Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Five things Shanahan must address
By Matt Mosley
One of Mike Shanahan's challenges will be to make sure Dan Snyder feels involved in decisions.
Now that we know Mike Shanahan is going to be the coach of the Washington Redskins, it's time to look at five of his top priorities. Bruce Allen might have the title of general manager, but it looks as if Shanahan will have final authority on football decisions. If that's really the case, here are five things he needs to address -- in no particular order:
Figure out what he's going to do at quarterback: Dan Snyder and his old pal Vinny Cerrato made a mess of this situation last offseason by pursuing every quarterback not named Jason Campbell. Allen has been complimentary of Campbell's work, but this is something Shanahan needs to figure out. I talked to Campbell about Shanahan last week, and he expressed excitement about the coach's credentials. Shanahan obviously won the two Super Bowls with John Elway, had some success with Jake Plummer and appeared to have Jay Cutler headed in the right direction. I think Shanahan will look to draft a quarterback and groom him for the future, but you don't want to throw a kid to the wolves behind this offensive line. If Shanahan believes Campbell could elevate his game, I think it behooves him to invest some time in him. Campbell had the best statistical season of his career while playing behind perhaps the worst collection of offensive linemen in the league. I'd like to see what a quarterback guru such as Shanahan could accomplish with Campbell, who has handled this entire situation with a lot of grace.
Assemble a talented coaching staff: I think Shanahan brings a great deal of energy to the job after having a season off. But it's not like he played golf the whole time. He spent a lot of time visiting other coaches and watching film at an office in Denver. I have to believe he has basically had a coaching in staff in mind for the past six or seven months. His son, Kyle, will serve as offensive coordinator and there's a lot of speculation that Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer will fill the same role for the Redskins. Keep your eye on whether Shanahan retains any members of the previous Washington regime. It will be an indicator of how much say Snyder has retained. Snyder loved special-teams coordinator Danny Smith and he's also fond of secondary coach Jerry Gray. My guess is Shanahan will pretty much clean house.
It's time to rebuild the offensive line: This goes hand in hand with the quarterback situation. You can't ask Campbell to endure another season behind this collection of former undrafted rookies and aging players. It as if your best offensive lineman Chris Samuels will probably retire because of a neck injury, and it's not like you received outstanding play from your other veterans. Randy Thomas is too old to count on, and Casey Rabach is just a serviceable center at this point. I supposed Derrick Dockery was your best lineman this season after Samuels was injured, but that's not saying much. Free agency is going to be limited because of the potential for an uncapped season. With the No. 4 pick overall, you need to take a long look at the left tackles in the draft. I know everyone will talk about Jimmy Clausen, Colt McCoy and Sam Bradford, but you don't have to pick a quarterback at that spot. Hopefully Shanahan and Allen will have a logical plan in place. Picking two wide receivers and a tight end in the same round isn't the way to go -- even if you argue that they were the "best players on the board."
It would be nice to figure out the running back situation: Starting running back Clinton Portis has talked about his uncertain future. He's set to make more than $7 million next season (Shanahan money), and at least $6 million of it is guaranteed. I know Shanahan once traded Portis from the Broncos, but I don't think he would have any trouble coaching him. The issue is that Portis talks a better game than he plays these days. He missed pretty much the entire second half of the season with a concussion -- yet he found time to criticize Campbell in recent days. He's a mouthy guy who loves to go behind the coach's back directly to Snyder. If Snyder allows Shanahan to dump Portis, I think that would be a good sign for the organization.
And that brings us to our fifth item, which deals with Snyder: All this talk of "ultimate say in football decisions" sounds good in theory, but we know how much Snyder likes to be involved. Shanahan needs to do a good job of making Snyder feel like he's involved in decisions. Snyder gave Joe Gibbs a lot of authority, but that was a different situation. He had idolized Gibbs as a kid and was sort of in awe of him. That won't be the case with Shanahan. The last time Snyder hired a coach with a similar demeanor to Shanahan's (Marty Schottenheimer), things ended pretty quickly. If Snyder doesn't give Shanahan and Allen enough breathing room, this could be another failed hire.