In THE SPORTS LANDSCAPE Bill Sullivan on December 27, 2011 at 7:53 pm


   How can Dan Snyder stand to watch his team’s free-fall? This time around, Vinny Cerrato can’t be blamed. Neither can Albert Haynesworth. Nor Donovan McNabb.

With “Black Monday” a day away, you’d think Mike Shanahan could get his team ready to play in the season finale versus Philadelphia. Instead, the Redskins continued to stumble and bumble to finish 5-11 in a familiar locale – the NFC East cellar. The Skins managed one touchdown and were outscored by the Eagles by 24 points. Like against the lowly Vikings, this game wasn’t close, either.

On a day when two NFL head coaches (Steve Spagnuolo of the Rams and Raheem Morris of the Bucs) were fired, Shanahan was clowning around at his year-end press conference. Instead of explaining why he’s failed the past two years, he turned it into his own comedy hour. Snyder must be sick, having paid $14M for 11 wins, a little more than one mill per victory.

The owner must wonder what it’d be like to have Jon Gruden, Bill Cowher, Mike Sherman, Jeff Fisher  or Brian Billick coach his team. Each has been to and won a Super Bowl except Fisher. And each is out of coaching. Yes, Shanahan had the same credentials (when hired two years ago) but winning 11 games over two seasons isn’t “super.” Maybe Snyder’s self-conscious about first firing Norv Turner and then hiring and firing Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier and Jim Zorn. In Washington, the lemming-like media hordes would chastise him for another rush to judgment. But I’d applaud a coaching switch.

Shanahan has done no better than Todd Haley (fired by the Chiefs) and Tony Sparano (fired by the Dolphins).  Why keep him?  What has he done to warrant a third year at $7M per? His experience was supposed to count for something but it hasn’t. If Snyder waits too long, that illustrious coaching list will go “Poof.” Andy Reid of Philadelphia was reprieved but did finish 8-8, just one game off the division lead. Turner also kept his job but had his Chargers in contention until the last weekend of the season. It’s called being competitive, something the Redskin coach isn’t.

In Week 16, you’d think a coaching staff would have eliminated silly, mental mistakes. But we saw Santana Moss yank off his helmet to draw a 15-yard penalty. Then we saw the field goal unit zig-zagging on and off the field until time expired in the first half. And yes, Rex Grossman continued to throw off his back foot, tossing yet another interception.

At his press conference after the Vikings loss (Week 15), Shanahan muttered the word, “progress” over and over. Progress?! Where’s Jim Mora, Sr. when I need him? I don’t care if Evan Royster had rushed for 300 yards. The team still had no business losing to a 2-12 squad which lost both its starting quarterback and all-world tailback at halftime. Shanahan can be proud of his zone-blocking schemes all he wants but where are the wins?

The pinnacle of the ridiculous was three weeks ago when Shanahan dodged the DeAngelo Hall fiasco, saying “The players elect the team captain,” after Hall was penalized twice on one play – once for throwing an official’s flag. If Redskin players think Hall is a leader, you’ve got a serious roster problem. Hall is mouthy and a poor tackler, not mentor-material. All Shanahan had to do was strip Hall of his captain’s title and say “I won’t stand for one player’s lack of discipline hurting my team.” Instead, he passed the buck and looked timid. How does that motivate a team?

Against the Vikings, Shanahan’s defense gave up 23 points in the second half to an offense run by a second-string quarterback and kick-started by a bench-warming fullback. Remember, all-world tailback Adrian Peterson was AWOL in the second half with an ACL injury – after being knocked out by safety Reed Doughty, who finally made a tackle.

Instead, Shanahan ought to be embarrassed, losing to a team that scored 33 points — one shy of its season-high — on the road!. When Grossman was intercepted in that game, it was the first pick by the Vikings defense in two months.

I hear how defensive end Brian Orakpo should have received a Pro Bowl invitation. I hear how first-year defensive end Ryan Kerrigan is one of the best rookies in the league. The Redskins have the NFL’s leading tackler in London Fletcher. So, how did such a “prized” unit collapse against an offense devoid of an All-Pro?

Why is it taking a “coaching legend” so long to win when first-year coaches Jim Harbaugh (49ers), Mike Munchak (Titans) and Hue Jackson (Raiders) won big in year one? Harbaugh and Munchak are in the playoffs. Jackson was in contention until Week 16. Enough whining about Grossman. QB Alex Smith of the 49ers was a bust before Harbaugh (with zero NFL coaching experience) took over the Mike Singletary mess and turned him into a Comeback Player of the Year candidate.

Speaking of first-year turnarounds, look what Bill Parcels did in New York and New England. Look at what Rex Ryan did with the Jets. Shanahan has coached 32 games with Washington and won 11 — one game worse than Zorn’s two-year mark. Shanahan might have long ago lost this team. If starters Trent Williams and Fred Davis were committed to his system, why was each busted three times for substance abuse?

We’ve heard how Shanahan had an eye for quarterbacks.  He inherited John Elway in Denver. McNabb was a major backfire. How could Shanahan have been so “high” on John Beck, a 30-year-old who failed miserably when given the offensive reins in mid-season?

Shanahan can’t even compete in his own division. This year, the NFC East champ was 9-7 while the second and third-place teams each were 8-8. Is playing .500 ball too much to ask of a coach? I bet Snyder would love to ask Shanahan that one.

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