I’m sure that he received some lovely Christmas presents from his family on Sunday, but the last week has not been the best of times for Mike Shanahan.
Six days ago, highly-prized prospect Matt Barkley announced that he would bypass the NFL draft and return for his senior season at Southern Cal. Rumors followed that Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III of Baylor might do the same which would greatly hamper Shanahan’s ability to land the franchise player he covets to replace turnover machine Rex Grossman as the Redskins’ quarterback in 2012.
Two days after that, Shanahan’s Redskins kayoed Minnesota All-Pro running back Adrian Peterson and starting quarterback Christian Ponder only to lose a second-half lead and the game to the lowly Vikings at home.
That defeat ensured that Washington will be the first team during the NFC East’s 42 seasons to finish in the division cellar four years running. Yes, even the St. Louis/Phoenix/Arizona Cardinals never managed that level of incompetence as an NFC East member from 1970-2001.
The Redskins have also lost at least 10 games in three straight seasons for just the second time in the franchise’s 80-year history. The six consecutive home defeats are tied for their second-most ever in a season.
Two days later, Shanahan admitted that the rebuilding project he began when he took command in Washington in January 2010 is taking “a lot longer than I anticipated. We had less depth than I thought.”
But even though he has so overhauled the roster that only 12 of the 53 current Redskins had played for Washington before his arrival, Pro Bowl voters apparently didn’t think much of his two years worth of work.
That’s because when the all-star teams were announced last night, cornerback Carlos Rogers of the San Francisco 49ers and defensive end Andre Carter of the New England Patriots, each deemed expendable by Shanahan after last season, were voted to their first Pro Bowls but no Redskins were selected.
Yes, that’s correct. Barring withdrawls by chosen players that would (rightfully) send inside linebacker London Fletcher, the NFL’s top tackler, or special teams captain Lorenzo Alexander, the leader of the league’s best kick coverage units, to Hawaii, Washington won’t have a Pro Bowl player for just the second time since the game was established way back in 1950.
And if the Redskins lose again on Sunday to the Eagles in Philadelphia, Shanahan will set a personal mark with an 11th defeat, a level he never reached during his previous 16 full seasons with the Los Angeles Raiders, Denver Broncos or Washington.
Former coach Steve Spurrier, famously summed up his second, and last, season with the Redskins as, “5-11. Not too good.”
However, Shanahan isn’t going anywhere despite an 11-20 record that will only match those of two years and out predecessors Spurrier and Jim Zorn if the Redskins upset the Eagles.
And Shanahan, who turns 60 next year, maintains that the future is bright in Washington despite the deficiencies at quarterback, on the offensive line and in the secondary.
“I see a big difference from two years ago,” he declared. “We have a much younger football team. We have a lot more depth at a lot of different positions. I feel good about the type of players that we do have. I feel good about the direction we’re heading.”
Not many people who aren’t being paid by Dan Snyder agree with you, Mike.
David Elfin has covered sports since he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School in 1975. He is the Washington representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and is the author of the new book: “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan during the 2010 Redskins season, he returned to the station as its blogger in March.