It is pretty clear now that, one way or another, Mike Shanahan will not be coaching the Washington Redskins in 2014. Any lingering doubt over the past month was swept away after a story was leaked describing Shanahan’s displeasure with the relationship between QB Robert Griffin III and team owner Dan Snyder.
There are plenty of opinions about who should be the next man up to lead the Redskins. It’s fun to debate if the Redskins should build a comfortable environment for Griffin by pursuing his head coach at Baylor (Art Briles) or if the team should look to build around an experienced head coach (Jon Gruden, for example). However, the critical aspect to this season’s turnover is adequately and properly replacing Shanahan the general manager, not Shanahan the head coach. For the first time in Snyder’s tenure, he needs to allow his football minds (Bruce Allen) identify the correct person to set the organization’s identity. Ideally, Allen would hire the general manager (or promote someone like current Director of Pro Personnel Morocco Brown) and then work together with that individual to identify a head coach. The key to that situation is that the two roles should not belong to the same person.
Snyder had good intentions when he and Allen hired Shanahan. He handed over full control of football operations which is what many fans and experts wanted. The problem is that he overcompensated from his earlier days of being too involved and gave too much power to one person. Shanahan has never had any checks and balances in the football operations. He is running the on- and off-field team. There is a single point of failure here and often Shanahan the general manager is failing Shanahan the coach. Snyder has consistently swung left and right since he purchased the Redskins prior to the 1999 season. He gave Marty Schottenheimer, Joe Gibbs, and Shanahan far too much control. During the coaching tenures when the coaches didn’t have control, the front office was set up to give Snyder himself too much say through Vinny Cerrato. What he’s never tried is instituting a traditional, proven hierarchy.
What I would like to see is Allen being promoted to one of Shanahan’s roles and running the Redskins. It should be Allen (possibly even with input from other respected football minds) who identifies and supervises a true general manager. This person would set the organizational identity of the Redskins. Allen and this GM would then find the right head coach to execute a plan to achieve and excel with that identity. Once you have Allen, the general manager, and the head coach in place (all football minds to some degree), they can work together to fill out the coaching staff and fill the roster with players who fit the plan.
The Redskins have seemingly tried it all when it comes to head coaches, but it’s the layer above the coach that has plagued this franchise since the late-1990s. By identifying the right fit in the front office, the Redskins can establish continuity even if coaches fail. This missing piece might finally put an end to the seemingly endless cycle of hitting the reset button every 2-4 years. With Allen and a strong general manager leading the organization each year, the Redskins will be on equal footing with the rest of the league and can finally assemble and stockpile talent that fits a bigger picture vision than that of the current head coach.