A Fifth for a Tuesday

Making the case for why Shanahan deserves the fifth year of his contract.

At the low point of the Washington Redskins’ season last year, I wrote a piece entitled "22 Facts About the Legacy of a Head Coach".  Among the salient points in the article were the facts that although my uncle, Mike Shanahan has not done a lot in the NFL without the likes of Steve Young and John Elway, neither did they do anything without him. John Elway never made the playoffs without Mike as his QB coach, Coordinator, or Head Coach - yada, yada, yada.  My point then was that even though in the near term the team had been struggling, Coach Shanahan boasted a 20+ year track record of getting the most out of very talented quarterbacks; and who has ever seen a quarterback with more physical tools than Robert Griffin III?  I said that even though the Redskins had dropped three straight and had been beat badly in two consecutive games, the calls for the HC’s clipboard were unwarranted.  It was time to be patient:

"We should not squabble - this season, next. We should ebulliently await the next movement. What follows is the portion of Robert Griffin III's career where he will have played under the tutelage of the great, Mike Shanahan."

Let me be clear: this is a very different and much lower low point then when the Redskins had dropped to 3-6 in 2012. I am not making any those 22 points today, save for the fact that the team and fan base should still be patient. They should keep Mike Shanahan on as head coach for at least another year.


The Redskins don’t look nearly as good as they did when they struggled in the middle of last year.  Robert Griffin III looks remarkably human, the team repeatedly has looked almost inexplicably bad in a litany of areas and it can be said without qualification that Washington is now home to the worst team in a woeful division of overhyped creampuffs.


Yes, all of that falls on the coach.


Blame him, but do not fire him.  While recognizing the problems this team has, and how we got here, grant Coach Shanahan a fifth year to further cement a nucleus that includes one of the best tackles in football in Trent Williams, two of the best skill positions players in the NFL in Pierre Garcon and Alfred Morris and a quarterback that has the right and the God given ability to truly believe he is on his way to becoming one of the best if not the best signal caller in the game.


Now to say a few words about Robert Griffin III.  He's a having a hell of a sophomore slump. I remember back in August 2012, before Griffin had even taken his first preseason snap, I stayed behind a practice one day during training camp to watch Griffin throw some extra passes. Besides Griffin and the handful of receivers catching balls from him, the only other people on the field were two camera guys from the Washington Post who were looking to get a few extra shoots of Griffin's throwing motion.  One of them use to cover Joe Montana in San Francisco.  He told me that great quarterbacks like Griffin are a rare and difficult breed in the life of a camera man because it's so damn hard to catch them in the act of passing. "Their release is do damn quick".    Mechanically, Griffin might well have one of the fastest releases in football.


Or maybe not - I haven't watched film like the great Jaws with a stopwatch in hand - and the camera man himself did not exactly strike me as someone who especially knew what he was talking about. One thing that is for sure, however: Griffin is not getting rid of the ball very quickly at all at the moment.  Throughout this season, Griffin has not shown that he has the eyes and the heart to step up and throw receivers open the way Tom Brady and Drew Breesdo routinely.  Over and over again last night, I saw Griffin get sacked or flushed out of the pocket the moment before one of his receivers broke away from a cornerback.  When Griffin doesn't have a wide open target right now - he doesn't have any targets at all.


To see and analyze so many, flashing moving parts and make consistent bold, aggressive decisions with that information is a skill set that is too rarely discussed in football.  Maybe it's something a young quarterback can learn, maybe it's not.


Fred Smoot spoke eloquently on Griffin being forced into passing situations early in the season and not being able to answer the bell.  I thought he was dead on in almost all of his analysis.  My only point of contention with him is that I don't think the coaching staff "set up him up to fail" like Smoot asserts - rather, I think that Shanahan and son knew that pocket passing and decision making was an area of Griffin's game that needed to develop a heck of a lot in a heck of a hurry, especially with Griffin having potentially limited mobility after coming back so soon from major knee surgery.

Smoot is dead on when he says Griffin is not a "crispy passer" right now.  He isn't in the least. But neither was he a particularly Manning-esq sprayer of the ball in college. Andrew Luck was drafted #1 overall because he had everything. Griffin was drafted #2 because of his potential.  Coach Shanahan has to prove that he can get Griffin to play at a level that warrants trading 3 #1 picks; or, if not, if he can't do that, he has to step aside and let somebody else begin to mold in his own style that spectacular 4.3 clay.


Sure there are a ton of other reasons why the DCers are so bad right now, and why we can expect them to be better next season and going forward.  For one thing they have to change that stupid name - I don't know how many people it actually offends on a daily basis, but one is too many and besides that it's just bad Juju.  Another thing is that they are going to get some of that stolen cap money given back to them next year - money that a good source tells me might very well have resulted in the signing of potential pro bowler Reggie Bush and at least two other defensive starters had they had it this year.


But don't get it twisted - this team as it is currently constructed will ride and die with Griffin's progression.  He needs to be great for this team to be - and I for one believe that right now, Coach Shanahan is the best one to get him there.


God knows I may be wrong.  And if that's the case in due time the team will move correctly move in another direction.  Not today.  Today, I implore the Redskins faithful and its owner not to overreact to this bad loss like a tired and drunk Vegas gambler scrambles to put his money on all the other squares.


Take this loss for what it is.  Bear this terrible Tuesday, and let it be no more than that, one down day in a long, long journey towards regaining the franchise's Super Bowl glory.  Keep together the team that brought Washington its only division title in 14 years.


Dog owners, walk your dogs.  Fellow Irishmen - maybe have a stiff one tonight (or this afternoon).  And let that be that.  Discretion is the better part of valor. Let Shanahan prove his worth in the fifth year of his five-year deal, and instead of thinking of who to can, think of what we can do on Atlanta's turf next week...or, if like me and you are so inclined, think about what this team can do at the University of Phoenix Stadium the February after next.  If given the chance this summer, Coach Shanahan sure will be.


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