The Guide to Mike Shanahan’s 5-Year Plan

Washington Commanders

…or as we’ll call it here, the Shanaplan.

It’s apparent to me that not enough people understand what Shanahan is doing here in Washington, or accuse the coach of not knowing what he’s doing. I want to break it down for some of you.

With last year in the books, the review is open, so I can start in on this one at the moment. First, let’s take a look at the Quarterback situation last year.

With a new system in place in Washington, and Shanahan’s scheme not being suited for Jason Campbell, Mike made some trades and landed Donovan McNabb to be the guy under center. A lot of fans took that as a “must-win” move, but I’ll school you really quick. First of all, Shanahan was stuck with a roster that had collapsed under Zorn for the most part, and needed an overhaul. He moved out a lot of players who didn’t fit what he wanted to do, and brought in some guys he felt could compete and contribute. He was hoping his transition would be easier if McNabb was willing to put in all the work needed and play at a high level. McNabb crashed on his own, and it’s even more apparent that’s what happened now that McNabb has been released by Minnesota as well… clearly McNabb’s focus isn’t all on bettering his game.

Now this move was, for the most part, hoping we could be competitive and even win. But in the back of his mind, I guarantee Shanahan thought out being a middle-of-the-pack team for the draft, which we’ll get to as well here in a second. But before I address the draft, I want to focus on the defense.

There was also an overhaul of the scheme on defense, moving from a 4-3 defense which fielded some successful teams, to 3-4. Washington gave up a lot of yards last year, but aside from 4 games, didn’t allow defenses to ramp up enough points to put us away, and Washington remained competitive despite giving up a boatload of yards. Not to mention, a lot of players were either out of place, or not committed to playing the scheme or for this team.

Now in the offseason, a lot of weight was cut and Washington continued to overhaul the roster to acquire guys who fit the Shanaplan. In the draft, Washington converted 6 draft picks into 12 and focused heavily on fitting the scheme with these guys. Once free agency resumed, Washington continued to address the defense with some solid vets who have youth on their side. These weren’t the moves of Cerrato & Snyder… these were the moves on Shanahan and Allen.

We’re now most of the way through the 2011-12 season, and Washington is now officially out of playoff contention. A lot was made about Shanahan staking his reputation on Rex Grossman & John Beck, but I ask you, what if he answered saying he had no faith in those guys? Nobody on the team would have committed… he HAS to say these things. But I think Shanahan really did believe in Rex to turn a corner and play a little more sound than he had in Chicago, through experience and knowledge of the system. Rex clearly has games like the one against New England in him… he can be accurate and make good reads and hit the open guy. But he’s also got games like the one against the Jets where he struggled despite having a run-game working in his favor.

The Shanaplan for year 2 was to hope the defense built correctly so that Rex could manage the game. And quite frankly, the defense has far exceeded expectations. Going from the bottom 5 last season, the Redskins this year have done amazing in a turnaround, and while yards can still be yielded, points are being kept off of the board. The draft picks fit well, and one of the better in Jarvis Jenkins, was injured in preseason, so his return next year could prove even more valuable than we can imagine. But furthermore, the defense is growing and will only get better next year as well, both through experience and upgrades. That leads me back into the full Shanaplan.

I doubt Shanahan tanked games this season, no matter how bad Kyle’s gameplan looked 11 of 13 games so far this season. I believe he still wanted to be middle of the pack so he could once again trade back if he needed to where his pick has less value than a top 5 pick but enough value to coax multiple picks out of someone. What happens the next 3 games determines how high the pick is and we could still be a top 5 pick, but I believe in the Shanaplan to once again acquire more picks and hopefully repeat last season’s magic in finding a bunch of talent who can play.

Next year will be telling in the plan though. Through 2 years, we haven’t had on-field success leading to playoffs, but we didn’t have the talent capable of doing it right away, and Shanahan has only just rid us of Cerrato’s garbage. It will be interesting to see what he decides to do with Trent Williams and Fred Davis, but I’m in favor of bringing Fred back and keeping Trent. It would take away a bit to get rid of Fred and hope to build someone else up to that level, especially when it appears we could be building our QB of the future at the same time. You’d like to have reliable on-field weapons, and I’m confident Fred can correct his poor-decisions off-field and be a security blanket for whoever the next QB is.

In the draft, it seems apparent that there will be a QB selected, but where is key. I think Shanahan will be in play for Matt Flynn, but he’s known for oddball decisions. I think if he acquires a QB through FA/trade, he can postpone his selection to a mid-round project. If he decides to just draft, I think he keeps Rex Grossman to be the guide for the young guy. Who he picks is dependent on when he picks and who is ahead of us. A lot of fans are clamoring for Robert Griffin III, who just won the Heisman Trophy, but there’s a chance he’s gone. Regardless, I think he’ll go with the young buck.

It’s clear to me with the progression of the defense so far, that they’ll only get better, which means not only should they make a rookie QB’s job easy, but they should be able to win a lot of these close games they’ve had with a few more turnovers if they come. While a presence in the playoffs next year is possible, Shanahan is well in position to be in the playoffs as a competitor in years 4 & 5 of the Shanaplan. So when he told us in his introduction speech that he wanted 5 years because it will take time to have the team he wants who can compete for the playoffs and/or Super Bowl year-in and year-out, Shanahan not only was telling the truth, but he was foreseeing the future. Anything can happen between now and the end of his contract which he reportedly is locked in for good with no interference from Snyder, but if I were a betting man, my money would be on the Shanaplan sticking and being successful.

As always, leave a comment or hit me up and follow me on Twitter @Sean_Bishop to let me know what you think of the Shanaplan.

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11 thoughts on “The Guide to Mike Shanahan’s 5-Year Plan

  1. Well said! Some may have a heart attack. But I won’t be shocked if Shanny goes for someone like Flynn. And doesn’t go qb first round.

  2. Well thought out post! I have been saying this myself. Give Shanny the full 5 years. Stake his reputation on Grossman and Beck? I didn’t take that to heart. He must show confidence in his team. Shanny demands hard workers all week long and it has started to show on the field. Helu and Riley are two of the best examples. Also, the decimated o-line has performed amazingly well considering all the injuries and shuffling. This team is buying into his system. Just watch Helu run. Grossman is good enough to be a mentor to the future QB.
    Rebuilding can look ugly at times. But by year 4 or 5 when they take the scaffolding down, a beautiful piece of architecture will be revealed.
    DC sports journalists like Jason Reid, Thom Loverro, Mike Wise, etc. need to read this article and learn something. Their journalism is an embarassment to the DC area. Questioning Shanahan’s leadership based on 2 idiots out of 53 making ahuge mistake. They also don’t see the big picture and want to win now. They don’t believe in stability which has destroyed this team and the culture more than anything.
    Great post Sean!

  3. @Ron, I believe you hit me up on Twitter. I agree. I love the prospect of Flynn and maybe a Tannehill after the bigger names are gone, but wouldn’t be opposed to taking one of the top 3 QB’s early on along with Matt Flynn in free agency if it’s possible, but I’d be comfortable with Rex being around to at least share his knowledge of the system.

    @AndesAngle, it upsets me how huge hypocrites most of these Redskins “fans” are. We begged for years to get rid of Cerrato and stop going after big names and give a coach a chance. Shanahan comes in, gets one big name at QB to give us a little stability the first year, and we approach the draft in the most successful and un-Cerrato-like manner ever, and all of a sudden the entire Redskins Nation comes crashing down on Shanahan/Allen. I’ve criticized Mike for his son, but I do like Kyle’s system with the right pieces, I just wish he’d show me he can adjust to his pieces rather than make them adjust to him. I’ve wanted what we have in place right now since Snyder took over. I wanted it when Gibbs was here, and it hurts me to say I wanted Gibbs out because he didn’t have the backbone to stalemate Snyder. I’d rather compete for a decade than be a 1-hit wonder like we’ve tried to be for the past 20 years. And everyone who begged for change, got it, and complains now that they have what they wanted all along, needs to reevaluate their stance and just own up to being a gripe-needy person. It’s a shame people are so attracted to chaos instead of order.

  4. No way they past up on RGlll or Barkley

    and I think we’ll be high enough in the draft to pick either one

  5. The choice to pass on QB last draft turned out to be the right one, in that there was no way we could have drafted one of the successful QB’s from last year’s draft, even if the Skins gave away the farm. In this year’s draft, however, there are 3 top-notch QB’s and the other teams at the top of the draft are not necessarily drafting QB’s or trading their pick to a team wanting a QB. One of the big three will be there. He is not drafting for next year, but also for the future of his son Kyle as a future head coach. With all that being said, I think it’s just too much pressure on Shanahan and Allan to draft anyone but a QB, unless by some weird twist of fate, the top 3 are all gone when it’s the Redskins turn. Very unlikely.

    The real question: who are the Skins 2nd 3rd and 4th round picks? OL, OL, CB? Or the real “what-if”: what if Luck, Barkley and RG III are gone when it’s the Skins turn?

  6. I love the plan, just hope that it’s true and that for the first time in decades, the franchise STICKS TO IT FOR THE FULL 5 YEARS……..Personally, I think this team is getting close, we really need a QB and RT, another guard and a tackle for depth who can really play either side well. That plus getting the injured guys back and this team will be very competitive NEXT YEAR. But only if they stick to the long range view, which they’ve found difficult to do in recent memory. Question-does it serve the long range plans better if they lose out this year, increasing the odds of getting a QB in the top 5 of next April’s draft? Are we really better off losing out? I tend to think so, and if the Colts are acting like they are, I see no reason to be embarrassed about it……go ahead and yell at me, but 6-10 hurts you more than it helps you, a win or two down the stretch may set this team back another few years!

  7. I think you are vastly overrating the talent that exists on this team. It has several holes along the offensive line and needs a franchise QB that is probably beyond our reach now that Barkley has gone back to USC. The defense has holes at both safety positions and is in need of a shut down corner. Moss is on the downside of his career and the rest of the receiving core would be lucky to make a playoff contender.
    It is clear that you are looking at this team through the eyes of a fan and your ability to analyze real talent is sorely lacking.

  8. I hope part of the plan for 2012 will be to take a serious look at RB Vick Ballard of Mississippi State. This is a good kid with incredible talent and a good work ethic! He would make an EXCELLENT REDSKIN !

  9. I agree,with the shanahplan in effect,its begining to show some dividends.Our defense went from deadlast to I think it was 13th overall.Not bad shanny and haslet,lets not for get,it was haslet that implimented the 3/4.With the drafts of kerrigan,jenkins,he will be back next yr,not to mention on the offenseive side of the ball,helu,hightower,protype running back,royester filling out the backfeild,all we need now is a QB.Lets not forget the accuations of a certain widereceiver from the broncos,we have some pretty good receivers,just need some help with concentration after catching the ball.Flynn,surprised me.I think he is going to be a free agent,wouldnt be a bad pickup at all.So,this really boills down to,is we need a QB,word has it as of now,RG3 and Landry Jones havent decided yet if they are coming out,they have till the midddle of JANUARY to decide,If I was a betting man,dont look for Jones to come out,RG3,he has 3mths to go and he has hisdmasters in law.,But,Emitt Smith came out his junior yr from Fla,drafted by the cowboys and,well you know the rest,went back to school and got his degree,helping the pokes win back to back super bowls.All I say is lets wait and see what the draft gods say,HTTR !!!

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