Mike Shanahan's Brilliant Last Act as Redskins Coach: Making Everyone Forget He Sucked
Special thanks to Ken for letting us re-post his article here. Follow KC on Twitter at @KenClyburn.
If you listened to the post game shows today, you wouldn't know that Mike Shanahan has led his team to a 3-10 record. You wouldn't know that his record as Redskins head coach is 24-37. You wouldn't know that his roster, as constructed, is poor to put nicely and downright terrible and embarrassing to be blunt and honest.
You won't know that his coaching staff is a mess. That the only reason defensive coordinator Jim Haslett still has a job was because, to get back into the NFL, he was willing to forgo autonomy to Mike Shanahan (meanwhile, the other candidate, Mike Zimmer, is coordinating one of the NFL's top defenses). You wouldn't know that Bob Slowik, a below average coach, was shoved into a role as linebacker coach, a role he'd never held before. You wouldn't know that that the Redskins have had 3 wide receiver coaches in four years, none of whom had coaching experience, and in the case of Mike McDaniels, had only previously experiences coaching running backs.
You wouldn't that Mike's had complete control of the franchise for four years, with absolutely zero input from principal owner Daniel Snyder. That the team is constructed entirely of players he chose. That, though he was certainly screwed, he played a key role in the Redskins getting a $36 million dollar cap hit, in large part because he wanted to get in a pissing contest with Albert Haynesworth.
You wouldn't know about the infamous Shanahan Doghouse, or the mediocre draft choices, or the offensive line that never seemed to get better, or the defense that, like so many Shanahan teams, couldn't gain any traction, or the special teams unit disasters that span two coaches.
What you'll hear a lot of in the next few days isn't about Mike Shanahan's failures as a head coach. Instead, you'll hear about Dan Snyder and Robert Griffin III's "relationship".
By conveniently leaking info over the course of the last few weeks - about RG3′s insecurity, about Dan's meddling - Mike Shanahan, effectively, found a way to absolve himself of any and all failure of the organization. No, none of this is Mike's fault. It's Robert Griffin III, the insecure quarterback who rushed himself back because he was scared of losing a job to Kirk Cousins. It's Dan Snyder, ever the meddlesome meddler meddling his way into ruining the team's championship chances.They say the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist. I don't want to call Mike Shanahan the devil, but he certainly did a great job of convincing everyone that he didn't exist, didn't he?
The lack of accountability from Mike Shanahan has been staggering. Gary Kubiak, a Shanahan disciple, lost his job, but did so with grace and seeming to know his role in the team's failures, and did it with humility and class. Shanahan, on the verge of losing his job, decided to backstab the owner and the quarterback who seemed poised to bring him back to relevancy and restore his Hall of Fame legacy.
Dan Snyder has given Mike Shanahan everything he wanted. Mike Shanahan told Dan Snyder not to hire him if he didn't give him five years to turn things around. Dan Snyder gave him a 5 year contract. Mike Shanahan asked for total control, including the role of general manager. Dan gave it to him (despite the fact that the actualgeneral manager Bruce Allen wasn't totally sold on Shanahan). Dan gave him full control of the cap, full control of player acquisition. He built him a training bubble, remodeled Redskins Park, renovated the stadium, okayed the trade of three first round picks to secure a franchise quarterback.
Dan watched as Mike Shanahan humiliated Donovan McNabb. He did not stir when Shanny trouted out John Beck and Rex Grossman, did not fret when failed trades like Jammal Brown withered away and died. Even when fans demanded that Dan get involved, he stayed away, let Shanahan handle it, stayed the course, did notoverreact, did not move his office back to Redskins Park, did not get buddy-buddy with players. Did not fire Mike Shanahan, even with pundits and analyst (many of whom will line up behind Shanahan to thumb their nose at Snyder) said he should.
In a league where NFL owners pinch pennies and nickel and dime coaches and are quick to pull the trigger on any coach that fails, Dan Snyder, however a jerk you may view him as, however many coaches have not worked out, gave Mike Shanahan every-damn-thing he wanted, including time.
And all he got in return was three losing seasons out of four, and stabbed in the back, portrayed as the same meddlesome, conniving snake that the media loves to pretend Dan is.
"Mike Shanahan is a Hall of Fame coach." They'll say. They'll say what a good coach he is, and how it's a shame that Dan has once again let a relationship between himself and a player undermine the coaching relationship. Poor Mike Shanahan, dealing with that Dan guy again. Look how bad he treated Norv (who everyone wanted gone) and Marty (who quit after Dan tried to strip him of his GM role) and Spurrier (who also quit but Dan begged to come back) and how he ruined Joe Gibbs' legacy (who left the team on short notice after he also quit and, oh yeah, by the way, Gibbs had his hand in every bad and stupid move that was made during that four years and Dan also begged to stay) and screwed Jim Zorn (who was in over his head). Dan's just a horrible owner and as long as he's the Redskins owner they'll never be successful because he's basically Snidely effing Whiplash with a burgundy colored top hat. And no mustache.
Mike just wasn't given a fair shot with an owner like Dan Snyder, giving him the keys to the team and organization, moving his office out of the building and basically watching Mike ruin it. How unfair to Mike.
The truth is, Mike quit at 3-6 in 2012. For all the back talk about how Dan and Rob are buddy-buddy (Thanksgiving Dinners and security and limos for the wife, oh my), Mike quit on the team in 2012 at 3-6. All that "evaluating for next season" talk wasn't meant to inspire a team. Remember how many players seemed taken a back and surprised by it? Mike quit. He tapped out. He pulled a Spurrier. The going got tough and the not-so-tough got going.
Mike likely did quit at the end of the 2012 season, even though by all accounts he didn't go as far as packing up his office. (Shanny the martyr, so bullied by Dan Snyder and RGIII he felt he had no choice to leave.)
Versus Seattle, his decision to keep RGIII in the game - a decision he said to have made because he couldn't afford losing the kid's trust - wound up costing him exactly that. But even before that, the relationship was damaged, as RGIII asked (not demanded, not went behind Mike's back to Dan, simply asked) to not run the read-option. Coming off the injury, RGIII ran it once against Philly, then ran it a ton versus Dallas, and then ran it versus Seattle. And then, when RGIII re-aggravated his knee injury on the second drive of the game, they still didn't stop; Kyle Shanahan still called a read-option play.
RGIII runs the plays as called. Despite his problems with them, he still goes out there and executes to the best of his abilities. He's not insubordinate like Donovan McNabb. He does what he's asked. But the trust between the coaches and Rob was severed. The Griffins weren't interested in a relationship with a coach who couldn't respect their son's/husband's/own wishes to not be put in any further danger. RGIII couldn't hold his tongue all the time, running a scheme wherein he felt like Mike and Kyle couldn't meet him halfway, and oh yeah, still making him run the read-option and expose his twice surgically repaired ACL to more unnecessary hits, even with a stud running back more than capable of taken and entire season's worth of pounding.
Mike never took any responsibility for what happened on that cold January day. In fact, he went so far as to blame Dr. James Andrews for suggesting that Robert could play, and pinned more blame on the 22-year-old kid not wanting to come out of the game. (Poor Mike, he was simply misinformed, if only he had known what seemingly everyone on the planet watching that playoff game could see. Maybe the suntan lotion was in his eyes.)
The lack of accountability is disappointing and insulting, particularly for yours truly, who has defended Mike through what I thought were dark times. As we look at the tattered remains of another season, I feel lied to. I feel like I was sold a product I didn't get. I feel I was sold a Bill of Rights about respect and culture and accountability, but that the head coach couldn't be bothered to follow those ideas.
I feel like he duped Dan Snyder into giving him a 5 year deal to make money, not to build a winner. I feel like none of the stuff he did, the suffering he made Redskins fans go through, was actually effing worth it. That the sloppy play of the players isn't on the players, but on the coach. That the lack of accountability that players often displayed is the direct result of the fact that the coach rarely held players accountable.
That all the crap about "great practices" and "character guys" was just that, crap. Mike Shanahan lied to RedskinsNnation. And then, at 3-6, in 2012, things got hard, and he quit. And then, even after winning the division, after his team had outperformed their pay grade, after his quarterback electrified his team, the fan base, the city, the owner, the general manager, the whole goddamn league ... he still wanted to quit.
I feel like when Robert Griffin III became a bigger figure than Mike, when RGIII got invited to the White House Correspondence Dinner and charity events (you know, franchise quarterback, famous person, "most recognizable athlete on the planet right now" things) and Dan Snyder happened to be there, Mike took it personal, as the Griffins had spurned his desire to be closer to the quarterback, insisting he stay the head coach. I think Mike resented the circus, I think he resented that RG3 challenged his authority in the media. I think the season went poorly and once again Mike Shanahan thought about quitting. He resented that this wasn't Denver and that everyone didn't always lavish him with praise and actually asked him tough questions instead of kissing his butt.
In fact, I think Mike knew he was done last week. I think he knew he was done when he cracked a joke about Pierre Garçon getting a stupid ass penalty on Sunday Night Football. When he capitulated and made excuses for his veteran players getting stupid personal fouls. I think Mike knew he was done when he declared that he had no intention of playing any of the younger players because "that was the way you lost a locker room". I think Mike's been strategically leaking info to Jason Reid, and Sally Jenkins (who is never at the Park and until very recently never had any access), and Adam Schefter, and Dan Granziano, to stage his exit so he and his son can exit the team looking like they were screwed.
I think Mike hit all the right notes, with an owner who's only slightly more popular than ritual suicide. Mike planted all the seeds, and he made everyone forget that he did jack shit for the team. He made the Redskins coaching job look like a potential hell hole, which will likely give some hot head coaching candidates pause.
This week, people won't be talking about Mike Shanahan losing a team, or what a poor job he's done. They'll be talking about what a bad owner Dan Snyder is, what a jerk Robert Griffin III is. Even now, people can't wait to line up and write "MIKE AND DAN SNYDER BOTH SUCK!" articles.
What the frak did Dan do besides give his head coach everything he wanted to be successful, and extend some simple courtesies to the one guy in the last decade that has made his team relevant for reasons other than free agent busts and general dysfunction?
I feel like Mike owes me an apology. I feel like he owes Redskins Nation an apology. So many fans have stuck with him, and even now, even now, so many still stick with him. And he seems eager to quit and get out of dodge, and not only that, but to drag the team through the mud on his way out, throwing so many people under the bus on his way out there's enough blood to repaint all the lines on I-270 red. I want an apology for the lack of accountability. I want an apology for cardiovascular endurance, for "I'd stake my career on John Beck", for Joey Galloway and Roydell Williams and Larry Johnson, for every bullshit personnel move I defended, for the inescapable doghouse and the refusal to answer questions. For screwing the cap up and not making hard cuts, to the offensive line that's never worthy of fixing and the defense he kept sticking his nose in even though he sucked at it. I want an apology for 6-10, 5-11 and now 3-10, I want an apology for wanting to bail on a 10 win NFC East division winner. I want an apology for not calling out Kyle Shanahan, I want an extra apology for Keith Burns, who makes me long for the days of Brandon Banks and Danny Smith's gum chewing, I want an apology for letting Lou Spanos walk to UCLA and keeping Bob Slowik when the whole world knows he can't coach, I want an apology for keeping Robert Griffin III in the game...
But Mike will never apologize. He'll walk into the sun, having thoroughly screwed the team he was entrusted to rebuild, with a pocket full of cash and his Hall of Fame resume mostly in tact, while the media at large rubs it's hands together at one more "Dan Snyder is the worst owner in sports even though he's really not but it's fun to pretend he is" and gets to portray Robert Griffin III as a spoiled, entitled meddler, because Cam Newton and Russell Wilson and Colin Kaepernick are playing well and they need another black quarterback to beat up on for an offseason.
I want an apology. Redskins Nation deserves an apology. But grown adults, and brave men, and men capable of self-analysis and self-awareness apologize when their wrong.
Cowards run. Cowards play politics, cowards try to get fired, cowards blame all their failings on everyone else and never accept any fault of their own. Cowards complain about salary cap penalties and rides for player's wife and about the owner and the quarterback being too close, which in this case basically means "occasionally being in the same place as one another."
Bitchers do that. You do know about bitchers, right Mike Shanahan?
I'll leave you with a quote from someone who I thought was a great man and a great head coach on "bitchers".
Building a positive attitude and maintaining it can be tough, particularly with all the negative people there are in this world. So many people in so many organizations are so unhappy with their lots in life, they'd almost be better off in anger management classes. They just love to bitch. They thrive on it. I refer to this unhappy lot of people as bitchers.
They complain about their jobs, about their spouses, about anything and everything, as if they have a monopoly on misery. As if others really want to hear it. They don't, but bitchers in the fraternity of the forlorn don't care. They try to drag you into their miserable little cave dwellings, where success never will pay a visit. - Mike Shanahan
Follow KC on Twitter at @KenClyburn.