Mike Shanahan Deserves Criticism, But Calls To Fire Him Are Ridiculous

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 23: Head coach Mike Shanahan of the Washington Redskins yells into his headset against the Carolina Panthers at the Bank of America Stadium on October 23, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

The first 23 games of the Mike Shanahan era have been rocky, and there are some wondering if his job as the Redskins' head coach should be in jeopardy. Here's why firing him now would be a very bad idea.

Over the past few games, we've learned that the Washington Redskins are who we thought they were. The Dennis Green-ism is cliche and played out, but it's also accurate here. At 3-4 with three straight losses, this is a bad football team that was expected to be a bad football team.

So why is Mike Shanahan suddenly receiving more scrutiny and implications that his job is in jeopardy than at any point this season? What did people expect this season anyway?

Shanahan has made himself into such a face of this franchise, so I get that he's an fair target when things go back like they did in Sunday's 23-0 loss to the Buffalo Bills. He's also certainly made some missteps, which we'll discuss later. But given what we've experienced in this town in the last decade, it's amazing to me that there are already calls to fire him. For example.

Shanahan has coached only 23 games and [Maryland football coach Randy] Edsall eight, yet there have been calls for both teams to start over. Frankly, it's not the worst idea.

This organization has had seven coaches in 12 years, and there are calls for No. 8 to show up. Kind of amazing how short our memories are. Firing a head coach has been used as the band-aid solution for a decade, and all that's happened is that the wound has grown larger. Now, there are people advocating that the team repeat the mistakes it made over and over again? It's incredibly reactionary.

Here's the thing to remember about Shanahan: he turned 2011 into Year 1 of his rebuild when it should have been 2010. Everything that happened last year was an abject failure; everything that is happening this year is a consequence of the abject failure of 2010. The lack of a quarterback is a direct result of the horrendous decision to trade for Donovan McNabb. The sorry state of the roster is a direct result of trying to roll with an aging roster of misfits last season.

Are these things on Shanahan's record? Of course, and he deserves to be judged for them. But if that were the case, why not just advocate firing him last year? Why is there so much noise coming now about whether his job is in jeopardy?

Here, the answer is simple. Two facts are being presented, however explicitly, to support the case for questioning Shanahan's job security. Both, though, are not the simple facts they seem. The context of each has been cherrypicked away.

The first one is the team's record. A month ago, the Redskins were 3-1 and on top of the NFC East. Now, they're 3-4, and the lack of progression is seen as a black mark on Shanahan. The problem with this line of thinking? The Redskins' start was incredibly deceiving. One of those wins was at home to the Arizona Cardinals, a 1-6 team, by one point in a game where the Redskins faced an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter. Another was to an equally-woeful St. Louis Rams team by one touchdown in a game where Rex Grossman did his best impression of Jake Dellhome in the 2009 playoffs. This was not a good team despite the record. They were just slightly better than two of the worst teams in football.

The other big one being cited all over the place is Shanahan's comment last spring that he "put his reputation" on Rex Grossman and John Beck being able to play. With Grossman being Grossman and Beck proving he can't actually play (just look at this Hogs Haven breakdown if you want your head to explode), the comment is being turned back on Shanahan, especially in light of last year's McNabb saga.

It was a foolish comment, no doubt, but I'm kind of amazed at how the "megalomaniac Shanahan" meme has spiraled this one out of control. There are two possible theories for why Shanahan would say something like that. One is the one generally accepted around town, which is that Shanahan's ego is so large that he feels he can make it work with anyone. The other is that Shanahan knew Beck and Grossman were fringe starters and was trying to give them confidence and show he believed in them. The answer is probably a bit of Point A and a bit of Point B, but all we're hearing is Point A. Coaches make public statements for many reasons. Let's not fall into the trap of taking everything said literally.

So where does all this leave us? We're stuck in a holding pattern, hoping Shanahan and company can rebuild the offense in the summer and in the draft. Last summer was spent fixing Jim Haslett's defense, so next summer must be used to address the lack of a quarterback and lack of playmakers. If there isn't some progression next year, then we'll truly have reached a crossroads with the Shanahan regime.

Until then, it's time to face facts. This is what rebuilding looks like, and it's ugly, slow, painful and easy to criticize. That doesn't mean firing a head coach after 23 games is a good idea.

For more on the Redskins, visit Hogs Haven.

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