Mike Shanahan had a great year. A year ago, he looked like another overpaid coaching retread headed for oblivion. At the time, Shanahan’s Redskins resume included two losing seasons, the disastrous trade for QB Donovan McNabb, the foolish attempt to thwart Albert Haynesworth’s determination to fail and a team with no sense of direction.
Was this really the guy that won two Super Bowls in Denver? The legend of John Elway was growing with every loss and botched personal move by his former coach.
Since making the bold move to acquire the second overall pick before the 2012 NFL Draft, Shanahan has had a hot hand. The pick netted Robert Griffin III, of course, but he also added Alfred Morris later in the draft, signed Pierre Garcon in free agency and plugged a huge hole at kicker with the midseason signing of Kai Forbath.
After a bad home loss to the Carolina Panthers before the bye week that plummeted the team to a familiar 3-6 record, Shanahan’s job and reputation as an NFL head coach hung in the balance. The coach and team responded by ripping off seven straight wins to claim the NFC East title for the first time since 1999.
Those accomplishments alone don’t earn Shanahan this lofty spot on the countdown. What does and what makes this late-season run different from those of recent Redskins vintage is that 2012’s success might be sustainable. The ‘Skins playoff teams of 2005 and 2007 were both made with aging rosters and no long-term solution at quarterback. Shanahan’s 2012 squad, behind RGIII, Morris, LT Trent Williams and LB Ryan Kerrigan — all under 25 — might actually stick around a while. For that shred of hope sprinkled on the wasteland that’s been Redskins football, Shanahan earns the silver medal for recent coaches.
You’re wondering about the asterisk, aren’t you? That’s for this caveat: Shanahan’s ranking is contingent upon RGIII’s return to health. If Shanahan, with all his football experience, ruined RGIII by recklessly playing the team’s injured star until he literally broke down in front of an adoring nation, then he shall be condemned to the deepest depths of this list for eternity.