Second-Guessing Shanahan?

Wow. That just happened. Rookie QB Sam Bradford led the Steven Jackson-less rams to a 30 – 16 rout of the Redskins. The Rams whooped our butts up and down the field on offense, defense, and special teams. Past behavior is always the best predictor of future behavior, so I shouldn’t have been as shocked as I was. I’ve been a ‘Skins fan for my entire life, but still manage to be blindsided by embarrassing losses like this. Judging from the attitude of Redskins Nation early this week, I’m not the only one reeling. And, as usual, fans and analysts are clamoring for someone or something to blame. Clearly, we can’t blame the Rams for being winners because we know they’re not. Instead, it has become painfully obvious that we played like even worse losers than the losers we lost to. Ouch. So whose fault is that? Let the circular firing squad begin. This wouldn’t be Washington football if we weren’t attacking someone who’s on our side.

As I read reactions to the ‘Skins’ epic defeat, I noticed that most of the finger pointing was directed at new head coach Mike Shanahan. Some critics took a tone better suited for an attack than an assessment. Here are some of the most pointed remarks:

Former Redskin Brian Mitchell during Comcast SportsNet’s post-game show:

“The game I saw today reminded me so much of last year it’s ridiculous. And I think it’s time for either Mike Shanahan to get off his ego trip and start to worry about the team more, to get his team prepared, or it’s time for these players to say forget about the damn coach and step up and start playing some real football . . . This coach seems to have more of his ego going out. Instead of presenting the Washington Redskins, he wants to present him.”

Rick Snider in the Washington Examiner:

“This Washington Redskins debacle is all on coach Mike Shanahan. Shanahan didn’t get the right personnel over the offseason to run a  3-4 defense and forced the change anyway. The offense needed a better line, a second receiver and depth at running back; Shanahan didn’t get anything but offensive tackle Trent Williams. The Redskins needed a punt returner; one wasn’t found. Shanahan makes the decisions here, and his bewildering offseason approach has doomed the Redskins to another bad season.”

“Shanahan is the architect, and his fixer-upper already has imploded . . . It’s time for Shanahan to earn his reputation. His offseason has the Redskins teetering. He needs to find the solution real quick or it’s another 10-loss year in Washington. Meanwhile, Bill Cowher is talking about coaching again in 2011.”

Evan Bliss for The Washington Post’s Box Seats Blog:

“What’s the deal Coach Mike? What are you saying at halftime to produce these lackluster second half performances? Up 20-7 at halftime last week, OT loss. Clawed back from 0-14 to 13-14 at halftime this week only to be outscored 3-16 in the second half? You (still Coach Mike) showed the NFL world you were the head honcho of the Washington Redskins when you refused to let our high priced superstar write his own rules. Wouldn’t that precedent warrant players responding to your halftime pep talks? Instead I’d cancel the halftime “adjustment” meetings.”

“You can give the house a shiny new coat of paint, but you should’ve fixed the leaky pipes, the faulty wiring, and the rotting foundation before you call the moving company . . . I’ll continue to support our guys every week, as I have during what I continue to call The Dark Ages, but for a coach — even one with past credentials — the sure way to lose a locker room is to do just that: lose.”

Redskins Hall-of-Famer John Riggins during his MASN post-game program:

“They were out-coached today. I don’t think, particularly after the loss to Houston, I don’t think Mike Shanahan had these guys ready to play.”

“What I didn’t see was the resilience of a team that really is responding and is behind the guy that’s leading them, i.e. Mike Shanahan.”

“They got their rear-ends handed to them by what I would have believed was an inferior team. How do you account for that? There is no other way to account for it . . . I’m telling you, Mike Shanahan’s got some ‘splainin to do.”

And on Riggins’ blog Riggo44:

“I’m hard pressed to believe that Mike Shanahan is not accountable for how the B and G played against St. Louis. When a team is dispirited and loses energy, particularly to a team, they were superior over, it reflects poorly on the person charged with their preparation.”

“I watched Coach Shanahan’s press conference immediately following the game; he seemed delusional . . . The scary part of this is Shanahan appeared after the game to be someone that had had an omen, and this vision did not please him. It’s as if his last year in Denver was revisiting him, when the team collapsed and lost the last three games to finish 8-8. He seemed to be a man reconciling the truth that only he knew. That, as a coach, he might have lost it.”

Among the common complaints are Shanahan’s failure to prepare the team for game day, his poor personnel decisions, and his inability to rally the team behind his leadership. The accusations vary in legitimacy, but all betray anger and desperation in the Redskins fan base. The anxiety of ‘Skins lovers seems to have reached new heights going into week 4 against the Eagles. The sharp critiques of Shanahan are as much a result of years of fan frustration as the coach’s performance. Should fans of a team with a new coach, new quarterback, new offensive scheme, and new defensive scheme be outraged when they don’t win out of the gate? Probably not; however, I can’t help but believe that the franchise is partly to blame for the reaction. The Redskins shouldn’t have spent the offseason claiming to be built to “win now” if they weren’t going to deliver.

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