The Mike Shanahan Error: How To Rebuild (And Then Destroy) a Team in 4 Seasons

| December 30, 2013 | 10 Comments

Mike Shanahan has been fired as head coach and Executive Vice President of Football Operations.


Minus 2012′s miracle run to an NFC East Championship, Shanahan finished his coaching career in D.C with a 17-40 record, a whole lot of needless quarterback controversy, and a bitter power struggle that seemed unnecessary and unwarranted to many degrees. While much will be written in the coming days about how Shanahan was handicapped by ownership and the franchise quarterback, the truth of the situation seems to be that it could’ve all been solved in the lines of communication between owner, head coach and quarterback were more open and more honest.


That’s the recurring theme in all this; a lack of communication. While we’ll never exactly know if conversations did take place, what has come out through all the various and numerous leaks, is that no, there wasn’t. Not any serious ones.



But maybe those are all issues that have been talked about. Maybe I don’t need to rehash the owner-QB-head coach-offensive coordinator thing again.


How about we address Shanahan separate of that. Let’s address trading for Donovan McNabb, a move that yes, was completely Shanahan’s decision. McNabb was part of a three way trade with Philadelphia and New Orleans, who sent Jammal Brown. Mike Shanahan wound up spending a 2010 second round pick, and a 3rd rounder and a 4th rounder in 2011 to get those players. He wasn’t forced to sign and trade for those players. And he wasn’t forced to give McNabb a $78 million contract with $40 million guaranteed (though thanks to some savvy contract language from Bruce Allen that never came to pass). Nor was he forced to give Jammal Brown a 5-year, $27.5 million deal with $4.4 million guaranteed.


If Shanahan had cut Brown before the season, after Brown hurt himself in gassers on the first day of training camp, he would’ve only counted $1.1 million versus the cap in 2012. Instead they placed Brown on IR, the final three years of his deal voided in February 2013, and Brown’s deal accounted for $3.3 million against the cap in 2013. If they had made him a June 1st cut, he only would’ve counted $1.1 million versus the cap in 2013 and $2.2 versus the cap in 2014.


Great cap management by Shanahan, who will tell everyone who will listen how handicapped they were by the cap penalty, and how badly it effected depth and the team’s ability to win.


He was not forced to sign O.J Atogwe to a 5 year, $26 million deal in 2011, (Otogwe appeared in 13 games, starting in 8 and successfully finishing the same), he was not forced to overpay Stephen Bowen (5 years, 27.5 mil, $12.5 mil guaranteed), a marginal Cowboys back up, to be his starter. He was not forced to overpay Chris Chester (5 years, $20 mil, $6 mil guaranteed), himself a marginal starter in Baltimore. No one forced Shanahan to sign Josh Wilson to a 3-year, $13.5 million deal with $6 million guaranteed to be a starter, when Wilson was a back-up and a nickel corner in Baltimore. He gave Josh Morgan, who was coming off an injury, what was essentially a 2-year, $12 million deal with $7.5 million guaranteed. Morgan, who is making about $4 million a year, was sitting on the bench for the Redskins’ laughable 2013 finale.


When the Redskins medical staff told Mike Shanahan and the front office that London Fletcher was on his last legs, it didn’t stop the team for giving him a 2 year, $10.75 million deal with $5.25 million in guaranteed, which made Fletcher the third highest paid player on the team based on average salary.


Mike re-signed Kory Lichtensteiger to a four year deal, and Will Montgomery. He re-signed Adam Carriker, who everyone but Shanny seemed to know wasn’t healthy. He re-signed Tyler Polumbus and then didn’t make him compete for a job. He gave Santana Moss a 3-year, $15 million deal with $6 mil in guaranteed money.


He signed E.J Biggers, and Tanard Jackson and Phillip Buchanon to patchwork our secondary, while alienating solid players like Carlos Rogers and Laron Landry. He forced guys like Rocky McIntosh and Andre Carter to play out of position in his zeal to have a 3-4 defense, despite not having the proper personnel.


He gave Fred Davis $2.5 million deal and $1.5 million guaranteed to, essentially sit on the bench and watch from the sideline. Yes, Fred is kind of a flake, yes, he drunkingly orders Patron and orders two lobsters and makes them wrestle in a nice restaurant the night before games. But you knew he did that before, and you still gave him money to come back.


Dan did not hover over Mike while he signed an injured Ma’ake Kemoeatu, or an ill-fit in Artis Hicks, or 31-year-old Larry Johnson to a 3-year, $3.5 million deal, he didn’t meddle when Joey Galloway or Roydell Williams or Donte Stallworth were signed, he didn’t push for the team to trade Jeremy Jarmon for Jabar Gaffney. (Only to cut Gaffney a season later under somewhat dubious circumstances.)


It wasn’t Dan making the call to hire Keith Burns. It wasn’t Snyder who was in defensive meeting rooms, interfering in the game plans and forcing coordinators to call certain plays, and Dan certainly wasn’t wild about the head coach hiring his son, and stocking the assistant coaching staff with inexperienced or mediocre talent. Dan didn’t hire Jim Haslett and then not allow him to hire his own coaches.


Dan didn’t have say in the draft choices. It’s hard to argue that Mike didn’t hit home runs with Trent Williams and Ryan Kerrigan and Robert Griffin III and Alfred Morris, and players like Perry Riley and David Amerson and Richard Crawford and Aldrick Robinson and Roy Helu Jr. and Jordan Reed look promising.


But Dennis Morris, Terrence Austin, Erik Cook, Selvish Capers, Dejon Gomes, Brandyn Thompson, Markus White, and Jordan Bernstein are all gone. Two players remain from the 2010 class.


Jarvis Jenkins, Leonard Hankerson, Niles Paul, Evan Royster, Chris Neild, Maurice Hurt, Josh LeRibeus, Adam Gettis, Tom Compton, Phillip Thomas, Bacarri Rambo, Chris Thompson, Jawan Jamieson and Brandon Jenkins all represent huge question marks at this point. Kirk Cousins has shown himself to be nothing more than a back-up. Shanahan has struck out in UDFA, only managing to get production out of Logan Paulsen, while most of the other talent is either released, or benched like Chase Minnifield.


This team has drafted 34 players under Mike Shanahan, and you can say maybe 10 are building blocks for the future. 10. In four years. Is that Dan’s fault? How many teams draft 34 players, most of which fall under the rookie salary cap, and then still complain about depth issues and cap problems?


Compare us to a team like Seattle, who had a head coach come in at the same time. Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate, Walter Thurmond, and Kam Chancellor, all drafted in 2010, all key pieces of a Super Bowl run in 2013. They found starters in the late round like Richard Sherman and Russell friggin’ Wilson, nearly all the picks they’ve made over the last four years contribute to the team in some way. They’ve made some boneheaded trades, they’ve blown some stupid money on free agents, their cap situation isn’t great. But the road to the Super Bowl goes through Seattle, at least in the NFC.


Mike Shanahan was hired to bring stability, accountability and pride back to the Redskins. But, as his final, depressing presser continued to show, he bought neither. His inability to properly develop talent, by surrounding them with incompetent coaching, killed the team far more than any cap penalty. That snowballed into his approach in free agency, which was to overpay for marginal talent, believing he could coach them to be great. But he couldn’t even coach the players he drafted to be great, so those free agents only ever stayed mediocre


That’s how you go through a four year rebuild with no visable progress, outside of an improbable 7 game run. Not because the owner and the quarterback had dinner once. That. All of that. Mistakes in the personnel department, coupled with an inability to properly evaluate the talent level of the team, and evaluate himself.


That is the Mike Shanahan Error in a nutshell. We didn’t get here because Dan Snyder meddled. We got here because the structure of the team was fundamentally flawed. The talent that was signed was mediocre. The talent that was drafted wasn’t properly developed. The lack of accountability from the coach leaked onto the field and resulted in undisciplined play and untimely penalties. Shanahan was given everything he wanted; upgraded facilities, upgrades at FedEx, a bubble, training camp in Richmond, total control of personnel and football operations. And the team we have now, after four years, doesn’t look remarkably better than the team that was here in 2009. In some ways, it looks worse.


Mike Shanahan left Redskins Park still making excuses. Hopefully one day he looks in the mirror and realizes that he has no one to blame for this job, but himself.

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Carricker snapped his quadriceps in a game AFTER the signing..  There was no history of injury to that muscle and that sort of injury is not like a chronic knee or the like.  (something you have a history on.)  And he had played well the year before.  You are wrong on "everyone knew he was unhealthy but Mike signed him".


He did have a long injury history with the Rams , I'm just saying. Durability was a problem.


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