…or as we’ll call it here, the Shanaplan.
It’s apparent to me that not enough people understand what Shanahan is doing here in Washington, or accuse the coach of not knowing what he’s doing. I want to break it down for some of you.
With last year in the books, the review is open, so I can start in on this one at the moment. First, let’s take a look at the Quarterback situation last year.
With a new system in place in Washington, and Shanahan’s scheme not being suited for Jason Campbell, Mike made some trades and landed Donovan McNabb to be the guy under center. A lot of fans took that as a “must-win” move, but I’ll school you really quick. First of all, Shanahan was stuck with a roster that had collapsed under Zorn for the most part, and needed an overhaul. He moved out a lot of players who didn’t fit what he wanted to do, and brought in some guys he felt could compete and contribute. He was hoping his transition would be easier if McNabb was willing to put in all the work needed and play at a high level. McNabb crashed on his own, and it’s even more apparent that’s what happened now that McNabb has been released by Minnesota as well… clearly McNabb’s focus isn’t all on bettering his game.
Now this move was, for the most part, hoping we could be competitive and even win. But in the back of his mind, I guarantee Shanahan thought out being a middle-of-the-pack team for the draft, which we’ll get to as well here in a second. But before I address the draft, I want to focus on the defense.
There was also an overhaul of the scheme on defense, moving from a 4-3 defense which fielded some successful teams, to 3-4. Washington gave up a lot of yards last year, but aside from 4 games, didn’t allow defenses to ramp up enough points to put us away, and Washington remained competitive despite giving up a boatload of yards. Not to mention, a lot of players were either out of place, or not committed to playing the scheme or for this team.
Now in the offseason, a lot of weight was cut and Washington continued to overhaul the roster to acquire guys who fit the Shanaplan. In the draft, Washington converted 6 draft picks into 12 and focused heavily on fitting the scheme with these guys. Once free agency resumed, Washington continued to address the defense with some solid vets who have youth on their side. These weren’t the moves of Cerrato & Snyder… these were the moves on Shanahan and Allen.
We’re now most of the way through the 2011-12 season, and Washington is now officially out of playoff contention. A lot was made about Shanahan staking his reputation on Rex Grossman & John Beck, but I ask you, what if he answered saying he had no faith in those guys? Nobody on the team would have committed… he HAS to say these things. But I think Shanahan really did believe in Rex to turn a corner and play a little more sound than he had in Chicago, through experience and knowledge of the system. Rex clearly has games like the one against New England in him… he can be accurate and make good reads and hit the open guy. But he’s also got games like the one against the Jets where he struggled despite having a run-game working in his favor.
The Shanaplan for year 2 was to hope the defense built correctly so that Rex could manage the game. And quite frankly, the defense has far exceeded expectations. Going from the bottom 5 last season, the Redskins this year have done amazing in a turnaround, and while yards can still be yielded, points are being kept off of the board. The draft picks fit well, and one of the better in Jarvis Jenkins, was injured in preseason, so his return next year could prove even more valuable than we can imagine. But furthermore, the defense is growing and will only get better next year as well, both through experience and upgrades. That leads me back into the full Shanaplan.
I doubt Shanahan tanked games this season, no matter how bad Kyle’s gameplan looked 11 of 13 games so far this season. I believe he still wanted to be middle of the pack so he could once again trade back if he needed to where his pick has less value than a top 5 pick but enough value to coax multiple picks out of someone. What happens the next 3 games determines how high the pick is and we could still be a top 5 pick, but I believe in the Shanaplan to once again acquire more picks and hopefully repeat last season’s magic in finding a bunch of talent who can play.
Next year will be telling in the plan though. Through 2 years, we haven’t had on-field success leading to playoffs, but we didn’t have the talent capable of doing it right away, and Shanahan has only just rid us of Cerrato’s garbage. It will be interesting to see what he decides to do with Trent Williams and Fred Davis, but I’m in favor of bringing Fred back and keeping Trent. It would take away a bit to get rid of Fred and hope to build someone else up to that level, especially when it appears we could be building our QB of the future at the same time. You’d like to have reliable on-field weapons, and I’m confident Fred can correct his poor-decisions off-field and be a security blanket for whoever the next QB is.
In the draft, it seems apparent that there will be a QB selected, but where is key. I think Shanahan will be in play for Matt Flynn, but he’s known for oddball decisions. I think if he acquires a QB through FA/trade, he can postpone his selection to a mid-round project. If he decides to just draft, I think he keeps Rex Grossman to be the guide for the young guy. Who he picks is dependent on when he picks and who is ahead of us. A lot of fans are clamoring for Robert Griffin III, who just won the Heisman Trophy, but there’s a chance he’s gone. Regardless, I think he’ll go with the young buck.
It’s clear to me with the progression of the defense so far, that they’ll only get better, which means not only should they make a rookie QB’s job easy, but they should be able to win a lot of these close games they’ve had with a few more turnovers if they come. While a presence in the playoffs next year is possible, Shanahan is well in position to be in the playoffs as a competitor in years 4 & 5 of the Shanaplan. So when he told us in his introduction speech that he wanted 5 years because it will take time to have the team he wants who can compete for the playoffs and/or Super Bowl year-in and year-out, Shanahan not only was telling the truth, but he was foreseeing the future. Anything can happen between now and the end of his contract which he reportedly is locked in for good with no interference from Snyder, but if I were a betting man, my money would be on the Shanaplan sticking and being successful.
As always, leave a comment or hit me up and follow me on Twitter @Sean_Bishop to let me know what you think of the Shanaplan.