Mike Shanahan may have weeks, if not days, remaining as head coach of the Washington Redskins. The team is 3-10, has been going downhill since the season kicked off, and looks to be headed towards finishing in the NFC East cellar.
Wednesday, more controversy, as Shanahan made the decision to bench Robert Griffin III, citing concerns of keeping the franchise quarterback healthy. Griffin will be inactive the final three games of the season, as Kirk Cousins will get the chance to move into the starting role, and all things considered, it's probably the right move.
Make no mistake about it, Griffin is the quarterback of the future in Washington, but many don't think that Shanahan is the coach of the future for the franchise. I don't think his firing is out of the question, but let me explain why I think he deserves the chance to return next season and finish out his contract (Redskins fans, please refrain from cursing my name just yet).
Yes, the Redskins are bad, but I don't think you can pin that all on the head coach. His star quarterback was coming off reconstructive knee surgery, and a big part of the problem was Griffin's "All in for Week One" campaign leading up to September. Of course the quarterback is a competitor and wants to get out on the field and play. His desire to return for the first regular season game was played out in the headlines, from his rehab to training camp through the preseason. Shanahan fought the constant battle of having his decisions questioned and second-guessed throughout the process, while trying to keep the best interests of his player and team in mind. Sure it's part of the job, but when a big piece to the puzzle didn't put in a full offseason and isn't playing at 100%, it certainly presents a challenge (we'll save the "should he have started Cousins at the beginning of the season" argument for another day).
The Redskins are also feeling the effects of a $36 million salary cap penalty. That penalty will be lifted for the 2014 season, but Shanahan isn't dealing with a full deck right now. The fact the team was able to win last year with that disadvantage certainly is impressive.
During Wednesday's press conference, I didn't think Shanahan looked like a guy who wanted to get fired. I heard more passion in his voice than anything else. Things haven't gone the Redskins' way in 2013, but it certainly wouldn't surprise me to see them rebound next year. We saw flashes of what the team could be during the season. During the first 1.5 quarters of Washington's home game against the Giants, the team looked like it did last year. The offense was moving the ball, the defense was making stops and for a moment it looked as though things were back to normal.
Shanahan's biggest obstacle will be getting his team to believe in the process after a season of turmoil. 2012's success gives him something to point to in terms of what can happen if everybody is on the same page. It will take some adjustments, but it's certainly not impossible.
Has Shanahan made mistakes? Sure, and I'll feel like a huge idiot if the Redskins get blown out by Atlanta and Shanahan gets fired next week. Even if the Skins win their next three games, many think the head coach is out of the Nation's Capital. Will it happen? Quite possibly, but I don't think it should.