The Washington Redskins seem to break new ground nearly every season in NFL dysfunction. They play their final game of the season Sunday against the New York Giants at Met Life Stadium, but the must-watch moments will come when the game is over.
Will head coach – and executive vice president of football operations – Mike Shanahan be fired after the game? Will owner Daniel Snyder give Shanahan and his coaching staff their very expensive walking papers – estimated to be as high as $13-14 million owed for the rest of Shanahan’s and his staff on their contracts?
Or will Snyder wait Shanahan out and see if the coach will tire of twisting in the wind and quit – walking away from the money?
The aura of self-destruction that defines this franchise had a banner year. It has taken a two-time Super Bowl winning coach and turned him into, as Jim Zorn might have said after a season like this – if he had one this bad during his two years in Washington – “the worst coach in the world.”
It has taken a Heisman Trophy winning quarterback and NFL Rookie of the Year – Robert “SuperBob” Griffin III – and turned him into a damaged, coach-killing quarterback diva who half the fan base would trade tomorrow in place of Kirk Cousins.
This aura of self destruction is a powerful force. It swallows up and spits out everyone who comes within its grasp. When Shanahan came to Washington, he was heralded by fans as the man who would change the direction of the franchise. He was everything former executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato wasn’t – in other words, smart and successful.
Now fans can’t stand the sight of him. Even if, as retiring Redskins linebacker London Fletcher said this week, Shanahan should come back – “I think Coach Shanahan is definitely the right guy” – you couldn’t sell that to this damaged fan base. They deserve better.
Richmond would be a ghost town next August if Shanahan returns, as would Fed Ex Field. And while the idea of football decisions as marketing tools symbolizes much of what has been wrong with the Redskins, this time it seems legit. Plus it would be too much of an insult to a fan base that has suffered decades of insults.
No, the Redskins aura of self destruction is so strong that even if the right thing would be to bring Shanahan back for the final year of his contract – with no salary cap penalty, no handicaps going into the season, and a healthy SuperBob – Shanahan can’t come back. No one can stomach him anymore.
So the new coaching search will likely begin – another victim to be sucked up by the aura of self destruction. Unless, perhaps finally, instead of fighting the aura, this franchise finally embraces its identity, and instead of hiring a coach to change it, picks a coach that is the perfect fit for the dysfunctional Washington Redskins.
Lane Kiffin, come on down.
If there was ever a coach who was a perfect fit for this organization, it is Kiffin, the Hollywood coach who leaves a trail of destruction in his wake wherever he goes – yet keeps getting hired.
He was the youngest head coach in NFL history when he was hired by Oakland Raiders in 2007, and then became the youngest head coach of a BCS Conference team when he was hired at Tennessee in 2009. He left Tennessee to take the head coaching job at USC in 2010, where he lasted three seasons before being fired in September.