It's official: Mike Shanahan is in. As Redskins fans, we no longer get excited for the "big name" acquisitions after the countless busted free agent signings and the high-low return of Gibbs, but the process that brought Shanahan to Washington is a bit different for three main reasons:
1.) Shanahan essentially fired Vinny Cerrato
I had the misconception that because Shanahan advised Cerrato to add Anthony Alridge to the roster, that the two were buddy-buddy. It appears that is not true. Since the post-Gibbs era, no coach wanted to work under the duo of Snyder and Cerrato, so someone had to go, and it's obviously not going to be the owner. Cowher and others waved away attempts from the owner, but with the hiring of Bruce Allen, a name mentioned by Shanahan, the stars began to align. It was lucky for the Redskins that Urban Meyer decided to stay in Florida and Wade Phillips gained December success. Either way, as fans, we simply couldn't take another year of mistakes from the two stooges. Thank you Mike Shanahan.
2.) Shanahan was both the GM and Coach in Denver, which was too much. In DC, he has Bruce Allen to handle all the free agent work and he will have an already proven staff of (reportedly) Kyle Shanahan and Mike Zimmer:
Shanny has gained a lot of criticism for his "average at best" record after the John Elway era. The fact is all 4 of his team captains got injured and with the childish leadership of Cutler, the locker room was lost: I will reiterate parts of my interview with legendary Bronco, Karl Mecklenburg, who knows the situation in Denver better than anyone:
Karl Mecklenburg: I've known Mike forever. Mike was the Offensive Coordinator with the Broncos for years while I was playing. Mike ran into an issue at the end of his career where he was both the General Manager and the Coach. It was a problem about 3 years ago. They just drafted Jay Cutler and they replaced Plummer with Cutler. Rod Smith, a great leader, got hurt, Al Wilson, the heart & soul of the defense, got hurt, and Keith Burns, Special Teams captain, got hurt. Plummer was a great leader, not necessarily a great player, but everyone loved him in the locker room, gave unbelievable effort, he was all about the team. So, all 4 of these guys all go down at once.
The way I describe a team in my speeches and book is a see-saw or teeter-totter. On one side you have the leaders. They think long-term. They put team passion and team mission first. On the other side you have the egos. How can I get my touches, my statistics, my money? Then in the middle you got rest of the team that can go either way. And that's usually the biggest group. So, on the see-saw you add or subtract a leader/ego, you tip that teeter-top one way or the other, and the middle group starts sliding that way. So then you have momentum towards success or momentum towards failure.
So what happened to Mike all 4 leaders went down at once. You ever been on a teeter-totter when everyone gets off? BAM! That's what it was like and the egos took over. The middle group went that way, and it was really tough to negate that type of influence. It fell apart after that.
Hogs Haven: He couldn't fix that over 1 or 2 years?
That's a challenge. The defense side of the ball there wasn't great talent brought in. There was a new [defensive] coordinator brought in every year so whatever talent they had they didn't understand the system. It takes awhile to learn the new language. Offensively, their leader [Cutler] was more concerned about himself then the team it appeared to me. When that happens it's very difficult to win.
Hogs Haven: So if Mike came to D.C. he shouldn't take on both roles?
Karl: That would be tough. He hasn't shown he has good at that. There are very few people that are, and there is nothing wrong with that. Mike is a great coach. Anybody that's had the success he's had is going to be a good coach. The challenge is, is he willing to delegate authority. Is he willing to turn the defense over and live with it. Is he willing to work with the GM and coach the players the other guy brings in. He was successful in the past.
3.) Shanahan has spent this off-season studying the game
Per our own Hogs Haven Ken Meringolo:
Mike Shanahan has used his year off to study the game of football in a way he was unable to do as a full-time head coach in the league. He visited training camps in the preseason-most notably Pittsburgh in August-and spent considerable time studying Urban Meyer's offense in Florida for possible ways to improve his own offensive philosophy. He was of course welcomed in Houston when he hung around the Texans' franchise to observe Gary Kubiak and his son operate what has been one of the better offenses in the NFL over the last few years. It is my opinion that Shanahan is coming back to the NFL in 2010 with a fresh mind full of ideas and possibilities. He had his pick of teams to come back and coach, so I believe it was in WAS he saw an opportunity to come in and implement all the ideas that have been kicking around his brain the last 12 months. (The money isn't bad either.)
Honorable mention 4.): Shanny has had the entire year off to evaluate talent within the college and NFL ranks.
The incoming regime is an impressive quartet that Dan Snyder deserves props for pulling off. Bruce Allen, Mike Shanahan, Kyle Shanahan, and Mike Zimmer. I'm not renewing my season tickets just yet, but this Redskins team will be competitive again in a couple years, which is no doubt something to be optimistic about.