With Mike Shanahan, Redskins aren’t that much better off than when Daniel Snyder was calling the shots

Mike Wise
Columnist January 3, 2012

Daniel Snyder’s meddlesome ways have been pilloried for much of the last decade. Stop being a player personnel director. Most of the disenchanted fan base pleaded for the Washington Redskins owner to sign the checks and butt out.

So now that it has been almost two years since Snyder turned over complete control of all things football to Mike Shanahan and benched himself as a talent evaluator, it’s worth asking the burgundy and gold legions:

Mike Wise is a sports columnist for The Washington Post. View Archive

How’s that working out?

Snyder is so uninvolved now he has yet to issue a statement of support for Shanahan, whose 11-21 record in Washington is a victory off Jim Zorn’s 12-20 mark in 2008-09 — after which the Zornado was fired.

It’s just assumed Shanahan will not only be back for another year of the build but very possibly for final refurbishing in 2013 and 2014, the final years on a deal on which he is still owed $21 million.

Staying with Shanahan and his staff next year makes perfect sense. But without tangible progress in 2012 — more wins and at least having a shot at the playoffs entering December — sticking with him no matter what is as rash as the owner picking the players.

One thing we all agree on: Snyder’s carousel of coaches and chaos over his first decade as owner was clearly not the best direction for the Redskins. But a blind loyalty to Shanahan also can be dangerous.

Under the old way in Ashburn, one man who did not know football made impulsive decisions and oversaw many more bad football teams than good ones. Under the new way, one man with a Super Bowl pedigree has yet to get out of the NFC East cellar.

Record-wise, the results are the same — or worse.

Is this reason to can Shanahan now? No. Does it make anyone miss the madness of Danny Ball? Of course not. (Though, if we’re being honest, there was a perverse pleasure in imagining Redskin One fueling up before it broke all sound barriers to go wine and dine Albert Haynesworth or whichever shiny new free agent gleamed through the toy-store window that particular offseason.)

But at the very least, it should make the stay-the-course believers examine their motivations for sticking with Shanahan irrespective of how much better Washington is next season.

Really, what kind of logic are we using if the reason why we have decided Shanahan should be here for the duration of his five-year contract is because Snyder has tried everything else?

If charting a new course of stability and patience isn’t working after three seasons, sticking with the coach is not sticking to the plan. That’s staying in a bad marriage, because the last one was worse.

That’s not a reason to stay the course. That’s an excuse. And we’ve heard a lot of those around Ashburn for too long.

I realize there is growth here, that Snyder staying out of the fray of the franchise-building business is welcome. I know Shanahan and Bruce Allen are better at making football decisions.

But going from a hair-trigger, hands-on owner to the apparent patient soul we’re seeing now has its own potential pratfalls. Consistency in systems and staffs is a great change in Washington. Yet consistency doesn’t always equal success. Because it’s Shanny’s way doesn’t merely make it the right way.

Beyond an upgraded defensive line and Ryan Kerrigan becoming a breakout star, no solid evidence exists that Shanaplan is working. What other position group is significantly better than it was two years ago?

Yet against all contrary evidence, there appears to be genuine faith in the future of the franchise — a faith based on the fact that Shanahan is the best option merely because all other options have been exhausted.

Putting aside all that, it is time to commit to Mike Shanahan — for one more season.

And he gets Year 4 under one caveat: His team has to matter at the start of December. The Redskins cannot be veering toward another 5-11 or 6-10 eyesore. There has to be tangible progression in the win column, not just young players developing. And 7-9 is only acceptable if a rookie quarterback is growing into the starting job.

Other than that, Snyder should evaluate Shanahan after next season like he would any other team employee. The reason to continually bring back someone can’t be simply to justify the decision to hire him.

The only way Mike Shanahan should be the Redskins coach in 2013 and ’14 is if he has the team pointed in the direction of a Super Bowl, not away from it.

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