Mike Shanahan and history

November 12, 2013

(Jonathan Newton / The Washington Post)

Earlier this year, when the Redskins were in danger of starting 0-4, I glanced at Mike Shanahan’s cumulative record as Redskins coach, compared to the other nine men who have held that job for at least three seasons. The results weren’t flattering.

Then the Redskins beat the Raiders, and looked like they were capable of stringing some wins together, and I never wrote anything on the topic.

But with much of the local sports debate now focused not on the playoffs but on whether Shanahan deserves a contract extension, my Washington Post corporate cousin Rick Snider made the historical comparisons in Monday’s Express. He agreed that it doesn’t look great.

Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan’s short leash is about to become a choke collar.

Only one Redskins coach ever — Bill McPeak — has reached a fifth season with as sorry a winning percentage as Shanahan’s .421. Norv Turner was .454 at 49-59-1 from 1994 to 2000 and was considered a big disappointment. Like Shanahan, Turner inherited an aging team with little remaining talent and a young quarterback, but at least the former Cowboys offensive coordinator reached sustained mediocrity after two seasons.

Now, it’s kind of hard to compare coaches from dramatically different eras of football. And a modest little win streak could quickly change Shanahan’s place on this list. (A four-game winning streak, for example, would push Shanahan past Graham, Kuharich and Turner.)

Still, as of this writing, it’s hard to dress these numbers up too prettily. Here are the 10 men who have coached the Redskins for at least three seasons, ranked by regular-season winning percentage. The number of seasons they coached in Washington is in parentheses.

1. Ray Flaherty 54-21-3, .720 (7)

2. George Allen 67-30-1, .691 (7)

3. Joe Gibbs 154-94, .621 (16)

4. Jack Pardee 24-24, .500 (3)

5. Turk Edwards 16-18-1, .471 (3)

6. Norv Turner 49-59-1, .454 (6)

7. Joe Kuharich 26-32-2, .448 (5)

8. Otto Graham 17-22-3, .436 (3)

9. Mike Shanahan 24-33, .421 (3+)

10. Bill McPeak 21-46-3, .313 (5)

(Note: Ties were not factored into winning percentage prior to 1972.)

Dan Steinberg writes about all things D.C. sports at the D.C. Sports Bog.
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Dan Steinberg · November 12, 2013