10 Lessons Learned From the Shanahan Tenure In DC
1. Don’t give a coach complete control over the team:
-Bruce Allen has the title of G.M. and executive president, but it is well known that Mike Shanahan rules with an iron fist. He’s in complete control of draft and personnel decisions as well as other things such as moving training camp, what type of turf they use etc. There are no real checks and balances here and that is extremely dangerous. Mike Shanahan just didn’t have the ability to handle that full control and bring in the talent necessary to make this team a winner.
2. Don’t allow a coach to bring in nearly an entire staff that are all friends of the coach:
-Much is obviously made about Kyle Shanahan being the offensive coordinator and how Mike Shanahan defers to him in meetings and practice, but just in general this organization under Mike Shanahan has been one of friendship and favoritism. Most of the coaching staff has a history either with Mike or Kyle Shanahan, and those coaches who didn’t have that history really didn’t last long in DC. Jim Haslett was forced a defensive staff that most would consider is extremely underwhelming.
3. Rebuilding doesn’t take 5 years:
-Mike Shanahan said that he told Dan Snyder that he needed 5 years to turn around the Redskins, but 4 years later and this Redskins team is at best marginally better than it was when Shanahan took over. Also teams around the league in as bad or worse situations have turned their franchises around in less than 5 years. In fact many successful coaches have turned their teams around by year two.
4. Teams Rebuild through the draft, not bad trades:
-For a coach that was preaching a 5 year plan, many of Mike Shanahan’s early moves were shortsighted and set the Redskins rebuilding plan back. The Donavan McNabb and Jammal Brown trades were the first of these, but plenty of other moves fall in this category with trades, re-signings and free agent signings.
5. Don’t make a system change unless you can use resources to get the right people in place:
-The Redskins made the change year one under Mike Shanahan to move to a 3-4 defense despite only have 2 or 3 players who could really play in that style of defense. Haslett apparently favored the 4-3 defense, but was overruled by Mike Shanahan. Not only did the move make a lot of guys on the defense irrelevant and make them wasted signings or draft picks, but the Redskins didn’t put the resources in the defense to fix it. The Redskins didn’t really spend much money defensively or in draft picks that first year and it set the team back. The Redskins made some more moves in year two, but overall never put in enough resources for the defensive switch.
6. Don’t allow a coach to openly challenge star players, especially through the media:
-If a coach has an issue with a player (star or otherwise) it should be handled behind closed doors, that really wasn’t the case with Mike Shanahan during his tenure in DC. Right off the bat Albert Haynesworth was a target for Mike Shanahan’s wrath, but he was hardly the only player. Players such as Carlos Rogers, Clinton Portis, Donovan McNabb, and RGIII were among some of the bigger named players to clash with Mike Shanahan and always it seemed like the stories ended up plastered over the media. Though Shanahan won many of those battles, it hurt the organization as a whole. From a credibility stand point and even a trade value standpoint.
7. Don’t overwhelmingly ignore one side of the ball:
-Whether it was due to his offensive background, helping his son look good, or just his actual belief on what is best for a team, Mike Shanahan overwhelmingly put the Redskins resources into the offensive side of the ball. The Redskins (even with the cap penalty) were spending among the top teams in the league on offensive linemen and wide receivers. They have also used the vast majority of the draft picks (and premium picks) on the offensive side of the ball. This left the defense completely devoid of talent and depth and is a big reason why it’s been one of the worst units in the league under Mike Shanahan (especially with the defensive switch).
8. Don’t forget about the importance of special teams:
-Not only did Mike Shanahan basically chase away one of the top special teams coaches in the league and replace him with one of his guys, but Shanahan spent very little resources into building up the special teams. He got rid of Graham Gano (who is one of the top kickers this year) for Billy Cundiff, kept Sav Rocca around and extended him despite being a bad fit for the Redskins (i.e. not a KO specialist, and horrible punting results), and didn’t put the money in to bring back Lorenzo Alexander. Many of the Redskins later round draft picks didn’t have collegiate special teams backgrounds making it harder for them to contribute there early in their careers.
9. Quality is nice, but quantity is important as well:
-Many people want to point to Shanahan’s successes in bringing in Trent Williams, Alfred Morris, Pierre Garcon, Ryan Kerrigan, Barry Cofield, Jordan Reed and RGIII, but they ignore how many outright misses he’s had. Mike Shanahan has brought in a nice group of players with his top picks or some of his bigger FA signings, but many others failed and it’s cost this team. Look at the money and resources Shanahan has spent at WR and TE and Garcon and Reed are all that they have to show for it really after 4 years. The same can be said for the offensive or defensive lines, yet all the Skins really have are Williams and Cofield. Despite all these “star” players, the Redskins went 3-13 this year and were simply awful.
10. Accountability matters:
-This has been one of the least accountable organizations under Mike Shanahan as the buck stops everywhere but at him. Not only did that burn bridges around the league and with his own team, but it destroyed some fan loyalty which is never a good thing. Shanahan is in complete control yet he blames everyone but himself (and Kyle) for the failures of this team. The Redskins need someone to take over and take that leadership role. They need to repair the lockerroom, fix the reputation with the media and fans and make DC a place free agents want to come to.