By Michael Wilbon
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 7, 2010; D07
Forgive me if I don't break open a bottle of champagne over this latest Redskins coaching announcement. We've been down this road a time or two before . . . five times, to be exact, in the past nine years. Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier, Joe Gibbs, Jim Zorn and now Mike Shanahan.
With each hire, things were supposed to different. Things were going to function better. The owner was going to be less involved. The offense was going to be more efficient. . . . Under each new coach, the Redskins were going to sit on top of the world.
Except they haven't gotten anywhere close, and seeing Mike Shanahan and Daniel Snyder at another introductory news conference doesn't guarantee anything.
Hey, I don't want to come off as Mr. Gloom and Doom on the hiring of Shanahan. The man owns two Super Bowl rings. He has put together great lines, gotten prolific rushing attacks from backs nobody ever heard of, developed receivers, tutored quarterbacks. Shanahan has forgotten more about offensive football on a given morning than a great many coaches will learn in their lifetimes. I won't use the G-word; let's just say he has one of the best minds out there.
Still, the Washington Redskins have been losers too much over the past 15 years, too dysfunctional in too many ways, too repeatedly stubborn to receive anything close to benefit of the doubt.
Shanahan could be exactly what the doctor ordered to heal the Redskins. It's certainly in him. But I've got to see it first. I need to see the Redskins stop grossly overpaying players. I've got to see them become a stable organization. I've got to see them stop squandering draft picks in stupid trades. I've got to see them trust the players they already have, like Ryan Clark, and stop coveting ones they don't need, like Adam Archuleta. I've got to see owner's pets, such as Clinton Portis, stop undermining real professionals, such as Jason Campbell. (Again, if I was advising Campbell, I'd tell him to sign somewhere else, anywhere else, to get away from the continuing dysfunction of Redskins Park.)
In other words, the Redskins can choose whomever they want to coach, but it doesn't matter at all if the management style doesn't change dramatically, immediately. Celebrity football, whether it's Spurrier or Shanahan coaching, doesn't work. Apparently, they haven't learned all that much at Redskins Park.
The whisper of a famous name alone means nothing here. The questions aren't even about Shanahan, the coach. They're about who's running the joint, who is calling the shots as they relate to personnel. It almost never works, being coach and making all the football decisions. It's a structure doomed to fail, oh, 95 percent of the time.
And it's not like we don't have a book on Shanahan the talent evaluator: He's bad at it. Like Joe Gibbs, Shanahan is one helluva coach but not particularly insightful as a talent evaluator. In fact, the record already shows Shanahan drafted bust after bust after bust in an effort to fix the defense when he was coach in Denver. Even Elvis Dumervil was drafted to play the wrong position and became an all-pro after Shanahan departed. Shanahan the personnel man undermined Shanahan the coach so badly, he was fired after twice not making the playoffs. So, moving from Denver to Washington is going to change all that?
Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me five times, shame on me for believing without evidence to the contrary that a new hire is going to change everything.
A bigger optimist would tell you that Shanahan can fix the offense, which we know he can do. Only the Lions and Browns have been worse than the Redskins offensively in recent years. Shanahan can reverse that. And the defense is already darned good. But do we know who will coordinate the defense? Will Shanahan want Greg Blache or Jerry Gray to stay or want to (as is his privilege) bring in his own guy? If so, they'll start over on that side of the ball after some continuity in the Gregg Williams-Greg Blache style.
But what convinced me that this could be business as usual was looking at the video of Snyder and Shanahan coming out of a meeting or dinner or whatever it was late at night, after what presumably was one of those marathon talks where they went over everything imaginable. Those video clips were pretty much the same with Spurrier and Schottenheimer and Gibbs. And it struck me that this, once again, is Snyder seducing a famous coach to come and work for him for a ton of money.
Even if we erase the two years under Zorn, who doesn't fit the pattern, we've seen celebrity football over and over and over again. If a man experienced in running a football team had been hired and then selected a coach, the feeling here might be different. But when it appears the Redskins have engaged in the same old, same old, the reaction is a yawn.