Shanahan knows he had a rocky start with the Redskins, and their 6-10 record was the least of his problems. Although the Redskins had significant roster shortcomings because of owner Daniel Snyder’s decade-long mismanagement of the football operation, Shanahan made things worse with his awful decisions on the biggest issues facing the club.
Shanahan traded multiple high draft picks for quarterback Donovan McNabb and then tried to alter his playing style. He radically changed the team’s defensive philosophy without addressing glaring personnel needs. And he believed he could persuade Albert Haynesworth to become a different person. He badly miscalculated, displaying a level of arrogance in each situation that ultimately set back the franchise.
The continued fallout from Shanahan’s ineffective handling of those situations will affect Washington’s draft, which, because of the NFL’s unclear labor situation, could be the primary method of team-building this offseason.
In a normal year, the Redskins would be well positioned for free agency. Other than Trent Williams, no Redskins player has guaranteed money next season. (McNabb would receive $1.75 million if he were released because of injury.)
Problem is, there are many unknowns regarding free agency even if the owner-imposed lockout ends or a new collective bargaining agreement is reached soon. The Redskins need spectacularly positive draft results that are uncommon in their recent history.
The Redskins currently have eight picks, including the 10th overall. They also select once in the second round (41st overall), twice in the fifth (Nos. 144 and 155), once in the sixth (No. 177) and three times in the seventh (Nos. 213, 224 and 253).
When the draft ends Saturday, regardless of whether Shanahan is able to make a move in either direction, the Redskins hope they will have added a high-ceiling quarterback, a prototypical big wideout and a defensive lineman who possesses the talent to regularly draw and defeat double teams. They also need to hit on a “sleeper” pick or two in the later rounds, the type of guys the best-led NFL teams often find.
Obviously, that’s a whole lot for several drafts, let alone one. But such is the Redskins’ difficult position because of their past draft failures and Shanahan’s mistakes last season.