The Sports Daily > Redskins Hog Heaven
Mike Shanahan, yes or no?

Redskins owner Danile Snyder and head coach Mike Shanahan

I got your back, Mike.

One of the joys of sports it that anyone can solve deep problems with snap judgments based on superficial thinking.

Fans! What can you do about them?

Nine games after everyone was ready to extend Mike Shanahan's contract, a sizeable segment of Redskins fans want to fire him, if only to get rid of Kyle.

This round of criticism has been brought to you by a stupefying loss to the (then) one-win Vikings and by a story on DC Sports Bog, Mike Shanahan and history.

Dan Steinberg's history report shows that Coach Mike ranks ninth of the 10 men who coached the Washington Redskins for more than three seasons. Shanahan is 24-33 in 57 games as head coach.

Saint Joe (Gibbs) was 26-31 at the same point in his second run here. Like Shanahan in 2013, Gibbs coped with a crippling injury to a star player. Clinton Portis was hurt during a 2006 preseason game. The team was never the same.

The 2006 season was supposed to be "our year." Between Portis' injury and the mistake known as Adam Archuleta (for which I do not blame Archuleta), 2006 was a disaster. In 2007, the shell-shocked, cap-constrained Redskins made few changes to its roster going into 2007. Portis was back, but not quite himself.

Standing 5-4 after the loss to Philadelphia, Washington lost two more games … and then got the startling news of Sean Taylor's murder (Note to Redskins fans, November 27, 2007).

The Redskins went 4-1 in their remaining games with back-up quarterback Todd Collins. They made the playoffs  and then lost the Seahawks. The stress burned Gibbs out. He left coaching and returned to his family in North Carolina and to NASCAR. His record in his second run with Washington was 30-34.

What have we learned?

Some of the parallels of Shanahan and Gibbs II are amazing. Bad choices (Archuleta, McNabb) and injuries (Portis, Griffin III), confounded plans for success by both coaches.

In 2007 as in 2013, the Redskins made few changes to the roster. Many, including Hog Heaven, applauded the team for the stability.

Shanahan has not and hopefully will not cope with tragedy while with the Redskins. He did deal with the drive-by killing of Darrent Williams in Denver January 1, 2007. There was no more reason for fans to expect a playoff run in '07 than there is now. But runs do happen.

Wait until the final whistle of the last game to make these decisions. It's sports. People are still trying. Unless the coach has lost the locker room ‒ there's no sign of that ‒ the worst thing an owner can do is undermine his coach. We watched Mr. Snyder do that to Norv Turner and to Jim Zorn, the accidental coach. Each might have won another game or two without that heat.

Age may be a factor. Gibbs was 64 when he returned to the Redskins and he was 67 when he left us in a lurch. Shanahan is 61.

Gibbs and Shanahan lost playoff games to Seattle. Gibbs lost twice.

The decision about Shanahan is based on what we don't see.

What's more important than the won-loss record? Progress – from the owner's viewpoint.

When Snyder signed Shanahan to rescue the franchise, it was as much to save it from Snyder as to change an 18-year pattern of middling' football.

Those two men agreed to a five-year strategic road map and never revealed to us what it was. Why share that plan with Beast rivals?

The decision to extend Shanahan rests on Snyder's perception of where they are along the road map and Snyder's comfort with Shanahan. The theft of $36 million salary cap complicates matters. Snyder, Shanahan and Bruce Allen are keenly aware of who they would have signed to fill clear roster gaps on the secondary and offensive line if they weren't starved of cap space.

Allen said the sanction would hurt the team for years, supposedly even when things return to normal next season.

Free agency and the salary cap evolved from Gibbs first run with Washington. He didn't make the best decisions upon his return. We blame Snyder and Vinnie Cerrato for that, but it happened on Gibbs' watch. Shanahan and Allen have been more astute. 

After 15 years of ownership, Snyder should be a fully developed strategic  leader by now. Strategic leaders know their first loyalty is to the plan and then to the executives they hire to build sustained winning under the plan.


There is more to this decision than current adversity. If Snyder is comfortable with the plan and with the way Shanahan is running it, he won't think of dumping Shanahan at the end of the year unless the 'Skins go winless.

For the same reason, Shanahan won't be uncomfortable going into the fifth year of his contract without an extension.  

The decision can wait.

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