The leadership job for the next Redskins coach

December 30, 2013

(AP Photo/Peter Morgan)

It's Black Monday in the NFL, the day of reckoning for many coaches waiting to hear about their fates at the end of the season. And for Mike Shanahan, it hasn't been a good one. The Redskins coach was fired Monday morning, the Post is reporting, after a 3-13 season. It was his third losing record in just four years.

Now, what should the Redskins look for in a replacement?

Among the many things Snyder and the Redskins will want in a new leader—someone who can develop the team's young quarterback, RGIII; someone who can better follow his gut—there's yet another question the team must solve. How will it find a coach who can stick around for the long haul?

That's such a key question because Shanahan is the Redskins' seventh coach in Dan Snyder's 15 seasons as owner. Even in an industry marked by short tenures for both players and the men who lead them, that's quite a fast-spinning coaching carousel at the top.

Short tenures prevent coaches from building critical relationships with players, general managers and team owners. It keeps coaches from having a steady hand in developing the talent of their players—many of whom, let's face it, are pretty young guys who could use some consistency in their lives. And, of course, the rapid rotations are extraordinarily expensive. Snyder will have to pay $7 million to Shanahan and $6 million to assistants, reportedly, not to work next year (not to mention all the money it will take to recruit a replacement). Money like that could be better spent elsewhere.

That's not to say that Shanahan should be given more time. Dan Snyder may not have given him the five years the coach wanted. But it is painfully clear things haven't been working. From Shanahan's relationship with RGIII to his insistence on certain strategies to the dynamic that came with hiring his son to be the play caller, myriad issues contributed to the team's dismal season. The Post's Kent Babb and Mark Maske report that interviews with more than 20 insiders reveal no single reason for the team's dysfunction, but "suggest a root cause for the downfall lies with the very power Shanahan insisted on" from Snyder when he joined the team.

The Redskins' woes most likely won't be fixed by a replacement. Any new coach will still have to grapple with how to handle Snyder and deftly learn how to manage up. But as Jason Reid wrote on Christmas Day, Snyder should "stop chasing yesterday’s great coaches and start pursuing the up-and-coming ones of tomorrow." Find someone okay with sharing control. Find someone young yet proven in an assistant capacity without too much ego. Find someone who can relate to the players, most notably RGIII, and who still has plenty of runway left in his career. It won't fix everything. But some stability at the top is badly needed.

Jena McGregor is a columnist for On Leadership.

Read also:

NFL players could lead a Redskins name change

Redskins' Snyder: Reputation management in a digital age

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Jena McGregor writes a daily column analyzing leadership in the news for the Washington Post’s On Leadership section.
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Jena McGregor · December 27, 2013