Could be Shanahan's last coaching visit to Linc

Posted: November 15, 2013

ON SUNDAY NIGHT, a crusty and craggy legend will leave Lincoln Financial Field, maybe forever. It will be the second such departure this season, an unremarkable signpost on their roads to the Hall of Fame.

Giants coach Tom Coughlin staggered out of the Linc on Oct. 7 with a 15-7 win, the second of three wins of his Giants' injury-riddled season. Though Coughlin won a second Super Bowl within 5 years of his first, he failed to make the playoffs three of the last four seasons.

Mike Shanahan will visit Sunday. He is coaching his third clunker in four seasons with Washington. To be fair, he was 3-6 after nine games last season, too, but even last year's post-bye surge into the playoffs (which began against the Eagles) was tainted by Shanahan's repeated decisions to place rookie franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III in harm's way. Then, this preseason, there was friction between Griffin and Shanahan about Griffin's readiness to return from the injury.

Now, the jackals have emerged, slobbering and ravenous.

Fred Smoot, part of the Shanahan Purge in March 2010, is gorging on a chilled revenge.

"Sometimes grandma gets too old," Smoot said this week on D.C. radio station 106.7-FM. "She knows what to go in the grocery store and get, but she just cannot whip it up like she used to."

A smallish second-round pick, Smoot was 30 when Shanahan reconfigured the roster. Smoot never played in the NFL again, and played on only one winning team in Washington: Joe Gibbs' 9-7 Redskins in 2007.

Smoot might not be the best judge of coaching qualifications; certainly, he shouldn't be considered remotely objective. But he has a voice, and, like everyone else these days, he has an outlet:

"Great coaches get the most out of players, even the players that are not that good, they get the most out of these players. With Shanahan right now, I think right now the game has just passed him. Like he's not a bad coach, he's a Super Bowl-winning coach, but I just think right now, today's athletes, and everything that goes on with today's football, has just simply passed him."

Well, Grandma Shanahan last season deftly adjusted to RGIII's skill set. Griffin is the perfect composite of "today's athlete": supremely talented, maniacally dedicated, sophisticated and intelligent with cross-cultural appeal, a walking corporation.

There, Shanahan's understanding and patience perhaps fall short.

Coincidentally, Shanahan works for the league's least understanding and patient owner. The only thing more offensive than the nickname of Dan Snyder's franchise is its playoff record since he bought it in 1999: 2-4 in four postseason trips. Snyder has opened the season with six different head coaches in 15 seasons.

Fairly or not, expect it to be seven in 16 come September.

Besides, Smoot might be right.

Shanahan's handling of RGIII's injuries last season was juxtaposed nicely with the controversy surrounding Washington pitcher Stephen Strasburg a few months prior.

Strasburg was ace of the upstart Nationals in 2012, but his representatives convinced the ballclub to shut him down after 160 innings. The Nats still made the playoffs, but were ousted in the first round. Old-school seam heads railed against the decision to squander a World Series chance in the name of preventive medicine.

After Game 5 last season, Shanahan was fined $20,000 by the NFL for temporarily covering up a concussion suffered by RGIII.

In December, RGIII injured his right knee during a game against the Ravens. He limped off the field, but briefly returned to the game, then had to take himself out. Shanahan afterward said Griffin was cleared by the team doctor to return. The doctor denied that he even examined Griffin.

Griffin then tore ligaments in the same knee in the Redskins' playoff loss to the Seahawks - a game before which Griffin's soundness was questioned.

However, the old-school football cognoscenti lauded RGIII's toughness and Shanahan's all-in philosophy of letting a player play himself onto crutches.

Predictably, the knee cost Griffin the entire preseason, which, in turn, made Griffin less effective. It also has hampered him this season.

Decide for yourself which team's path was wiser.

The Nats missed the playoffs this season, and manager Davey Johnson quit.

There are rumblings out of North Jersey that Coughlin might do the same.

Shanahan has 1 year and $7 million remaining on a contract he has come nowhere close to earning. His failures under the heel of Snyder will not tax his legacy (neither will his failings with autocrat Al Davis in Oakland), but they should, at least, cause scrutiny of his accomplishments.

For instance: Shanahan is 1-5 in playoff games without running back Terrell Davis, a sixth-round pick who made Shanahan's first Broncos team by shining early in training camp as a special-teamer. This was not genius; it was chance.

Davis took Shanahan and John Elway to Super Bowl titles after the 1997 and 1998 seasons. When Davis' body expired and Elway's career ended, so did Shanahan's postseason success. His teams have made the playoffs five times in his last 13 full seasons and have won just one game.

Yes, great players make great coaches. And plenty of stars have mediocre bosses. The best bosses win with what they have.

Franchise back Tiki Barber opted for early retirement the year before Coughlin, perpetually outraged and caustic, won his first Super Bowl. Defensive end Michael Strahan retired right after that Super Bowl win, but Coughlin won another 4 years later.

Coughlin is 67.

Maybe the game has passed him by.

Shanahan is 61. His withering, gunfighter gaze and his marble heart remain formidable. He is the same age as Coughlin when Coughlin won his first Super Bowl.

Grandma Shanahan might not be able to cook like he did with Terrell Davis, but he's not too old to learn some new recipes.


Email: hayesm@phillynews.com

On Twitter: @inkstainedretch

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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