For Shanahan, the hope is that the Redskins hit bottom in their embarrassing 23-0 loss to Buffalo Sunday, and that they will show improvement — or at least be somewhat competitive — during their final nine games. Undoubtedly, it will be a key stretch for Snyder as he evaluates the state of the franchise after Shanahan’s two years in charge.
In January 2010, Snyder gave Shanahan everything he requested to join the organization: player-personnel control, an assurance the owner would no longer meddle in football matters, having his son as the offensive coordinator — Snyder agreed to it all. But where are the Redskins as they approach January 2012? That’s what Snyder, who declined an interview request for this column, must determine before deciding what changes he should ask Shanahan to make — because several changes will be necessary unless this unexpected mess is cleaned up quickly.
The Redskins have dropped three straight and four of their past five games. The offense has struggled whether Rex Grossman or John Beck is at quarterback. The defense, the foundation of the team’s 3-1 start, suddenly can’t stop the run.
With all of that, it would seem difficult to find much positive about Shanahan’s brief tenure. To be fair, though, the Redskins have made some strides.
The organization was a laughingstock when Shanahan arrived. He provided instant credibility. An adult was finally in charge. A disciplinarian took control of an undisciplined organization, which was what the Redskins needed at the time.
Washington’s salary-cap situation is better. Before Shanahan arrived, the Redskins were second to none at making big mistakes on free agents (remember Albert Haynesworth?). Recently, they’ve demonstrated a wiser approach. Defensive end Stephen Bowen and nose tackle Barry Cofield, for example, were good offseason additions.
The Redskins used to give lip service to building through the draft — then offered their top picks to teams while chasing high-profile players in trades. The draft seems central to Shanahan’s strategy. Shanahan got it right last spring by drafting outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan. Left tackle Trent Williams, the Redskins’ top pick in Shanahan’s first year, could anchor the offensive line for years if he works hard.
Eventually, Washington’s defensive front could be formidable. Brian Orakpo and Kerrigan are productive edge rushers. Bowen, Cofield and end Adam Carriker, despite the defensive line’s current slump, have shown encouraging signs.