As Mike Shanahan comes aboard, a dash of optimism, a heavy dose of realism

Mike Shanahan, who won two Super Bowls as head coach of the Denver Broncos. is Daniel Snyder's choice to coach the Washington Redskins.
By Thomas Boswell
Thursday, January 7, 2010

When Mike Shanahan was introduced Wednesday as Redskins coach, he took the podium with almost as good a career winning percentage (.598) as Joe Gibbs (.621) and Marty Schottenheimer (.613) and just as good a shot at reviving the franchise, too.

But no better chance.

Be encouraged. Maybe the third time will be a charm for owner Dan Snyder, who twice before has tried exactly this tactic: Hire a famous veteran coach and claim you won't interfere with cooking the meal. Oh, Marty was supposed to be the boss of all bosses, too.

So, hold the 21-gun salute.

Just because Snyder and ex-executive Vinny Cerrato are no longer doing the backstroke in the Redskin punch bowl does not ensure that the team's Kool-Aid will be easy to drink anytime soon.

Putting Shanahan and new GM Bruce Allen between the owner and his expensive amusement is a necessary safety precaution. But it's not sufficient to turn a slumbering franchise, dormant for 17 seasons, into a consistent winner and genuine contender. This is going to be hard and painful. And it's going to take time.

"We got our man," Allen said.

"I promise you I won't disappoint you," Shanahan said.

The new coach then praised Snyder, sitting in the front row, but conspicuously not on the dais, for being the most "passionate and positive" of owners. "That person is going to give you every chance to win a Super Bowl," said Shanahan who, thank heavens, added the words "not overnight."

Because my father came to D.C. the same year as the Redskins and because my son may, someday, extend our family's streak of continuous Redskins worship to 100 straight seasons, I understand that it's the nature of fans to be insane. But that doesn't mean the team, in its own internal view, has to be equally crazy.

The issue of preposterously high expectations, and the disappointments that go along with it, remains one of the Redskins' biggest hurdles. At Redskins Park, you can get money by the barrel. Realism comes by the teaspoon.

What kinds of fan pressure does Shanahan face? Ardent as Broncos fans are, they might not match Redskins fans, as Shanahan already suspects. At the 2004 Hall of Fame exhibition game, when John Elway was going into Canton, Denver played the Redskins.

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