When Bradley first came to me with the idea of writing up the 10 biggest positive contributions Mike Shanahan has made to the Redskins, while he gladly wrote the 10 most negative contributions, I said let’s do it.
You can read Bradley’s 10-negatives here. The sad part for me (and Skins fans) is that despite Bradley’s 10-negatives, I could only come up with 5, but I tried my best!
When looking at positive contributions to this team, to this organization, I truly believe that there are parts of it that are better, if not significantly better, since Mike Shanahan took over just 2 years ago.
The overall wins and losses may not show it and he may have shot and missed (or air-balled more like) with some of his bigger personnel decisions, but there is a lot of evidence that the overall foundation of this roster is better. And not just better in the sense that we can make a playoff run next year, but better established for future and consistent success.
There’s still work to be done. But I believe a lot of the work Shanahan has done has been, for lack of a better word, positive.
1. The Defensive Front 7
-Traded for 25-year-old (at the time) Adam Carriker in April of 2010
-Drafted Perry Riley in the 4th rd (103rd overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft
-Signed 27-year-old Stephen Bowen to a 5 year deal
-Signed 27-year-old Barry Cofield to a 6 year deal
-Drafted Ryan Kerrigan in the 1st rd (16th overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft
-Drafted Jarvis Jenkins in the 2nd rd (41st overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft
How about that for an upgrade? In two short seasons (even they felt like eternities for fans), Shanahan has made our front 7, critical to our switch to the 3-4, very formidable.
Ryan Kerrigan was all over the field in his rookie season and was, if nothing else, at least in the discussion for defensive rookie of the year. Stephen Bowen had 6 sacks in his first year as a Redskin (and exactly zero for the Cowboys, his former team, which is also important to note). Adam Carriker had 5.5.
Barry Cofield looks like he’s found a home as nose tackle of the Redskins after a great first year and Perry Riley looked like 10 times the playmaker Rocky McIntosh was after he replaced him in the starting lineup. In fact, the only player that didn’t have a positive impact of the list was training camp MVP Jarvis Jenkins and that’s because he spent the year on IR.
There are still holes on this defense, but the majority of them are in the secondary. It’s next to impossible to fill every hole and every need on an NFL roster in just a couple of years, especially one has flawed as Mike Shanahan inherited. It looks as though based on what the draft and free agency had to offer this year, Shanahan chose to attack the front 7 first (to add to guys like Orakpo and Fletcher).
With all these guys young, talented, and for the most part locked up as Redskins for the next few years, I’d say mission accomplished.
2. The Running Backs
-Traded Vonnie Holliday and a 6th-rd pick for 25-year-old Tim Hightower
-Drafted Roy Helu in the 4th rd (105th overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft
-Drafted Evan Royster in the 6th rd (177th overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft
Guess what Clinton Portis and I have in common right now? We’re both out of football. After Shanahan decided to let Portis go, it was a very telling sign that no other football team gave him a chance. Only a few even gave him the chance to work out. So what did that mean? Well it meant the running back position was yet another unit that needed a major upgrade. Long gone were the days of John Riggins, Timmy Smith, Terry Allen and Trung Canidate (joke?)
So out with the old and in with the new. And new, meaning young. While Shanahan still had guys like Ryan Torain around (and contributing), he also focused in on the running back position on one that he can improve. And he did.
Tim Hightower came in and while he didn’t set the world on fire (in the regular season at least), he proved he could handle a full load for an NFL team, something that he hadn’t proven yet in Arizona. But unfortunately, another injury cut his season short and Shanahan was now forced to play his rookies more. But wouldn’t you know it, that didn’t end up being such a bad thing. First Helu, and then Royster, both came in and performed admirably to close out the season. Both had games of over 100 yards (Helu had multiple) and both looked worthy of being on, and helping, on an NFL roster.
With Hightower a free agent, it clouds the situation a bit. But if he re-signs (something he’s made it known he wants), you will not be able to convince me that our core of running backs has not greatly improved because of Mike Shanahan- for the immediate and distant future.
3. The Wide Receivers
-Drafted Leonard Hankerson in the 3rd rd (79th overall) of the 2011 NFL Draft
-Traded Jeremy Jarmon for Jabar Gaffney in July of 2011
Calm your nerves everybody. I understand that this is still a unit that is missing a marquee, game-changing playmaker. But guess what? Those aren’t always the easiest to find- especially when your entire time is void of any those kinds of guys. But you know what these couple of moves at the position did do? I think it opened the door for the WR position to be very good, if not very great, as soon that game changer is identified.
In Shanahan’s first year, his WR choices simply did not work. But now the rest of the kitchen is ready when the game-changing marble countertops are ready to be installed. Whenever we do land our Calvin Johnson, he’ll be complemented by good, solid football players. And let’s not pretend how important that will be to our other game-changing position of need, QB.
4. The Offensive Line
-Drafted LT Trent Williams in the 1st rd (6th overall) of the 2010 NFL Draft
-Traded a draft pick for RT Jammal Brown in June of 2010
-Signed G Chris Chester in July of 2011
OK so I may be starting to really grasp here, but am I the only one that thought the offensive line wasn’t all that bad this year? You’re always going to deal with injuries, but season ending ones to your starting left guard and right tackle with the unit playing pretty well is always going to be a little bit tougher to swallow (then, of course you had marijuana-gate 2011 and lost your franchise LT).
All in all though, you have to be at least a little bit optimistic about the potential of this unit when all are back and healthy (and sober). At the very least, while you can acknowledge that upgrades may be in order, another major overhaul may not necessarily be.
So once again, if we’re able to attribute roster moves to Shanahan, you have to include the upgrade at offensive line, however minor, as a positive. Somebody playing devils advocate could point to drafting a guy with known character issues (Williams) so high was a mistake. Or trading a 3rd or 4th rd pick (wasn’t known at the time) for a oft-injured RT (Brown) was also a mistake. But injuries and off-field mistakes are part of the game. Shanahan’s job, like with any other unit on the team, was to make this offensive line better. I believe he’s done that.
5. He Has Stuck To The Shanaplan
Now before everybody jumps down my throat, let me explain.
Whether it’s the best strategy of all time or not, Shanahan, I believe, he’s done whatever he can to simultaneously rebuild a very bad roster AND put a competitive product out on the field.
Now many fans will argue that therein lies the problem. Are we supposed to be rebuilding or are we supposed to be winning now? And how competitive were we down the stretch this season?
But let’s dig a little deeper into some of his major decisions.
In his first year, he inherits a mess of a situation with an overall roster that isn’t in very good shape. But what does every head coach in the NFL want to do? Win.
And what’s the first thing every NFL head coach needs to do that? A QB.
So he does a very understandable thing and basically says we need an upgrade at the QB position. This team may not have a chance to win many games this year but we’ll have no chance at all without an upgrade.
Enter Donovan McNabb- an all-pro, franchise leading type of QB that is ready for new surroundings. Now he has his QB. All of the roster overhauling and cleaning house that he’s going to be doing (all part of his plan) won’t look so bad with Donovan “All Smiles” McNabb leading the ship, right. Well we all know how that turned out. But can you blame him for his thinking? Can you blame him for knowing he has a lot of work to do to rebuild the team but wanting to still put the best product on the field that he can while doing so?
The reason why so many people want Shanahan fired is the wins and losses- I obviously can’t argue with that. But the mistakes that he made (McNabb) or inherited (Haynesworth) just so happened to be at the most important position (QB) and with the highest paid player on the team.
It’s like everyone, and for good reason, noticed how badly he missed on his big bets- but nobody is giving him credit for hitting on most of his small bets. I am NOT looking to take away any blame for those mistakes, but I am of the mindset that I’d have probably done the same thing- it simply just did not work out.
Year 2 was more of the same. Instead of making the same mistake of going after a QB that simply would not be the answer (either through the draft or through free agency), Shanahan decided to roll the dice with Rex and Beck. Did he say he’d stake his reputation on their success? Yes he did. But I’d like to believe that he simply knew this team had too many places it needed upgrading and would rather focus on those than bring in another signal-caller- specifically if one he really wanted simply wasn’t available.
Addressing the quarterback position is the most important thing to the success of ANY football team. Adding game-changing, difference-making players is what’s more than likely next most important to THIS team.
And if you and I know that, Mike Shanahan knows that. But you don’t just want any sports car, you want your dream car. Shanahan tried to get a used one and he admitted he shouldn’t have. He’s admitted it’s been harder and taking longer than he originally thought. But he’s quietly upgraded this roster, whether the wins and losses are reflective of that right now or not, and has resisted splurging on the expensive items.
Now when he finds the sports car (or cars) he really wants, his garage will be able to hold them.
The difference between ordinary (6-11,5-10) and extraordinary is just that little extra, right?
Very soon Mike Shanahan is going to get the extra he wants. And hopefully soon thereafter this team will be extraordinary.
That’s the Shanaplan, at least.
You can read Bradley’s Negative here.
How do my positives rank against Bradley’s list of negatives…