Keeping Tabs on Washington's Team

Shanahan Has an Eye on Big Picture

Redskins primed to contend with another strong offseason

By Jack Anderson
|  Thursday, Dec 1, 2011  |  Updated 9:06 PM EDT
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In the NFL, every team is constantly searching for that golden formula to guarantee success. The concept of how to go about it is always evolving, but ultimately if a healthy balance isn’t achieved at every level of the organization, then it’s very difficult to accomplish much anything.

From what I gather, that balance hasn’t been instilled in the Washington Redskins organization yet. For some teams a rebuild occurs overnight, but the Redskins don’t seem to be that lucky. Their current problems are rooted as deeply as the winning tradition synonymous with the first Joe Gibbs era was, and even with Mike Shanahan at the helm, that tradition has yet to reemerge.

With such issues comes the arduous business of bouncing back. He’s been under fire for his handling of the quarterback situation, but Shanahan has taken a systematic approach to resurrecting this franchise, and it’s an approach that might just end up working despite 2011’s poor showing.

Shanahan is a stranger to rebuilding. He took over a team with John Elway as a quarterback in Denver. He wasn’t blessed with much more than the headache of babysitting Albert Haynesworth upon signing with the Redskins. Washington has undoubtedly been a learning experience and Shanahan has changed his mentality to fit what Washington needs.

The emphasis this offseason was clearly on improving a defense ranked second-to-last in 2010. Shanahan knew he needed a personnel upgrade to continue using the 3-4 scheme he installed upon his arrival and so he brought in a handful of players who have the Redskins ranked 11th in total defense.

This success is of course overshadowed by the failures of Rex Grossman and John Beck, but it's a success nonetheless. Shanahan inherited a dismal roster, overestimated it in Year One and is now in the process of putting the team together his way. Maybe you find his failure in 2010 to be unforgivable, but compared to the litany of offenses committed by previous regimes, he ought to be given a free pass.

That’s not to say Shanahan is exempt from criticism. He’s made more than his fair share of mistakes. But he’s a qualified coach who’s an offseason away from potentially solving the team’s offensive issues with one of the five-star quarterbacks entering the pro level next year. A certain level of patience is to be expected as he tries to jump-start an offense that hasn’t been productive since the Stone Age.

The adjustments Shanahan made in his second offseason go against the common belief that he’s an egomaniacal coach who refuses to make the necessary changes to succeed here. Sure, he might feed us some half-truths concerning his woeful quarterbacks, but his non-pursuit of a quarterback over the summer doesn’t mean he was idle.

Instead, he put the building blocks in place on defense, selected more players in a single draft than any Redskins coach in the modern era of the event and now has a plethora of options at quarterback in this year’s draft.

Think about it: Washington is well under the salary cap and will have eight draft picks to work with in April. Players have strongly supported Shanahan throughout his tenure and he in turn has attested to the team’s work ethic and character. The foundation is taking form; now it’s up to Shanahan to finish the job this offseason.

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