Searching for the next John Elway

Les Carpenter at Yahoo! Sports has a good article on how Mike Shanahan’s constant search for the next John Elway is ruining his coaching career and the Washington football team.

When it comes to quarterback, the position he played and loved and has nurtured through his 35 years of coaching, Mike Shanahan is never a patient man.

After Brian Griese failed to be the acceptable replacement for John Elway in Denver, Shanahan dumped him. As Jake Plummer proved incapable of running his offense the coach replaced him midseason despite a 7-4 record.

In Shanahan’s quest for the next Elway, no player is infallible, no situation too absurd. If a quarterback displeases Shanahan as apparently Donovan McNabb has done, then he is a candidate for exclusion. Even if fewer than two minutes remain in a winnable game against a team you need to beat.

Shanahan’s late-game benching of McNabb on Sunday against the Detroit Lions still defies logic. And three days of his bungled attempts to explain the decision – claiming first that journeyman Rex Grossman was better-suited than a future Hall-of-Famer to run the two-minute offense, then changing a day later to claim McNabb wasn’t in the right cardiovascular condition to run the two-minute plays – was uncharacteristic of a coach who burns for perfection.

But this year must be so strange for Shanahan, who came to Washington believing the fierceness of his will could make these lousy Redskins a winner the way he always made his Broncos teams competitive in Denver. Halfway through this season, associates say, he has come to realize the team Vinny Cerrato built and left for him is not very good and no level of coaching – no matter how intense – is going to change that.

Those who have worked with Shanahan say his greatest strength, yet also his biggest weakness, is his certainty that he can improve anybody. In the past he has eschewed the good advice of scouts to watch highlight tapes of prospects, choosing to see only the best plays that player made, confident he can coax them to that level as if to say they hadn’t been coached by him.

When they fail to meet those standards he sours on them. Soon they wither and fade away.

And it appears Shanahan has soured on McNabb.

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