It was Thursday in Ashburn.
The vindication of Michael Edward Shanahan has become apparent to all in the past few weeks, as he has coached the Washington Redskins to six consecutive wins and maneuvered them to the cusp of an NFC East title that would be secured with a triumph Sunday night over the Dallas Cowboys at FedEx Field. Shanahan has pushed all the right coaching buttons for a team whose season seemed broken beyond repair in early November. He has both the Redskins and himself in position to begin recapturing past glories.
“You’ve got to give everybody credit when credit is due,” veteran Redskins wide receiver Santana Moss said. “He’s the coach. He deserves credit.”
The reaffirmation of Shanahan, the two-time Super Bowl winner with the Broncos hired by the Redskins in 2010 to reverse their sagging fortunes, as an elite NFL coach has been years, not weeks, in the making. He took plenty of lumps and did plenty of losing for 21
2 seasons while remaking the Redskins, gathering a nucleus of the players he wanted.
Then he got his new John Elway in Robert Griffin III. He got his new Terrell Davis in Alfred Morris. He clung stubbornly to his long-held core beliefs about how to build a team; he refused to let go of his insistence that things would work for him here just as they did in Denver. But he also did enough bending around the edges to accommodate Griffin’s unique skill set and to connect with a younger generation of players.
The result is, quite possibly, a contender with some lasting power, one that could bring Shanahan — at some point — the third career Super Bowl victory he is said by associates to covet dearly and the Redskins a fourth Lombardi Trophy to go with the trio of them secured more than two decades ago in Joe Gibbs’s first coaching go-around in D.C.
“You’re really starting to see the guys that he’s brought in stand up,” Redskins linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. “Blue-collar guys. It’s starting to pay off for us now when we had to face a little adversity. I think that’s only going to continue to get better as he continues to bring guys in and we continue to bond underneath his scheme and model that he’s had set up for the last 20 years he’s been in the league.”
‘How you put a team together’
Watching from afar, Ted Sundquist wasn’t as stunned as many onlookers were when Shanahan said following the Redskins’ loss on Nov. 4 to the Carolina Panthers that the rest of their season would be about evaluating players. The loss dropped the Redskins to 3-6, and some saw it as a sign that Shanahan was giving up on the season far too soon. Sundquist, who spent six of his 16 years in the Broncos’ front office as the team’s general manager, saw it as a tactic, a ploy designed to provoke his players.