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Shanahan Takes Control ... Total Control

Jan 6, 2010 – 7:00 PM
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Thomas George

Thomas George %BloggerTitle%

Mike ShanahanMike likes Dan. Dan likes Mike.

And Dan has given Mike full control.

It was the only way it could work, this fresh marriage between Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder and his new coach, Mike Shanahan. As one Redskins source put it, "It was the only way Mike would come.''

And just what will Redskins general manager Bruce Allen do?

"Whatever Mike asks him to do,'' the source said.

Thus, Mike Shanahan enters Washington as the seventh coach during Synder's nearly 11 years of ownership. But unlike the others, except for Joe Gibbs, Shanahan wields the power.

And the other thing that makes this connection click at the onset is that Snyder deeply respects Shanahan in the manner he did Gibbs. That means plenty as Synder promises Shanahan he will follow rather than lead.

Promises, promises. But the key for Shanahan is this: it's in the contract.

Shanahan said that it will be "a team effort,'' but anyone that has been around this meticulous 57-year-old coach knows that he is going to run it, call it, coach it as he sees fit. And similar to his 14-season stint with Denver, he made sure his contract clearly expresses this.

This arrangement will be proven a success or a failure in time, but already it is a drastic improvement over where the Redskins management/coach relationship existed. There was a deep chasm of distrust, and even dislike, between former Redskins general manager Vinny Cerrato and former coach Jim Zorn. The two barely were on speaking terms late into the season. Their disagreement over Zorn's coaching and leadership was a constant thorn.

Snyder knew it.

The players knew it.

Here is what Snyder believes he gets in Shanahan:

1. Credibility: Shanahan is a two-time Super Bowl winner and is 135-86 all-time as an NFL head coach.

2. Leadership: Shanahan knows how to run an organization and be the final voice with players.

3. Offensive intelligence: Few offensive minds in today's NFL game know that side of the ball as acutely as Shanahan. Several current defensive coordinators will tell you that game-planning for his offense requires multiple approaches before kickoff and constant tweaking after it.

Dan Snyder, Mike Shanahan and Bruce Allen

Shanahan attended several training camps last season, including Pittsburgh's. I remember visiting with him there last August in Latrobe, Pa., and him talking about the need to remain in tune with the game and his desire to gain a close-up view of how teams and coaches he respected ran their camps.

This fit could click because the Redskins have consistently maintained a top-10 defense. Shanahan's goal is to complement that with an improved, up-tempo offense. I expect he will draft a quarterback in the first round, possibly Oklahoma's Sam Bradford, and initially retain current starter Jason Campbell. I believe, like he did five years ago, when he shipped running back Clinton Portis from Denver to Washington, that he will again say adieu to Portis.

Is Mike Shanahan, the player selector as good as Mike Shanahan, the coach?

Most people in NFL circles say no by a wide margin, though his recent drafts in Denver netted superb players who continue to grow. This is where Allen must step in and stand up. He must assist Shanahan in player acquisition by constantly remaining in his ear on do's and dont's, even though Shanahan makes the final call. Everything about Allen indicates he will.

It sure sounds like Allen was hired at Shanahan's request, even though Allen joined the Redskins before Shanahan. Snyder knew that his chances to get his coach increased with the proper assist at general manager. It just so happens that Allen is a guy that Shanahan respects and wanted. Hmmm.

The Redskins tried to hire Shanahan late into the regular season, but were rebuffed. Shanahan told them he did not know the assistant coaches, he did not know the players and the systems already in place were not his. "Let's talk after the season, if you would like," he told them. With Allen on board before him, it is clear Shanahan and the Redskins had many follow-up chats.

Shanahan inherits a team that finished just 4-12 this season -- but one that has better talent than the record hints. He joins the rugged NFC East where Tom Coughlin, Andy Reid and Wade Phillips reside. You can bet those coaches know what Shanahan brings to Washington. Rest assured they know it is a new ballgame.

It is a new one for Shanahan, too, who is big enough and bold enough to coach with a hammer in the nation's capital. He will do it with what all NFL coaches desire but few possess -- the chance to do it all with one thing front and center.

His way.
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