This is a train wreck in Washington
Less than a year after a showdown over Robert Griffin III, another appears to be brewing. Jay Grudenâ€™s desire to part ways with the ineffective quarterback may put him at odds with owner Daniel Snyder and President and General Manager Bruce Allen, potentially leaving the Washington Redskins searching for a coach yet again.
Late last week, battle lines were drawn between the coaching staff and senior management at Redskins Park after multiple team employees revealed Gruden is done with Griffin, as much because of the 24-year-oldâ€™s spotlight-craving antics as his shortcomings in the pocket. Prompted by the news of Grudenâ€™s position, an unnamed Redskins official told ESPN that Griffin could start again during the teamâ€™s final four games, lending credibility to the notion that Grudenâ€™s bosses still are committed to the leagueâ€™s 2012 offensive rookie of the year.
This mess has been going on since Dan Snyder bought the team
Snyder supported the risky move to trade four high-round picks in order to select Griffin second overall in the 2012 draft. A former high-ranking team official said at the time of the trade the move would weaken the franchise for as much as a decade if Griffin failed to become a longtime superstar.
Considering his substantial investment in Griffin and how well the 2011 Heisman Trophy winner played in his rookie season, it wouldnâ€™t be surprising if Snyder took a wait-and-see approach. Also, Snyder and Griffin developed a personal relationship, sharing high-dollar dinners and mingling with Hollywood stars. For Allen, trading Griffin could be a career-killer.
Allen strongly encouraged Shanahan, who had roster control, to move up in the draft to select Griffin, people within the organization say. Internally, Shanahan expressed major reservations about giving up so much for a college quarterback who did not play in a pro-style system.
But Shanahan agreed to the deal, in part, because of Allenâ€™s persistence. After botching his first offseason in charge of the roster, trading Griffin would signal yet another failure on Allenâ€™s part.
Allen had no role in hiring Shanahan and benefitted from Shanahan being ousted from power when Snyder gave him final say over the roster and added team president to his title. In contrast, Allen hand-picked Gruden to lead Washington after they worked together in the Tampa Bay Buccaneersâ€™ organization.
I havenâ€™t watched a game this season but even while avoiding the NFL I canâ€™t avoid the train wreck that is the Washington football team.
Jake Plummer says the same thing about Mike Shanahan that Les Carpenter said earlier this week.
"I had a coach that, regardless of how well I thought I was playing or how well the majority of fans across the country thought I was playing, it was never good enough for him," Plummer said, not bitter but very matter-of-fact. "And that kind of gets frustrating.
"It just seemed like every game I could have completed these four more passes or these five more shots here and it would have been perfect. And that just wasn’t my personality… But Shanahan wanted perfection and he wore a lot of us down there."
Plummer didn’t sound surprised by the current circus unfolding in Washington, D.C., between Shanahan and Redskins quarterback.
"I think Shanahan is still searching for John Elway," Plummer said. "Somehow, someway, he thinks there’s going to be another guy like John Elway.
"He coached a team to almost perfection [with Elway] so he wanted that again, he wanted that every time we went out there. It’s just not realistic."
Les Carpenter at Yahoo! Sports has a good article on how Mike Shanahanâ€™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 Shanahanâ€™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.
Shanahanâ€™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 â€“ 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 wasnâ€™t in the right cardiovascular condition to run the two-minute plays â€“ 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 â€“ no matter how intense â€“ 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 hadnâ€™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.
How do you turn around a team in the hurry?
If you want to turn a locker room around in a hurry, fill it with a bunch of guys who really need the jobs. Pack it with players who are just happy to have contracts, who don’t think certain work is too menial for them, who have a sense of sweaty desperation. That’s the secret to how the Washington Redskins have been playing. A team that a year ago was overpaid and too precious for its own good is now leading the league in hard-fought victories.
Run your eye down the Redskins’ roster, and notice how many players have recently won starting jobs by doing the dirty work of special teams, running down punts and kickoffs. Anthony Armstrong. Lorenzo Alexander. Chris Wilson. Consider the number of guys who have worked their way up from the practice squad to the active roster. Ryan Torain. Brandon Banks. Keiland Williams. Count the undrafted free agents who have become regular contributors on the field: Seven of them.
See what’s happening?
Each week, the shape of the team the Redskins are building becomes more apparent. Coach Mike Shanahan doesn’t give much away about his philosophy or his methods, but a couple of things are plain. One is his sharp eye for overlooked and undervalued players, whom he seems to prefer over coddled draft choices. Another is his penchant for using special teams to school those players. He’s clearly sifting and grooming a new generation of starters through the utility squads, so if you want to see the Redskins’ stars of the future, watch them closely.
So the Denver Broncos drafted the heir apparent to John Elway by drafting former Heisman winner Tim Tebow from the University of Florida Gators. Tebow has been called the greatest college quarterback ever and is probably the most popular college player in recent years which means that he has his fair share of Tebow haters out there.
Here are my thoughts on the pick.
I canâ€™t figure out how a guy that supposed to be drafted in the third round two weeks ago leaps to the first round. Now I know Denver brought him in for a workout and I know that he probably could make â€œall of the throwsâ€ but Tebow comes from a college offense that isnâ€™t well suited for the pros. While he was a great college runner, his 4.74 speed wonâ€™t cause incredible fear in the pro game as he can be run down by most linebackers and some defensive ends.
In Florida he had very poor mechanics with a very elongated release that would cause serious problems in the NFL. Of course in a couple of weeks he managed to make his release a lot more compact which won him a lot of praise for changing it so soon (and created some questions about Urban Meyers ability to coach a quarterback). In Florida he tended to lock onto a receiver and rarely wet through multiple reads before tucking it and running.
His fans will say that he is a really hard worker on and off the field and letâ€™s be honest, few NFL games he will be in will be more pressure packed than two BCS Championship games or his games versus Florida State (than again, those probably were more like practicing against Floridaâ€™s scout defense considering the state of FSU football right now).
I keep hearing that Josh McDaniels will essentially redshirt Tim Tebow in 2010, coach him, and let him compete for a backup role in 2011 with the idea that he can compete for the starting job in 2013. This makes a lot of sense as it what Green Bay did with Aaron Rodgers and look how that turned out. Unless of course you have and 8-8 team and just traded away your franchise quarterback last season, your franchise receiver and a really good pass catching tight end this season. In other words, this makes a lot of sense if Andy Reid had done it, if Mike Shanahan had done it (even in Washington), if Bill Bilichick had done it but not so much when Josh McDaniels does it. The Denver Broncos have a lot of immediate needs on both offense and defense than quarterback in the first round. First round draft picks are supposed to start now, not in a couple of years. You donâ€™t reach in the first round unless your name is Al Davis.
The Denver Broncos better get off to a fast start and sustain it this year; otherwise the fans and media will start calling for Tebow to play before he is ready. That could be a disaster for everyone involved.
For those of us who are trying to tell ourselves that things in Denver will be fine without Jay Cutler and Josh McDaniels will be great, here is are some stats to think about.
- Super Bowl wins for Mike Shanahan without John Elway: 0.
- Super Bowl wins for Chuck Noll without Terry Bradshaw: 0.
- Super Bowl wins for George Seifert without Steve Young or Joe Montana: 0.
- Super Bowl wins for Jimmy Johnson without Troy Aikman: 0.
- Super Bowl wins for Tom Landry without Roger Staubach: 0.
- Championships for Paul Brown without Otto Graham: 0.
- Super Bowl wins for Tony Dungy without Peyton Manning: 0.
- Super Bowl wins for Bill Belichick without Tom Brady: 0.
Don Shula seemed to be the exception who proved the rule although in Miami, they did not have a RB or much ofÂ a defense.Â Â Not a lot of Super Bowl titles are won with the Trent Dilfers of the world.
I know a lot of people worship the ground that former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan walks on but if you were a new untested General Manager, would you hire a coach that has a history of getting his general managers fired in Denver? Itâ€™s a pretty good bet that the Kansas City Chiefs wonâ€™t hire Mike Shanahan and will go with someone else who has a better track record of fixing horrible defenses.
Tom Curran of NBC Sports had this to say
What had to clinch it for Bowlen, though, were the absurd losses Denver absorbed this season. Beaten by the lowly Chiefs 33-19 after a 3-0 start. A 41-7 destruction by the Patriots in Foxboro. A sloppy, staggering loss at home to Miami. A 31-10 ripping at home by the hated Raiders. Then the three straight losses to end the season.
Wins over decent teams like Atlanta, Tampa and the Jets only served as proof that Denver had talent but, for whatever reason, it wasnâ€™t playing up to it.
Jay Cutler, the Broncos’ third-year quarterback, took an aggressive stance on the dismissal, telling Jeff Legwold of the Rocky Mountain News on Tuesday, â€œIâ€™m disappointed, Iâ€™m shocked, Iâ€™m not happy about it, Iâ€™m not pleased with it at all. We had zero inkling this was going to happen. I didnâ€™t have a clue.â€
Irked as Cutler may be, his play waned after a brilliant start as well, throwing six touchdowns and seven picks while Denver was going 2-4 down the stretch.
Defensively, the Broncos were an embarrassment. They allowed 448 points (and an eye-popping 857 over the past two seasons) and were minus-17 in turnovers.
Shanahan didnâ€™t have the out of being able to blame the general manager for providing him with players who couldnâ€™t take coaching or didnâ€™t have talent. He was the Broncos’ GM, as well.
In a game where coaching matters as much as football, Shanahan had to take responsibility for the play and the preparedness of the Broncos.Â Yes he won 2 Super Bowls but his teams have not always shown up to play over the last couple of years and the defense is horrible.Â When he had the GM fired and the team faded down the stretch like it had a couple of times before, who else was there to blame?Â His coaching staff, his players, his inconsistent team that fell short.
The NFL Network and Terrell Davis share their thoughts here.Â Jason Cole suggests that Mike Shanahan had another job lined up which forced Pat Bowlen’s hand.
Michael Silver (who has become one of my favorite sports writers) has a good article on the return of Mike Shanahan.
The true significance of Sunday’s game was Shanahan’s gutsy decision to go all in and play for the win â€“ a course that he and Cutler plotted as the Chargers went up by 7 with 4:22 remaining.
Strip it all away, and this was an "I’m Back" statement from a coach nearly a decade removed from his last Super Bowl victory who is coming off a losing season he found untenable.
It was a power move by a play-calling savant who knows he finally has the quarterback who can help the Mile High City get over its collective post-John Elway hangover.
And, let’s be honest, it was the act of a man who, despite recent rumblings to the contrary, is secure in his environment. Now in his 14th season, the league’s second-longest-tenured head coach was willing to risk the backlash that would have accompanied a failed conversion. Given that only six other coaches had pulled a similarly risky move (going for two while down a point in the final two minutes) since the advent of the rule in 1994 â€“ and only two of those six had been successful â€“ Shanahan had to be feeling mighty exposed.
Let’s be honest: He’s been waiting for a chance to expose himself in good conscience for a long time. And even in those tense moments before he knew how the outcome would play out, Shanahan loved every second of it.
"I think so," said Cutler, who completed 36 of 50 passes for 350 yards and four touchdowns in a performance that we may remember as the day he became a big-time NFL passer. "I think he’s comfortable being aggressive. We’re attacking a lot more this year. We’ve got so many weapons. Our receivers are stepping up, our tight ends are exciting and our backs are so versatile. And with the way our line’s playing, we feel like we can attack you any way you want."
Most of all Cutler, in his third season, has progressed to a point where Shanahan wants nothing more than the ball in his quarterback’s right hand with the game on the line.
"That’s why you go for it," Shanahan said afterward as he sat in the coaches’ locker room at Invesco, his face still flushed from the excitement. "I’ve always believed you get a good feel for a quarterback in his third year, and I knew going into this offseason that Jay was capable of doing what he’s done these first two games. If he keeps on playing at this level, good things will happen."