Command central for the Washington Redskins is the swiveling, burgundy chair in the center of Mike Shanahan’s office. Over Shanahan’s right shoulder sits one flat screen, on which he can flip from one meeting to another, from offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan teaching a pass protection philosophy to defensive backs coach Bob Slowik reviewing a coverage, power points aplenty. Over his left shoulder sits another flat screen, on which he can watch each play from each practice session he oversaw this preseason. ¶ The images flickering on those two screens represent the Redskins’ present and future, the players and coaches who will make up Shanahan’s second team here, with real-time evaluations of how they’re performing.
But across Shanahan’s desk, on an opposite wall, hangs the Redskins’ immediate past, and in some ways it is just as instructive about the state of the franchise Shanahan inherited and the direction he intends to take it. Affixed to the wall is a board with the names of players who are no longer here. Some — center Casey Rabach and running back Clinton Portis among them — were mainstays from administrations past. Others — say, wide receiver Roydell Williams or nose tackle Ma’ake Kemoeatu — were signed by Shanahan as stopgaps in 2010, but have since been cast aside.
The Washington Post's Rick Maese joins the Post Sports Live crew to discuss Mike Shanahan's decision to start Rex Grossman over John Beck for the Redskins' season-opener against the Giants on Sunday.
The Post Sports Live crew offers predictions ranging from the Redskins' 2011 record to who will be the team's offensive and defensive MVPs.
What remains is a roster most people outside the team’s Ashburn training facility figure will nestle into the bottom spot in the NFC East for the fourth year in a row. Yet what Shanahan sees on those two flat screens and that board across the room has him smiling, at ease.
“People say I look more relaxed,” Shanahan said. “Well, yeah.”
At this point last year, the foundation of the franchise Shanahan took over was in disarray, old and on the decline. Gone, now, are 26 players who started 280 games in 2009 and 2010. Of those released before Saturday’s final cuts, 10 were so close to the ends of their careers that they are not currently on NFL rosters. Shanahan has heard all the doubts about the roster he has assembled, and doesn’t much care. The difference between 2010, which yielded a 6-10 record that matched the worst of Shanahan’s 15 full seasons as a head coach and now is simple: These Redskins are Shanahan’s.
“When you go into that second year, and if for whatever reason these aren’t the players that you like or you want, it’s your fault,” Shanahan said last week. “. . . The majority of your football team better be based on the guys that you feel fit in your style — and they have what it takes to get to the next level.”
The stats about the Redskins’ level over the last dozen years are, by now, familiar: two winning seasons and two playoff appearances — and no division titles — since 1999. Only five other teams — Buffalo, Cleveland, Detroit, Jacksonville and expansion Houston (which started play in 2002), the dregs of the league — have failed to win a division championship in that time. So Shanahan’s task was and is complex — change a culture of losing, rein in a reputation for disarray, and alter the fortunes of a franchise that was once a model in the NFL but hasn’t been a consistent force in two decades.