The player-personnel investments Shanahan made in April — selecting quarterback Robert Griffin III after trading four high-value draft picks for the right to do so, seeing potential in running back Alfred Morris and picking Kirk Cousins to back up Griffin — are paying dividends now. After two-plus seasons of striking out a lot and being criticized, including by me, for his high-stakes roster mistakes (Donovan McNabb and John Beck quickly come to mind), Shanahan is on the type of roll that owner Daniel Snyder expected when he hired the two-time Super Bowl winner. It’s exactly what Shanahan envisioned, too.
“This is what I’m here for,” Shanahan said. “This is why I came . . . to do the things we’re doing now.”
That would be winning. Washington (7-6) has its longest streak since winning four consecutive games to close the 2007 regular season. The Redskins haven’t been over .500 this late in a season since 2008.
In the NFC East, the Redskins trail the New York Giants by one game. The Redskins are also among the top teams vying for one of two wild-card berths. They’ve managed to salvage their season, in large part, because Shanahan was bull’s-eye correct about Griffin and Morris.
Shanahan risked the franchise’s future in gambling that Griffin would be great and so far has hit the jackpot. “Obviously, everybody has seen what Robert can do,” Shanahan said, “and he’s off the charts.”
Before suffering a knee injury Sunday, Griffin had elevated his performance during this season-turning four-game stretch, during which he has thrown 10 touchdown passes and only one interception while completing 68.5 percent of his passes.
“It’s easy for everyone to look at it now and say, ‘They needed to do whatever they had to do to get him,’ ” linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. “But you know there are no guarantees when you’re talking about the draft, and Coach Shanahan is the one who put himself out there and made the call. That’s what you want the guy in charge to do: Come up with a sound plan and make good decisions.”
Drafting Morris also has proven to be among Shanahan’s best moves in Washington.
In watching Morris’s college film, Shanahan noticed Morris ran powerfully. He was seldom brought down by the first would-be tackler or behind the line of scrimmage. So why was Morris still available in the sixth round? Well, when other NFL teams evaluated Morris, who ran the 40-yard dash in 4.67 seconds, they saw one of the slower players at the position in the draft. Shanahan saw a potential rushing champion.