This is not a Shanahan apologist thread. Rather, I think that Shanahan has gotten way too much credit for 'changing the culture' and 'cleaning up Vinnie's mess', etc. Before I get started, I want to apologize for not knowing enough about the SBN editor to post a jump. So if you get annoyed by super long Fanposts without a jump (as I do), I apologize. Maybe I can blame my mac or something.
Anyway, my basic point is this: coaches are judged on wins and losses. Really, nothing else matters. Let me project forward for the moment one potential outcome to the season: 49ers L, Miami W, Cowboys L, Seattle L, Jets L, Pats L, Giants L, Vikings W, Eagles L.
Probably missed a number of these. Perhaps the Skins will rebound and hit 8-8 or 9-7 or something. But I think that the season will probably come depressingly close to Vegas's initial 6.5 wins prediction - maybe Parks will make money on his under. At this point, I think 7-9 would be slightly optimistic, 6-10 realistic, 5-11 pessimistic. Give or take an unlikely win or some fantastic development or player blossoming, I don't see how anyone could argue with that assessment at this point.
But let's just stick with 6-10 for a moment. That would mean that Shanahan's first two seasons would match the 12-20 record of the two biggest laughingstock coaches in Redskins history, namely Spurrier and Zorn. We were incredibly harsh on those guys. Why does Shanahan seem to get a (relatively) free pass?
I can already hear the responses: Shanahan has 'changed the culture', Shanahan needs time to 'clean up Vinny's messs', Shanahan is a QB genius, Shanahan has a winning record in the past, etc. But the reality is that Shanahan has been dealt a much easier hand, and thus far appears to be on trajectory for the same basic output (W/L) that got two previous coaches basically laughed/chased out of town. Let me make 4 points relative to the common objections:
1) Conventional Wisdom: Shanahan will take a while to 'clean up Vinny's mess'. Reality: Shanahan has had two full offseasons of Vinny-free drafts. Meanwhile, Zorn and Spurrier basically had to accept the crap that was served to them every single year, they didn't have 2 years to try to remake the roster as they wanted it. If you had a choice and wanted to succeed, would you rather have Vinny still screwing you over or the chance to control your own destiny? Yes, Vinny (and Dan) did a lot of damage to the roster, but Spurrier/Zorn had to live in a world where they were being stabbed in the gut every season, not at least 2 years on the recovery table later. BTW, 2 years is a pretty decent amount of time in the recovery room for an NFL roster - ask Raheem Morris if you don't believe me.
2) Conventional Wisdom: Shanahan has 'changed the culture' (this is Redskins pet K. Sheehan's favorite line). Reality: Item 1: who was responsible for the Fat Albert media circus last year - the guy that gave him $21 MM, or Vinny? Item 2: Who was responsible for dealing picks 2,3, and 4 for McNabb and Brown and the dreadful drama that followed? Item 3: Did you see the game this week? Is that a positive or improved culture? Players clearly giving up, calling out other players, questioning the coaching, etc. It is easy to make fun of Zorn who was emasculated by Dan/Vinny, and running goofy QB drills, or to say that Gibbs II ("I didn't need 2 minute offense or shotgun in 1980s, I don't need it now") or Spurrier ("pitch and catch") were out of touch. But how come no one makes the same argument about Shanahan? He is running a ZBS that few teams run, in particular because the dangerous cut blocks were outlawed by the NFL. How is this different from Gibbs bringing his 80s offense, or Spurrier bringing his ill-suited 'fun'n'gun'? (As a side note, I heard recently from one of the beat reporters on the radio that one of the reasons that the OL is not gelling is because the chop blocks they use are considered too dangerous to be used against their own DL in practice. This raises some ethical issues for me, but that is another point).
3) Conventional Wisdom: Shanahan is a QB guru and knows the position - that's what his track record shows. Reality: Item 1: I'll leave the historical analysis to others who have done a great job on this, but I think that there is a legitimate question as to whether (absent standing nearby while the greatest offensive NFL mind ever Bill Walsh developed Steve Young, or inheriting Elway, a top 5 all-time NFL QB) Shanahan has really done much in this department. Item 2: Shanahan staked his reputation on the fact that both (or either maybe is more correct) Rex and Beck would be top flight QBs. In the words of SNL, Really? Really?
4) Conventional Wisdom: Shanahan was handed a tough task, let's give him x years to make progress. To some extent, this is an amalgam of the above. For example, Shanahan was not saddled with Vinny, he got to pick Carriker and Jenkins, not get handed Kelly and Thomas, etc. But my point is also on the specifics. Jim Zorn inherited a team that had been to the playoffs. This raised expectations, but also gave him 1) lower draft picks, which of course went through the random Vinny process and 2) a much tougher schedule. Zorn got a #2 seed schedule his 1st year, and I believe a #2 or #3 his second year. Meanwhile Shanahan got a #4 schedule both last year and this year. Is this a big deal? Well, imagine if this year Skins got Packers and Saints this year (the #2 schedule) instead of Minnesota and Carolina. That (for any reasonable team at least) is the substitution of two almost sure losses for two easy (or at least winnable) games.
Sorry to go on so long. I just feel like Shanahan gets this irrational free pass despite the fact that he will likely not surpass (and could potentially fall below) the two worst coaches in recent Redskins history, this despite all the advantages those guys didn't have - roster control, easier schedule, higher draft picks, etc. So why is no one else casting a critical eye, particular given the other minuses (lying to fans, messing up media circus last year, alienating players, etc.). Please excuse my rant...