Heading into this third season with the Washington Redskins, head coach Mike Shanahan had acquired an overall record of 11-21 and, once again there were concerns about the future of the Redskins. There were questions raised about the handling of players, the quality of play of the field and his use of the draft in recent years. Now however, the Redskins find themselves in the thick of the playoff race and even a possibility to win the NFC East divisional championship. Is Mike Shanahan just brilliant or is he lucky?
In the first two seasons with the Redskins, Shanahan finished dead last in the NFC East. There were offseason moves made, but nothing significant. There was the lack of a starting quarterback, the Albert Haynesworth issue, the rotation of over the hill running backs added to the previous rosters. Until this year.
The Washington Redskins made an aggressive move in order to move up in the 2012 NFL Draft and executed a trade with the St. Louis Rams in order to acquire QB Robert Griffin III.
I believe that Mike Shanahan staked his coaching career on Baylor QB Robert Griffin III, and his selection in the draft might have saved his coaching career. There was no doubt that a franchise quarterback was needed in Washington, but rookie quarterbacks are risky. Well, maybe they were, risky. Griffin has been one of the most dynamic quarterbacks in the league this season, let alone the fact he is a rookie signal caller.
Griffin has been one of the most explosive playmakers this season, but draft choices come with risks. You don’t know how all of the college experience, the combine workouts and player personalities will play out on the NFL stage.
Shanahan didn’t stop with surrendering draft choices to select Griffin however, in the fourth round of the draft, he took another rookie quarterback, Michigan State signal caller, Kirk Cousins.
Draft analysts, pundits and observers of the NFL, all suggested that Shanahan was crazy to select two rookie quarterbacks in the same draft, so close together. Some thought that he was desperate to save his job and if one quarterback didn’t work out, he could start the other.
Robert Griffin III turned out to be the real deal and the Redskins found a running game with Alfred Morris. Washington, despite defensive injuries, was suddenly competitive.
As the Redskins headed into their bye week at 3-6, Shanahan seemed to concede that the season was over and that the remainder of the year would be spent on evaluation of talent. A funny thing happened after that bye week, the Redskins reeled off five consecutive wins and are now in the hunt for not only a playoff berth but the NFC East title.
And about that 2012 draft where Mike Shanahan was chastised about selecting two rookie quarterbacks, Kirk Cousins salvaged an overtime win last week and managed to throw for 329 yards and two touchdowns on the road this afternoon against the Cleveland Browns.
So. Given the track record of Mike Shanahan trading for Donovan McNabb, starting Rex Grossman and John Beck, was the selection of RG III and Kirk Cousins this year a brilliant decision or just lucky? Either way, he has secured his job for yet another year.