When we hired Shanahan two years ago, I was under the “let me see what you can do before I make a judgment on you” mentality. Shanahan was too far removed from any real success for me to give this guy the benefit of the doubt. His hay-days from 92′-94′ with Steve Young led 49ers as well as his Elway-led Broncos teams of 97′-98′ no longer excited me, they expired in my book. The only hint of optimism that I can recall from our hire was that I assumed Shanahan couldn’t do worse than Jim Zorn was currently doing… or could he?
Well, after 25 games, it’s proving that he was able to do worse than Jim Zorn did in his first two years, as Coach currently sits with a 9-16 record compared to Jim Zorn’s 11-14. This got me thinking, if Shanahan during his first 25 games wasn’t able to do better than Zorn did, has he done better than any of the other current NFL coaches within the first two years with their current teams? I decided to break it down.
Looking to compare Shanahan to others with a similar sampling size of 24-games or more, I eliminated the following 8-coaches from this discussion: John Fox (Denver), Ron Riveria (Carolina), Leslie Frazier (Minnesota), Mike Munchak (Tennessee), Pat Shurmur (Cleveland), Jason Garrett (Dallas), Hue Jackson (Oakland) and Jim Harbaugh (San Francisco).
When looking at the remaining 23 coaches the first statistic that pops-out is that there are only 5-current NFL coaches who took over a team with a winning record from the year before: Jim Caldwell, Mike Tomlin, Norv Turner, Todd Haley and Raheem Morris, because of that, I’ll leave them off the list too. That leaves 18 other coaches who took over a team that had a current losing record, just like Mike Shanahan did in DC.
EVERY coach with the exception of three: Pete Carroll, Jim Schwartz and Steve Spagnaula, within their first two years led their team to a .500 or better record in at least one of those two years and in the defense of Spagnaula and Schwartz they at least tripled their amount of wins from year one to year two. That leaves only two current NFL coaches who have failed to get their team to a .500 or better record in their first two years and/or show improvement from year one to year two; Pete Carroll and Mike Shanahan (both assuming their seasons continue in the direction their headed).
In most cases, NFL coaches take over for a team with a losing record and either does one of two things: comes out in that first year and has the team play lights out and then they cool down a bit in year two OR they get off to a slow start in year one and take off in year two, but there is some form of success in the first two years, check the facts on the remaining 15-coaches:
- Andy Reid: took over a 3-13 team in 98′, went 5-11 in 99′ and 11-5′ in 2000.
- Tom Coughlin: took over a 4-12 team in 03′, went 6-10 in 04′ and 11-5 in 2005.
- Mike McCarthy: took over a 4-12 team in 05′, went 8-8 in 06′ and 13-3 in 2007.
- Lovie Smith: took over a 7-9 team in 03′, went 5-11 in 04′ and 11-5 in 2005.
- Sean Payton: took over a 3-13 team in 05′, went 10-6 in 06′ and 7-9 in 2007.
- Mike Smith: took over a 4-12 team in 08′, went 11-5 in 08′ and 9-7 in 2009.
- Ken Whisenhunt: took over a 5-11 team in 06′, went 8-8 in 07′ and 9-7 in 2008.
- Bill Belicheck: took over a 8-8 team in 99′, went 5-11 in 00′ and 11-5 in 2001.
- Rex Ryan: took over a 4-12 team in 08′, went 9-7 in 08′ and 9-7 in 2009.
- Chan Gailey: took over 6-10 team in 09′, went 4-12 in 10′ and already has 5-wins in 2011.
- Tony Sparano: took over 1-15 team in 07′, went 11-5 in 2008 and 7-9 in 2009.
- John Harbaugh: took over 6-10 team in 05′, went 5-11 in 06′ an 11-5 in 2007.
- Gary Kubiak: took over 2-14 team in 05′, went 6-10 in 06′ and 8-8 in 2007.
- Marvin Lewis: took over 2-14 team in 02′, went 8-8 in 03′ and 8-8 in 2004.
- Jack Del Rio: took over 6-10 team in 02′, went 5-11 in 03′ and 9-7 in 2004.
Look at that list, THAT is status quo. What’s happening in DC is not!
Coaches need to show some type of success in either of their first two years, that’s just how it is. In a league where one mistake can cost a player his job; no success, no progress, no hope and no improvement within the first 24 games should cost a coach his. I understand people are quick to point out that Shanahan inherited a mess of a situation after taking over for Zorn and Cerrato, I understand that, but with that said, I don’t care. This is the NFL, no one cares what your excuses are, just win! You don’t think Sean Payton taking over a 3-13 team, in a city that was just crushed by Hurricane Katrina had plenty of opportunities for excuses? I’m sure Mike Smith in Atlanta could’ve found an excuse or two taking over a 4-12 Atlanta team that had a coach walk out on them (Petrino) and a city dealing with the aftermath of the Mike Vick dog-killing situation, but he didn’t. Jim Harbaugh fought through every critic who said you can’t win with Alex Smith at QB and he’s figuring it out. Are the excuses in DC so much stronger that we are willing to give our coach a pass?
At times the softer side of my brain takes over and begins to say: “cut him some slack; clearly he doesn’t have much talent to work with, no real depth across the board and there isn’t a franchise QB to work with, you can’t grade Shanahan on wins and losses right now.” I say “okay,” so when I choose to judge him on the other criteria’s besides for wins and losses, I’m no more optimistic than I was. Does this team play hard week in and week out (NO), have we shown improvement from year one to year two (NO), have we improved as the year has progressed in year one and/or year two (NO), has he made good personnel decisions (NO), does the team appear to be motivated (NO), do you feel the players trust him(NO), has he handled some of team issues with various players in a professional way since he’s been here (NO), has he addressed the obvious needs on this team first (NO), are you confident and believe in his plan moving forward (NO), is his future plan for the team clearly-defined (NO) and do you enjoy watching this team (NO)! NO, NO, NO!
I am ready to move on without the Shanahan’s come 2012. I know that will cause a stir and many people will disagree, saying, “that’s what we’ve always done, we can’t keep switching coaches,” why the heck not I ask them? There are rookie head coaches and second year coaches getting results out of their teams, who’s to say, a rookie head coach couldn’t do the same next year in DC? After two miserable, embarrassing and losing seasons; getting the players to rally around you in year three is a steeper task than any of the tasks that Shanahan has already failed at. Add on to that, the 6-7 additional losses were about to face, no one in this locker room will want to see or hear anything Mike Shanahan has to say, I know I don’t!
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