Shana­han de­serves fur­ther eval­u­a­tion

The Washington Times Daily - - Weather - THOM LOVERRO

When the Wash­ing­ton Red­skins were 3-6 in 2012, coach Mike Shana­han put his play­ers on no­tice. “Now you’re play­ing to see who ob­vi­ously is go­ing to be on your foot­ball team for years to come,” Shana­han told re­porters. “Now we get a chance to eval­u­ate play­ers and see where we’re at.”

The Red­skins are at that same point this sea­son — 3-6 — and some­one is be­ing called out again. Ex­cept this time, it is Shana­han who has to an­swer to an an­gry, bea­t­en­down Red­skins fan base.

Now he is coach­ing to see if he will be here not just for years to come, but for next year even, in the minds of a num­ber of Red­skins fans who are sick and tired of los­ing, save for the oc­ca­sional sea­son of il­lu­sion­ary suc­cess, for more than 20 years now.

Shana­han is in the fourth year of the five-year con­tract he signed with Red­skins owner Daniel Sny­der, and un­less he re­sponds like his team did last year — a seven-game run to win the NFC East ti­tle — some fans would just as soon not see him on the side­lines for a fifth sea­son.

It’s an un­der­stand­able re­ac­tion — four years and a 24-33 record. Shana­han is pay­ing the price for the dys­func­tional years of the Vinny Cer­rato reign — not just with his team, but with the fan base as well.

But if you call for the fir­ing of Shana­han af­ter this year, then you are no bet­ter than the owner who an­gered you for years with his med­dling and in­flu­ence. We all know that Shana­han told Sny­der he would need five years to dig this fran­chise out of the grave the owner had dug for it.

You have to give Shana­han that fifth sea­son. You have to see the end of this movie.

In or­der to do that, you have to give him a con­tract ex­ten­sion.

It doesn’t have to be a long-term mar­riage — a one-year ex­ten­sion would suf­fice, though there is no guar­an­tee that Shana­han would agree to a deal that is clearly a hot-seat ar­range­ment.

The coach told re­porters Wed­nes­day that he’s not wor­ried about his fu­ture.

“I’ve got a con­tract for next year,” Shana­han said. “I’ve got a con­tract this year. I’m con­cerned about our games. I’ve been very lucky. I’ve been in this pro­fes­sion for a long time and your fo­cus is on your job. And I say that with all due sin­cer­ity — it’s some­thing I do not think about.”

I love it when Shana­han is­sues qual­i­fiers such as “with all due sin­cer­ity,” as if it is dif­fer­ent from ev­ery­thing else he says.

“Any time I talk about a con­tract, if it’s with a player or coach, it’s al­ways af­ter the sea­son,” he said. “Once we get started, we don’t talk about it be­cause we’ve got to fo­cus on each game, and if you don’t fo­cus on the game you take away from what you’re try­ing to ac­com­plish.”

I would think the two ob­jec­tives you are try­ing to ac­com­plish — suc­cess and sur­vival — are one in the same.

The con­tract ex­ten­sion is nec­es­sary be­cause the lan­guage of locker rooms is money and con­tracts — who has one and for how much. The sta­tus of play­ers is of­ten mea­sured by the size of their wal­lets, and play­ers, no mat­ter what the sport, look at the power of the coach based on the length of time they will have to deal with that coach. Free agents take that into con­sid­er­a­tion, too.

A lame-duck coach in the fi­nal year of his con­tract can be tuned out. A lame-duck coach has a hard time sell­ing a free agent when that player has to be wor­ried that his next coach might be Jim Zorn.

Shana­han hasn’t done much to help him­self. He has never con­nected with Red­skins fans and re­mains a stranger in a town that loves its foot­ball team. And he hired his son. It doesn’t mat­ter that Kyle is an ex­cel­lent of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor and the of­fense is one of the best in the NFL. He’s the boss’s son. No­body likes that.

Shana­han has done some things right and some wrong. You could make the case that be­tween the year of lim­ited free agency, the lock­out and the $36 mil­lion salary cap penal­ties, he’s never op­er­ated with­out at least one hand tied be­hind his back.

You can’t walk out of the movie now. It may be just get­ting good.

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