him. But his ability to recognize and play to the strengths of his team, could make him the ideal candidate to push the Redskins on.
3. Jon Gruden, Former Super Bowl Winning Head Coach, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Jon Gruden would be a hot commodity for most teams seeking a new head coach, if the current Monday Night Football analyst publicly declared his intentions to return to an NFL sideline.
Gruden has only been out of the game since 2008 and has a proven track record of elevating teams to the next level.
Critics of Gruden would point out that he inherited a strong team from Tony Dungy. While this is true, Gruden deserves credit for taking a talented bunch and providing the spark to take them to a Super Bowl.
Tampa had regularly failed to live up to their talent under the often placid Dungy. Gruden's volatile enthusiasm made him the right man at the right time.
But like Billick, Gruden never managed to live up to his own credentials as an offensive guru, during his time in Florida.
As the Bucs defense gradually weakened, Gruden failed to construct an offense that could pick up the slack. Tampa Bay was a solid team and boasted some playoff appearances, but never really came close to matching the heights of Gruden's debut season.
It is his earlier efforts with the Oakland Raiders which better demonstrate Gruden's ability to build a winner. Taking over in 1998 as the youngest coach in the league, following a 4-12 disaster, Gruden quickly turned the Raiders into a perennial contender in the AFC.
The danger with Gruden is that he could end up being eerily reminiscent of Shanahan. A coach renowned for offensive expertise and a fiery disposition, Gruden would have to avoid falling into the trap of putting his ego and temper first when it comes to team decisions.
This is an accusation which can justifiably be levelled at Shanahan and another high-priced coach with the potential to do the same may not be the most prudent way for the Redskins to go.
2. Andy Reid, Current Head Coach, Philadelphia Eagles
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The 2011 Philadelphia Eagles may be on course to go down amongst the biggest underachievers in league history, but Andy Reid is still a coach who would be welcomed by nearly every franchise in the NFL.
Since taking over in 1999, Reid has managed to consistently keep the Eagles in contention. This is despite not always fielding the most talented squads in the league.
This looks like being only the fourth season in Reid's long tenure where the Eagles will fail to make the postseason. He boast an outstanding record of consistency.
Two things do count against Reid. First is the question of whether he can win the big one. His Eagles have been notorious for failure in the playoffs.
In a four-year stretch they lost three NFC Championship games and were edged by the Patriots in a Super Bowl.
Reid's Eagles have won only once in five Championship game appearances and their last two trips to the playoffs both ended at the Wildcard stage.
It is also beginning to look as if Reid needs a break from the game. He has been a head coach for 13 seasons and there may be those who would suggest that the Eagles current malaise is due to the stagnation of the man on the sidelines.
But Reid has an abundance of NFC East experience and is capable of sustaining success. If he does part ways with the Eagles at the end of this season, there would be few better candidates than Reid to take the Redskins back to the playoffs.
1. Bill Cowher, Former Super Bowl Winning Head Coach, Pittsburgh Steelers
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It is inevitable that whenever Bill Cowher decides he is ready to once again patrol an NFL sideline, franchises will be queuing up to secure his services.
The Redskins should definitely be amongst the pack. Like Gruden, Cowher is still relatively young for a head coach. Like Reid, Cowher has a well established and respected record of consistent success.
Cowher took over from the legendary Chuck Noll in 1992 and won the then AFC Central in his first season. Three years later Cowher's Steelers were unfortunate to lose to the Dallas Cowboys in a Super Bowl.
Three more AFC title game appearances followed, but Cowher seemed destined to never win the big one. But in 2005 he guided the Steelers from the Wildcard round to the Super Bowl.
After trouncing Mike Holmgren's Seattle Seahawks, Cowher finally got to lift the Lombardi trophy. He walked away at the end of the following season and his return has been highly anticipated ever since.
Cowher's teams won with dominant defense and his 3-4 expertise would certainly prove useful to the Redskins.
One of Cowher's best attributes was his ability to cope with the ever changing nature of the modern NFL. During his tenure, the Steelers routinely lost multiple star players via free agency.
But Cowher always managed to find and motivate suitable replacements. The cast of characters constantly changed, but Cowher ensured that the blueprint for success and the number of victories did not.
Most importantly, Cowher established a reputation as coach who was demanding, yet amenable to his players.
His passion and determination would lift the bleak mood and oppressive atmosphere that often seems to have surrounded players during Shanahan's time in charge.
Rumours of an imminent return to coaching for Cowher remain strong and the Redskins would likely face stiff competition.
But Cowher's ability to quickly produce and maintain a winner as well as creating a positive environment for success, makes him the ideal candidate for the Redskins.
What Shanahan Would Leave for the Next Man
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Many who defend Shanahan argue that he is emphasising a long-term approach to team building. Despite serious doubts about whether this was his original intention or even needed, the Redskins do posses a solid core for the future.
Youngsters such as Fred Davis, Ryan Kerrigan, Roy Helu, Kevin Barnes and Leonard Hankerson provide plenty of reasons for optimism.
If the Redskins don't want to trust another offseason of Shanahan's unpredictable decision making, any of the coaches on this list would have plenty to work with.