Here is a pre-Happy Hour discussion that should last us until the beers go back up to full price:
In years past, suggesting that you were prepared to install a John Beck as "The Guy" from your head coach's perch in the month of April was just about all it took to get fired in these parts. But these days, for a variety of reasons, Shanahan enjoys rock solid job security (in my opinion.) While it still takes some mighty big cajones to attempt to convince the world that John Beck is the answer at quarterback for the 2011 Redskins, in the context of this offseason, I think it actually makes a ton of sense. And I think the entire organization is on board. If John Beck (or even Rex Grossman) falls flat on his face in 2011, Shanahan will absolutely not be held to the fire for it.
First, the obvious: Dan Snyder is stuck with Mike Shanahan in the short term pretty much no matter what, assuming Shanny doesn't make Snyder run his cardiovascular tests or force him to wear accessories around his wrists, ankles, or navel. Mike Shanahan's career resume, coupled with the revolving door at head coach over the last decade ties Snyder's hands at least a little bit. How many quality coaches would be lined up to take this job if we canned Shanahan after two years in town? Does Snyder reserve the right to do anything he wants? Of course...but I think he has learned some hard lessons--ones that will surely prevent him from making a rash coaching move.
We could also mention that Snyder has had his eyes on Shanahan since he first came into the league. When Snyder sat down with Kevin and I, he claimed he asked Pat Bowlen if he could trade him for his coach very early in his tenure as Skins owner.
So Mike Shanahan has plenty of rope to make such decisions. But what about the actual decision? I mean, is Shanny now a complete renegade? Do you think he sits in a room somewhere like a super villain, hatching one crazy scheme after another just to see what he can get away with? While I do think that would make for an unbelievable season of football to watch, I don't think Shanahan has lost his mind.
Of all the characters in this drama, there is only one guy who is going to come out of this unscathed: Mike Shanahan. Bruce Allen is still taking heat for bringing McNabb here. Rex Grossman is nobody's quarterback of the future. John Beck will have gotten his chance, like so many other 29-year old players who either have it or don't. Dan Snyder...well, he will always face a detractor or two I suppose...haha.
But Mike Shanahan comes out of this looking smart no matter what, right? If John Beck plays well, he looks like a genius. If John Beck is the face of a 4-12 campaign that sees a dozen or more first- and second-year guys take the field regularly, Shanahan will have bitten the proverbial bullet for a franchise in desperate need of developing young, unproven talent.
Snyder, Allen and Shanny all know what they have: a getting-younger-by-the-second team with a few classy veterans that is capable of competing week in and week out, but not on the same level as the best teams in the league. It's actually one of the best spots we have been in as a franchise in a long time. We have draft picks in 2012. We have rookies and second-year players who will undoubtedly see the field a ton in 2011. We are entering a second season with the same coaching staff.
It is not that it doesn't matter who will be the starting quarterback for us in 2011. Of course it matters. But don't think for a second that a man of Shanahan's intellect has not considered that the quarterback in 2011 is probably not going to make or break the 2011 season. In addition to not knowing what some of these young players can do, there are still holes in key places--like the offensive line for instance. These holes will likely keep us from overtaking teams like Green Bay, New England, and Pittsburgh in the short term. Men like Bruce Allen and Mike Shanahan know this.
Is that an excuse for losing? NO...absolutely not. But Shanahan won't have to make those excuses if we are losing. It won't take too many Sundays until guys like Troy Aikman and Joe Buck are pointing it out for him.
Teams like ours shock the world and make the playoffs every year--so there should be no "tanking" talk. But for those out there suggesting that a disastrous record could doom Mike Shanahan, I strenuously object. All Shanahan has done (so far) is remove the downside from rebuilding. If we get a bunch of feel-good wins out of our young, raw team, he is a hero. If we take it on the chin in 2011 in the Win/Loss column but learn a lot about our roster ahead of the 2012 draft, I think he should be just as highly regarded.
Either way, the Shanahan era is just getting started. And almost regardless of results in 2011, Shanahan will have strengthened his hand considerably.