- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Many years ago, much of the fan base of Virginia Tech football wanted coach Frank Beamer fired.

The Hokies were 2-8-1 in 1992, losing four games and tying another when they had a fourth-quarter lead. It was Beamer’s sixth year and he had yet to take Tech to a bowl game.

Perhaps things would have been different in today’s Internet-driven, Twitter-crazy world. But Dave Braine, Tech’s athletic director at the time, chose to ignore the firestorm and make a prudent decision.

Beamer would stay. He took over when Tech was in some trouble because of the previous administration and he stuck with the school when he had a chance to take another job two years earlier. He deserved another shot.

Virginia Tech hasn’t missed a bowl game since and, after the 1999 season, played for the national championship.

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Sometimes you have to swallow hard and see through what looks like a disaster. It doesn’t always work but patience can indeed be a virtue.

Which brings us to 2013 and the Redskins and coach Mike Shanahan.

A year after RG3’s magical rookie season that helped propel the Redskins to the playoffs, the team has taken a gigantic step back and doesn’t look as if it will even reach the .500 mark, let alone the playoffs. Washington is 1-4 going into Sunday’s home game against the Bears. It has already lost more games in the NFC East (two) than it did last season (one).

The team has often looked unprepared. Special teams are a mess. No question there are some problems that were masked by RG3’s magnificient debut. Heck, RG3 is even a bit of a problem as he continues to recover from his second major knee surgery (maybe keeping him out a while wouldn’t have been a bad idea after all?).

It’s led to some discussion about Shanahan’s job status. He has a year remaining after this on his original five-year, $35 million deal. Is it time to pay the man and hit reset again?

How about no?

Oddly, the angst over the Redskins’ current situation provides one small supporting argument for why the team should stick with Shanahan.

For most of the seasons between the end of the first Joe Gibbs regime and Shanahan’s arrival, this would be the norm. Look how bad this team, this roster was when Shanahan took over. There is no question the team is in much better shape than it was then — even if it isn’t showing up on the scoreboard right now.

Shanahan has created an environment where a 1-4 start is considered a disaster rather than just another Redskins season. Odd as it sounds, he at least deserves some credit for that.

Plus, like Beamer was at Virginia Tech, Shanahan is a bit hamstrung. Remember, the NFL socked the Skins with a $36 million cap hit over two seasons (last year and this year) for some earlier contract shenanigans. Merited or not, a $36 million hit is significant. It greatly limited how much the Redskins were able to do in free agency.

With an extra $18 million to spend, the Redskins ought to be able to get 3-4 pretty good pieces to augment the other roster improvements Shanahan has already made. A defensive back. An offensive lineman. The possibilities are endless.

It is still too early to completely write off the 2013 season, particularly considering the Skins were 3-6 last season and won seven straight to finish the season.

It’s just hard to see that kind of thing happening again, particularly with the likes of Denver, San Francisco, Atlanta and resurgent Kansas City ahead. Not to mention another date with Dallas. Funny, who had two games against the Giants as likely victories when the season started?

If the Skins do somehow finish 8-8, it may qualify as a miracle. A 6-10 record appears more likely, quite a comedown after a 10-6 season.

But progress has been made, even if the results don’t show it this year. Shanahan may have to shake up his coaching staff, may have to make some difficult choices in the offseason. But sticking with him is a much better call than hitting reset again and letting someone else try. Shanahan has raised the bar, which is why everyone is so upset at 1-4 right now.

It’s no longer the norm or even close to acceptable. No one knows that more than Shanahan does. Let him fix it.

• Mike Harris can be reached at mharris@washingtontimes.com.

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