A closer look at the collapse of the Shanahan regime


As the football-following world waits for the apparently inevitable divorce between Redskins coach Mike Shanahan and owner Daniel Synder, Kent Babb and Mark Maske of the Washington Post have joined forces to chronicle many of the details and nuances of a relationship that started swimmingly, but has in the last year sunk.

Four years ago, Shanahan became Snyder’s latest reason for unrealistic optimism.  A year after being fired by the Broncos in the wake of only own playoff win following a pair of decade-old Super Bowl victories fueled by a team he didn’t build and held together by salary-cap violations, Shanahan landed in D.C. as the man firmly in charge of the football operation.

“Snyder would stay out of day-to-day decisions on personnel and keep his distance from star players,” Babb and Maske write.

At first, Snyder complied, backing Shanahan’s decision to challenge defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth, the last pre-Shanahan reason for unrealistic optimism who arrived in 2009 with $41 million guaranteed on an otherwise trumped-up $100 million contract.  Snyder also allowed Shanahan to hire his son, Kyle, to serve as offensive coordinator — and to trade for aging quarterback Donovan McNabb.

But Kyle didn’t want McNabb, and the two men clashed.  With three games left in McNabb’s only season with the team, McNabb landed on the bench and Rex Grossman got the ball.

The relationship between Mike and Kyle helped, in hindsight, to undermine other important relationships for the elder Shanahan.  Babb and Maske write that Mike Shanahan, who made his name as an offensive coach, stayed out of the offensive game-planning but at times micromanaged the defense run by established coordinator and former NFL head coach Jim Haslett.

In a 2011 loss to the Cowboys, for example, Shanahan reportedly stepped on Haslett’s toes and called for an all-out blitz with the Cowboys 70 yards from paydirt and 140 seconds on the clock.  Quarterback Tony Romo connected with receiver Dez Bryant, gaining 30 yards and setting up the eventual game-winning field goal.

The following year, after reportedly Snyder pushed for the trade from No. 6 to No. 2 in the draft that brought Robert Griffin III to town, Mike Shanahan tried to protect Griffin from the media, with Kyle hand-timing once-per-week press conferences and P.R. chief Tony Wyllie breaking up locker-room chats with reporters.  The protection didn’t extend to the field, however, with the Shanahan’s repeatedly putting Griffin in harm’s way and Griffin’s family bristling at the risks that were being taken with the 2011 Heisman winner.

The most obvious moment, in our view, when the situation became irreparable happened last January.  Mike Shanahan and Griffin went over the plays that would be called against the Seahawks in a wild-card playoff game, with the goal of protecting the quarterback’s injured knee.  They agreed that the zone-read running play would be largely avoided.  Then, once the game began, Kyle called a pair of consecutive zone-read runs, shaking Griffin’s trust in the coaching staff.

Owner Daniel Snyder began to disregard the reported commitment to stay away from players after Griffin’s thrilling Thanksgiving win over the Cowboys in Dallas, and in the wake of Griffin’s eventual knee implosion against the Seahawks, Snyder spent more and more time with the star quarterback.

Snyder “was at Griffin’s side” during his reconstructive knee surgery, while Mike Shanahan made only a brief post-operation visit.  In the offseason, Snyder and Griffin spent plenty of time together, attending various high-profile events together, from a movie premiere in Hollywood to the White House correspondents’ dinner.

The damage  apparently already had been done.  Per the report, an assistant coach confronted Mike Shanahan regarding the report from three Sunday’s ago that he considered quitting in January 2013, before the playoff loss to Seattle.  Shanahan reportedly told the assistant coach that Shanahan had indeed considered leaving the team.

Before January 2014 commences, it’s likely that Shanahan will indeed be leaving.  With a contract that reportedly makes it difficult if not impossible for Snyder to fire Shanahan for cause, the more likely outcome is that Snyder will pull the plug after a forgettable season finally ends — unless Shanahan is willing to set the stage for another forgettable season by extending a recent game of chess/checkers/chicken into the offseason.

30 responses to “A closer look at the collapse of the Shanahan regime

  1. i bet IRG3 is on the phone now with mcnabb, saying how he was wrong not to had listened to him from the jump, 3rd year and hes 3rd on the depth chart, hence the 3 in rg3

  2. Father son team of HC and OC is a quarterback killer. Tell me, who has the QB’s back? Brady has Belicek. Roethlisberger had Arians. McNabb had Reid. Bree’s has Payton.
    Old guy McNabb. New star Griffen. Same story.

  3. Pete Carroll and Mike Shanahan were both hired prior to the 2010 season and were both given final say over all roster decisions. The hiring of Carroll was widely criticized, including noted ESPN columnist Jeffrey Chadiha going so far as to guaranteeing he would be a complete failure in Seattle and be fired and returning to college with a season or two. The hiring of Shanahan was widely applauded.

    Under Carroll, the Seahawks are 37-25 (.597) with 2 playoff victories and appear to be poised for a long run of success. Under Shanahan, the Racial Slurs are 24-39 (.381) with 3 of 4 seasons finishing in the basement and a complete fiasco regarding the quarterback and team.

  4. Man, the Redskins are a trainwreck of a franchise. IRG3 is overated along with Shanahan. Dan snyder is going to own this team til he dies. (he’ll live to be 120). A 7-9 season will be the biggest accomplishment for the redskins for the next couple of decades. #idswitchovertothebaltimoreravensifiweretheredskinsfans.

  5. It is just so much fun watching the mayhem and confusion that is the Washington Redskins.
    The funny thing is, the organization is so messed up they have almost diverted attention from the fact that their team name is a racial slur.
    Their fans were so arrogant following last years anomaly. I enjoyed listening to their justifications (the Eagles caught everyone by surprise week one, the cap penalty depleted our depth, if only RGme was healthy, etc) as the season unraveled. I further enjoyed their ultimate resignation and acceptance of the fact that they are literally the joke of the NFL and their future is as bleak as their present.
    Time to start overspending on washed up players again Danny and getting all excited about the next coaching savior. Hail/FAIL

  6. Fair story. Obvious miss, though, was neglecting to mention when RG3 missed time due to concussion and the game he returned a play was called where he was sent out as a receiver and had his clock cleaned when a option (hospital) pass was hung a bit short.

  7. Let’s stick to talking about teams that have some sort of relevance today. No one cares about the skins , shanahan or bobby. That franchise still needs a qb. Rb. Three wrs. And a whole defence. Might as well consider them an expansion franchise

  8. I think it’s pretty clear that, without drastic change, RG3 is going to go down in history as one of the most mismanaged players of all time. I don’t buy that trading for Griffen was a bad trade, I think Washington is just a poorly run team. Like their rivals, until the owner is ready to take a laissez faire approach to running the team, they’ll continue to fail.

  9. Running QBs only help the team when they run. And running QBs have a short shelf life. Therefore, using a franchise draft pick on a likely short term asset leads to instability……..Example…..Redskins.
    It’s not rocket science…….funny how fans get it but desperate management ignores the lessons of history in order to preserve their paychecks.
    A golden arm can thrive for 20 years. Golden legs may last the rookie contract. Goooooo Team

  10. Notice the franchises where the owner takes an active role in running the team. There is one commons thread: things always seem to get fouled up.

  11. I could have told you this when he was hired.

    Two words come to mind when thinking of Shanny’s reputation……Terrell Davis

  12. The biggest mistake was bringing in Kyle. He was born on third, thinking he’d hit a triple, doesn’t know half as much as he thinks and openly clashed with every QB they had.

    The McNabb disaster was wholly Kyle’s fault. And remember him publicly backing Beck while Grossman was in the midst of beating him out? Horribly awkward…then he disowned Beck after he finally did get to start and stunk. Then he supposedly couldn’t get along with RG3, either.

  13. No mention of Snyder’s cheapskate ways in not paying for a turf, which was so awful it ruined his QBs knee? I’ve seen high school turfs better than where the Redskins play.

  14. RG3 had to run 99% of the time because there really isn’t an offensive line. How many golden arms have thrived for 20 years.? Ha! People try to make sense before making silly comments. HTTR

  15. Shanahan has done a very good job if you consider all the obstacles that he has had to deal with. Most of those obstacles are thanks to Roger Goodell- undeserved cap penalties, questionable penalties, outright fixing games… #GoodellHatesTheRedskins

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