Coach Killers, Week 14: Mike Shanahan and Pyrrhic victories

Presumably, Mike Shanahan's plan extends beyond 'getting myself fired.' (USATSI)

Coach Killers is your weekly look around the league at those performances, decisions and "Wait, what did he just do?!" moments that put the guy in charge squarely on the ol' hot seat. Questions, comments, casserole ideas? Hit us up on Twitter at @ryanwilson_07.

Snyder, Shanahan, RG3, everybody else associated with the Redskins

So it seems Mike Shanahan is trying to get fired. Because that 3-10 record wasn't reason enough. There's also speculation that he leaked the "I thought about resigning last January" story to ESPN in an effort to expedite the matter.

Let's assume for a moment that this was, in fact, Shanahan's strategy. What's the end game? The Texans, who just fired Shanahan's former offensive coordinator when he was the coach in Denver, reportedly aren't interested in him. And while there will be other head-coaching opportunities in the coming weeks and months, what type of owner would think, "You know what, I want that guy. Between the sabotage and god-awful coaching, he has exactly what this organization needs."

The answer, of course, is one man: Dan Snyder, who is no doubt hatching a plan to run Shanahan out of DC without having to pay him the $7 million remaining on his contract.

So once Shanahan is freed from the shackles of Snyder's oppressive regime, then what? Because whatever he might say in his next job interview, the reality is that the Redskins, under his watch, took FUBAR to a whole other level. And it didn't just start with the idea that Shanahan wanted to quit last season because the owner and the franchise quarterback were snuggle buddies. It has been a recurring theme during his short but forgettable tenure.

Shanahan was hired before the 2010 season. In April of that year, he sent second- and fourth-round picks to the Eagles for a washed-up Donovan McNabb. At the time, it seemed like an awful decision ("These people never learn," Sonny Jurgensen said when he learned of the trade), and it was proven true midway through the season when Shanahan benched McNabb for Rex Grossman. Washington went 6-10 that year, and in the offseason, the team unloaded McNabb on the Vikings for two sixth-rounders.

In 2011, with renewed hope and ... well, not much else, Shanahan thought it made sense to roll with Grossman and John Beck. The results were predictably disastrous: 5 wins, 11 losses.

Ah, yes, the 2012 offseason. It was a simpler time. (USATSI)

In March 2012, the organization went all in, trading three first-rounders and a second-rounder to the Rams for the right to draft Robert Griffin III. It was a huge risk but quarterback was the Redskins' biggest need. And by the time the team reeled off seven straight to win the division and make the playoffs, it seemed well worth it.

But as we've written previously, the Redskins' problems extend beyond RG3. He's a young quarterback, recovering from a serious injury, and still growing as a player. He may or may not be close with the owner but really, who cares? If Washington were 10-3 right now, Shanny would happily don a chauffeur's cap, drive Griffin to Snyder's mansion for his weekly sauna, and buff the limo in the driveway while he waited.

This is about the consequences of betting the farm that Griffin would magically mask all the team's other problems. And from the perspective of Week 14, the Redskins are in full-on rebuilding mode.

And now Shanahan will start Kirk Cousins Sunday -- and RG3 could be inactive -- which can be construed as an ultimatum aimed squarely at the owner. But if Shanny really wanted to throw down the gauntlet -- and get a few laughs in the process -- we have two other suggestions:

1) Forget Cousins, and announce Rex Grossman as the starter;

2) Run the swinging gate on every play -- offense and special teams -- and if asked about it flippantly point out that "It's what Jim Zorn woulda done."

Whatever happens over the next three weeks, Snyder can not fire Shanahan and for one simple reason: Shanahan would get what he wants. Instead, Snyder should do nothing, let Shanny do whatever it is he's doing, and wait until after the season to drop the hammer.

Despite the absurdity of it all, this isn't all on Shanahan. Snyder hired him. And unfortunately for downtrodden Redskins fans, Snyder ain't firing himself. Which means that it doesn't really matter who the coach is because the results will invariably be the same.

The great irony is that while Snyder has made it clear that he will not change the Redskins' name because of things like history and tradition, he does more to dishonor that legacy with the putridity he tries to pass off as an NFL football team.

Redskins special teams

This is not only one of the worst units in the NFL this season but in NFL history.

So there's that, which bothers Niles Paul greatly.

"It's almost heartbreaking," he said after the latest debacle, Sunday's 45-10 blowout loss to the Chiefs. "I'm not a starter on this team. My role is largely on special teams. So I take pride in what I do on special teams. People complain and say it's a coaching thing. But it's not a coaching thing, it's an effort thing. It's for each player, each individual, 11 people out there to have to want to make a tackle, to have to want to make a play, to have to want to make a block. And that's not happening right now. And that's why we are terrible on special teams. ...

"You got to put people who are hungry, who want to make plays, who are in a position like me and like Reed [Doughty] and [Trenton Robinson] and Josh Hull, guys who don't really have a large role on offense or defense, so ... you want to show that hunger on special teams. Because that's what special teams is: a bunch of guys who want to prove themselves to get on the field on offense or defense. And right now you don’t have that. ...

"I think we need people to understand their role on this team. I do think there are too many guys who think they are too good for special teams. You can't have that."

We have no idea what you're talking about, Niles.

It seems like a fair criticism from someone who takes his job seriously and doesn't take kindly to teammates half-assing their way through coverage- and return-team duties. Mike Shanahan's response?

"I'm surprised Niles Paul would say that, to start with," the coach said Monday. "Once you start playing a perfect game you can start critiquing other players. So, yeah, that does disappoint me that he would say something like that."

Yep. There's a head coach who is in no way out of touch with his players, the owners or reality. The good news is that the Redskins are angling for the first overall pick in next May's draft. The bad news is that's one of the picks they traded to the Rams for the right to take RG3.

NFL officials

Honestly, we're not one to whine about crappy officiating, but my god, man, has this season been brutal. We wrote about it a couple weeks ago and here we are again pointing out some truly atrocious examples of why something needs to be done.

In Sunday's Colts-Bengals game, referee Jeff Triplette overturned what appeared to be a Colts fourth-down stop short of the end zone and awarded the Bengals a touchdown because, in his words, "There was nobody that touched him at the goal line."

Nobody was arguing if BenJarvus Green-Ellis was touched at the goal line but that he was tripped up in the backfield. No matter, according to Triplette, who admitted "I don't know about that" when asked whether BJGE was touched first behind the line of scrimmage.

The NFL's official explanation: It was a "judgment call."


Then there's this pass interference call from late in the Browns-Patriots game that pretty much gifted New England the win.

"The best answer on that play would have been no call at all," former NFL official Gerry Austin said afterward.

You don't say.

One more: Vikings running back Toby Gerhart lost the football after his knee was clearly down but it was ruled a fumble on the field. Fine. Replay would no doubt overturn the mistake. Nope. Instead, replay confirmed the call.

The NFL took the unusual step of calling Vikings coach Leslie Frazier to discuss the matter.

"The fact that they called should give you an indication of how they felt about things on that day. That was encouraging that they wanted to talk about that game from yesterday," Frazier said, via

Eli Manning, QB, Giants

Eli Manning is tied for the league lead in interceptions with Geno Smith. The Giants quarterback tossed two more picks in Sunday's loss to the Chargers, his fifth multi-interception game on the season. But the real reason we're bringing this up is because this time, Manning has a fantastic excuse: He was distracted by his own cross-dressing likeness.

CBS Sports Writer

Ryan Wilson has been an NFL writer for CBS Sports since June 2011, and he's covered five Super Bowls in that time. Ryan previously worked at AOL's FanHouse from start to finish, and Football Outsiders... Full Bio

Show Comments Hide Comments
Our Latest Stories