After another embarrassing loss it is easy to call for Mike Shanahan’s head (and the entire coaching staff) and hold him accountable by handing him his walking papers. It would be completely well deserved and most of the fan base would likely support such a move. Not firing Shanahan though seems to be the call, and it is probably the better decision for the Redskins brass. Now don’t get me wrong, Mike Shanahan deserves to be fired 5 minutes after the end of the Giants game in Week 17, but firing him now would probably do more harm than good for this team.
The first issue with firing Shanahan now would be the question about who would replace him? With the massive struggles top to bottom on this Redskins team, it’s tough to point to any coach that really deserves to take over. The “best” option would be offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, but that would prove to be a difficult sell. Not only does the younger Shanahan have his own likely issues with the team’s top quarterback, but it’s doubtful he wants to bail out the team after they fired his father. Back in the 1980’s Wade Phillips took over as the interim head coach when his father stepped down during the season, but I’m not sure you can expect that to happen again. Also from a practical standpoint, Kyle probably wouldn’t want his first gig as a head coach be taking over a team he’s leaving in 3 weeks. Bobby Turner has the assistant head coach title in his job description and took over the team when Mike Shanahan missed a day of camp to attend a funeral, but he’s been with Mike Shanahan since 1995, and may decline the interim job out of respect. Jim Haslett has been a head coach before and an interim coach before, but may decline the additional responsibilities as well, especially since he’s been the target of much of the fan ire since coming to DC. Defensive backs coach Raheem Morris may make sense as he too has been a head coach in the past, but that situation didn’t go well and he could decline the position due to all the drama surrounding it.
Now I’m sure they could find someone to take the job for the final 3 weeks, but the point is, there isn’t a good option or even an average option. Everyone mentioned above (outside of Bobby Turner who would probably just want out) has made enough mistakes and baggage that realistically they deserve to be fired as well. That is not a good situation for the team to be in. Especially as the Redskins are set to make a lot of key offseason decisions this year.
These final three games are crucial from an evaluation perspective. The Redskins have numerous starters and key back-ups set to hit free agency, and they should be interested in seeing how the players close out the season. Not only is it important to evaluate veteran players whose contracts are expiring, but there are plenty young players to get a look at as well. The Redskins could start looking to give some more time to their rookies and younger players these final 3 games to see if how many of them deserve a role for next season. This doesn’t necessarily mean these players will be starting these final 3 weeks, just that they may see more time on special teams and as a reserve role.
Now some may say that the most important young player to evaluate is top QB Robert Griffin III, and that having Shanahan around these last three weeks negatively affects him. Their relationship might be unworkable, but firing Shanahan now just for Griffin would be a bad call. It would create a much bigger story than you are hoping for and would probably end up doing more harm than good for Griffin. Also, there really isn’t a good option to take over so a coaching change that upsets the locker room could cause a rift that then makes it tougher on Griffin these final three weeks.
The final thing about firing Mike Shanahan now is about the message it sends to potential coaches for next year. Dan Snyder doesn’t have a favorable reputation as the owner of the Redskins, and if he’s seen as firing Mike Shanahan now (especially with all the various reports out there) it will look more like a rash decision, or influenced by the quarterback. If you wait till after the season, it is easier to point to the 4 year failures of Mike Shanahan as the coach and being in charge of personnel decisions. Also, it seems less personal and more due to just cause. Those things might seem insignificant to most fans, but they could mean quite a bit to potential future coaches. If the Redskins are looking to land a top name, they need to paint a positive picture to land him over another head coaching job elsewhere.
It may be tough to stomach the Mike Shanahan regime lasting another three weeks, but it is the prudent thing to do and what is best for this franchise going forward. Sadly that is all that matters right now for the Redskins, and that is why patience is the way to go.