The Redskins seem to have something developing at running back with rookies Roy Helu and Evan Royster, though more time is needed to determine whether either is capable of becoming a big-time performer on an elite team.
A team’s overall record, however, is the most important measurement of progress in professional sports. It’s all that matters.
The Redskins are way short on that yardstick.
Shanahan knows this. Better than most, Shanahan knows how the NFL works. In case anyone wondered, he explained things shortly after joining Washington.
Early during Shanahan’s first training camp in Ashburn, a reporter asked him if the Redskins were as bad as they seemed while going 4-12 in the 2009 season under former coach Jim Zorn. In this league, Shanahan essentially said, you are your record.
Which brings me to Shanahan’s record since the retirement of Hall of Fame quarterback John Elway following the 1998 season.
Shanahan and Elway combined to lead the Denver Broncos to consecutive Super Bowl championships after the 1997 and ’98 seasons. In his 12 seasons without Elway, Shanahan has missed the playoffs eight times, including his past five seasons. He has only one playoff victory during that span.
Does that mean Shanahan forgot how to coach without Elway? No. Not at all.
In fact, some NFL people say, Shanahan’s system still could work as well as ever. And regardless of what occurs for the rest of his time in Washington, Shanahan will be considered one of the greatest play-callers in league history.
Clearly, Shanahan now needs what he has lacked since arriving in Washington: a franchise quarterback.
When Shanahan has worked with true franchise quarterbacks, he has been second to none as a coach. Without those rare guys, things haven’t been as good for him. Look at what he accomplished directing Elway and Steve Young, when he was an assistant with the San Francisco 49ers.
Some would suggest any coach could thrive with quarterbacks like those. Of course, it’s not that simple. History is replete with examples of coaches who failed to succeed at the highest level despite working with star quarterbacks.
Shanahan put the pieces in place that helped Elway break through. Twice. He constructed an offense in which Elway had the greatest moments of his career. Shanahan owns those accomplishments.
Obviously, finding another Elway or Young is very difficult. If it weren’t, everyone would have those types of guys.
You think Shanahan would have stuck with Rex-Beck if he could have acquired a couple of future Hall of Famers in the offseason? Ah, no.
Shanahan needs a superstar quarterback. It’s as obvious as the frustration Snyder must feel watching Washington fail to qualify for the postseason in 10 of his 13 years as owner.
Although Shanahan is many things, stupid is not among them. He knows the Redskins are still missing several parts, including the biggest one. But it’s getting late for him to get them.