WASHINGTON (CBSDC) – Mike Shanahan isn’t the warm and fuzzy type of football coach like Tony Dungy, now of NBC fame. Shanahan’s also not grandfatherly like Redskins legend Joe Gibbs, offbeat like Washington predecessors Jim Zorn and Steve Spurrier or a kick you in the butt type like new Hall of Famer Bill Parcells.
Shanahan is more a member of the cold-eyed, “what have you done for me lately?” school of coaching. It’s no coincidence that since his arrival in Washington in January 2010, the once-boisterous Redskins locker room has become much more professional.
Loose cannons Clinton Portis, Albert Haynesworth, Fred Smoot, Mike Sellers, Rock Cartwright, Devin Thomas, Carlos Rogers, LaRon Landry, Brandon Banks and DeAngelo Hall are all now ex-Redskins. Chris Cooley and Fred Davis, who are unsigned, could follow them out the door in Ashburn shortly. Pierre Garcon, a Shanahan addition like Banks, might be the only remaining Washington player with a little bit of an edge.
And yet, despite his no-nonsense style, Shanahan keeps having players suspended at a much faster rate than the coaches who preceded him in the corner office at Redskins Park.
Yesterday’s revelation that outside linebacker Rob Jackson is suspended for the first four games this season because he tested positive for an unapproved pain medication makes seven Redskins so disciplined by the NFL over the past 20 months. That has to be an NFL high, pun intended.
Jackson’s absence early in the season will affect Washington’s once-prodigious depth at linebacker where Lorenzo Alexander signed with Arizona and Pro Bowl performers London Fletcher and Brian Orakpo as well as backup Keenan Robinson are all recovering from surgeries.
The forced hiatuses in Ashburn began in August 2011 with then-third cornerback Phillip Buchanon who was suspended for the first four games of that season. More famously, Davis and left tackle Trent Williams were suspended for the final four games of that season.
At the end of last preseason, free safety Tanard Jackson, whom Washington had signed in April despite his previous substance abuse suspensions in Tampa Bay, was suspended indefinitely. Jackson missed the entire 2012 season and isn’t supposed to be eligible to return to the Redskins until the end of this preseason, putting his career in serious jeopardy.
Cedric Griffin, who was signed from Minnesota last year to replace Buchanon, was suspended for the final four games of 2012 after testing positive, apparently for Adderall or a performance-enhancing substance. Two weeks later, reserve offensive tackle Jordan Black followed suit.
And now it’s Rob Jackson’s turn to sit and watch and take a six-figure hit to the bank account. So that means during a 37-game stretch that covers the past two seasons and the first four games this year, at least one Washington player has been/will be unable to play for 29 of them. Add Shanahan’s suspension of Haynesworth for insubordination for the final four games of 2010 and that’s 33 games with a player barred from participating during the coach’s first 53 games with the Redskins.
Haynesworth, thankfully, never returned. Buchanon wasn’t re-signed. Tanard Jackson’s in serious limbo. The cap-strapped Redskins, who had their best year on offense with Davis missing all but a few snaps during the final 10 games, might decided they can live without him. Griffin is a free agent whose return became less likely when Washington signed cornerback E.J. Biggers from Tampa Bay yesterday. Black, who’s ineligible for the 2013 opener, almost surely won’t return.
That leaves Williams and Rob Jackson, who played much better than expected after being pressed into a starting role when Orakpo was lost for the season in Week 2 of 2010.
The suspension could explain why Jackson was only re-signed for one year on the eve of the marketplace’s opening while fellow restricted free agents-to-be Logan Paulsen, Nick Sundberg and Darrel Young received long-term deals.
Jackson needs to re-establish Shanahan’s trust as Davis and Williams did last offseason. The latter performed that mission so well that he was voted a co-captain and was then chosen for his first Pro Bowl.
But the bigger question is why these suspensions keep happening on a ship that is seemingly controlled so tightly by Shanahan?
David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last three Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March 2011. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidElfin