One of the best things about an old year fading into the new are all those variations on the same cartoon. An old man with a very long beard representing the ending year gives way to a cute little baby representing the new year, wide-eyed with wonder about what it might see in the months ahead.
Around here, that cute little baby figures to see an eyeful early, though some of it may be saved for the old man in his final days. The Redskins season ends Dec. 29 and a coaching change should come soon thereafter. What the baby will see is the shenanigans that go on post-Mike Shanahan as the rumors fly here, there and everywhere around the next coach.
The baby will likely overdose on the names of all the potential replacements. It may be ready for a replacement baby by February.
Will the Redskins go proven like they did with Shahahan and Joe Gibbs II and try to lure one of the Super Bowl-winning coaches (Bill Cowher, Jon Gruden, Brian Billick) back to the sidelines? Will they go with an up-and-comer assistant like they did quite successfully with Joe Gibbs I, and try to hire Darrell Bevell from Seattle, Mike Zimmer from Cincinnati or Greg Roman from San Francisco, just to name a few? Do they try to find a winner among collegiate coaches, like Art Briles from Baylor or Kevin Sumlin from Texas A&M?
Whichever direction the Redskins eventually go, a couple of questions linger: How long will this regime last and why, besides the money, would anyone want to be a professional head coach these days? The constant pressure, headaches and growing scrutiny can’t make for much fun even with a paycheck that looks like a lottery winner.
Shanahan is by far by the dean of the area’s head coaches in the big four of pro sports.
If he’s let go or resigns within a week of the final game, he will have been on the job less than four calendar years. He was hired Jan. 5, 2010.
Next in tenure is the Wizards’ Randy Wittman, who doesn’t have two years even if you count his time as interim coach that started in January, 2012. He was named the real deal on June 4, 2012.
Adam Oates became the Capitals’ coach on June 26, 2012. Matt Williams was named manager of the Nationals on Halloween of this year.
Will any of them last four calendar years? Keep in mind as you ponder your answer: That’s about how long Bruce Boudreau lasted with the Caps. He won his division four times, had a 201-98-40 mark with the team and had a winning record in the season in which he was fired.
Even being really good isn’t good enough anymore.
Heck, winning a recent Super Bowl isn’t good enough for some people. There’s a Fire John Harbaugh page on Facebook. Sure, it only has 21 likes. It started last November, before the Ravens went on to win last season’s Super Bowl. But it has been active this season.
All Harbaugh has done, besides win that Super Bowl, is make the playoffs every season he’s been a head coach. The Ravens have the longest active playoff streak in the game. He’s won at least one playoff game every season.
How can even one person think he deserves to be fired?
But that’s what things have come to these days. We’ve become a need-to-know-right-now society and the Internet has enabled us to do that with many things. As this is being typed, the Redskins’ London Fletcher is annoucing he will probably retire after this season and every word is being transmitted instantly.
We’ve also become a need-to-win-big-right-now society, a very impatient society. Coaches get no leeway, even the reigning Super Bowl championship coach. Everyone smart enough to sign up for Facebook or Twitter or create a blog (and you don’t have to be terribly smart to do any of that) is a potential critic.
Winning doesn’t seem to bring joy, it seems to bring relief.
Cowher seems to have the right idea. He resigned in 2007 after 15 seasons with the Steelers, a Super Bowl title and a record of 149-90-1. He was four months shy of his 50th birthday when he gave up coaching. He was probably as safe as any coach in the business but he left on his own terms and became a television analyst.
One Thursday earlier this month, Cowher attended Octagon’s 30th birthday party in Washington. While his former colleagues were likely all holed up in a meeting room poring over video, Cowher was dancing and having a blast. No one was questioning his every dance move.
Sure, he’d already made his money on the sidelines but the huge and constant smile on his face sent a clear message: Life is better away from those sidelines. Far away.