I worked for my dad once — and my grandfather, and my grandmother, all at the same time. It was a summer job, after my first year of college, it sounded like fun — my grandparents! my dad! — and it was most definitely nepotism.
I thought working in a bank would be interesting. Yet in three months, I never touched actual money — and this was back before electronic banking; people used actual money then. My grandma let me help her roll coins one day until my grandpa caught us and made me stop. It’s not a vote of confidence when your own grandfather doesn’t think you can accurately count out 50 pennies.
It was a long summer. But it must pale in comparison to Kyle Shanahan’s autumn. He has been in a no-win situation from the beginning. If the Redskins are successful, it’s dad’s success. If they aren’t, he’s the focal point of the villagers with pitchforks, because nepotism is always a lightning rod for blame when things go wrong.
That’s why Mike Shanahan didn’t do his son any favors by bringing him to Washington. (And maybe that’s why my grandpa was doing me a tremendous favor by keeping me away from the loot, now that I think about it. I couldn’t be blamed if a drawer came up short some afternoon.)
One of the Shanahans needed to be wise enough to know this was a bad idea, and stop it. Maybe Peggy, Mike’s wife and Kyle’s mother, should have been the one. In fact, the Shanahan elders tried to talk Kyle out of a coaching career earlier in life. (Not exactly a ringing endorsement, is it?)
And now Kyle has a secret weapon that makes him virtually untouchable, at least by Dad: grandchildren. How in the world is Grandpa going to fire the the father of his grandchildren? I know Mike Shanahan seems cold, but . . . brrrrrrr. Imagine Christmas in that household.
Nepotism may not always be a bad idea — Buddy Ryan sent his sons into the NFL and other than forgetting to take one of them to the barber, that’s worked out okay — but it’s certainly not always a good idea. And when it doesn’t work, the younger person — the son, in this instance — will have a harder row to hoe in life.
Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that Mike Shanahan fires Kyle. I do not believe that will happen, but let’s just pretend for a moment. What happens to Kyle? He might get an assistant’s job somewhere else, based on his work in college and at Houston, but will he be an offensive coordinator again any time soon, if ever? That’s a big stain on the résumé, when you can’t make it work for dad.
Of course, he can go into an interview and say: “We didn’t have an NFL-caliber quarterback to work with. The left side of our line went down. Our best back went down. We didn’t have a playmaking receiver. I had nothing to work with.”
It’s acceptable discourse in a bar debate. But it sounds like a litany of excuses in a job interview.
And he’s got the quarterback he wanted in there now. John Beck has been a favorite of both father and son. Yes, he has few weapons to work with, and he’s had two starts, but this is the guy they’ve been touting. You can’t have it both ways. If Beck is as good as the Shanahans seem to believe, he needs to make something happen — and he can start by making quicker decisions after the snap. Just be quicker, period. Because he doesn’t have a lot of time back there and he looked as sluggish as Donovan McNabb at times Sunday.
The difference being, of course, that Beck knows this vaunted system we hear so much about, the one we’re told McNabb couldn’t comprehend. The one that’s so complicated, the team couldn’t bring in new offensive linemen because they wouldn’t be able to pick up the blocking schemes. The one that’s so intricate, Mike Sellers told me last year he couldn’t possibly explain it to me. “So if you told me, you’d have to kill me?” I asked, joking. “Yes,” he said, deadly serious, like he might actually kill me, so I moved on. No offensive system is worth dying over. Especially one that posted a bagel against the Bills.
Apparently, adapting your schemes to fit your available personnel is something that went out of style two decades ago — oddly, around the same time the Redskins stopped winning. And yet nepotism is still in vogue. Go figure.