Sunday, December 19, 2010

On Shanahan's genius

Hopefully it is becoming more apparent to people that Mike Shanahan’s ‘genius’ is largely the creation of the incompetent and cheerleading sports media. Shanahan is, and always has been, a mediocre coach and a supreme asshole. He had a 3 to 4 year dream run in Denver that was almost completely attributable to the fact that he had John Elway and Terrell Davis. They won more than 75% of their games and won 2 Superbowl titles in that span. But if you look at the record you’ll see that Dan Reeves had a 4-5 year run (’84-’84, ’89) in Denver in which they also won over 70% of their games. Without a hall-of-fame caliber running back, I should add. I don’t see anyone calling Reeves a genius. Oh yeah, they lost 3 superbowls during Reeves’ tenure --- to legitimately great teams --- Parcells’ Giants, Gibbs’ Redskins and a 49er team that could arguably have been the best ever in the NFL. Shanahan’s Superbowl successes came against a Packer squad that just wasn’t mentally prepared to be repeat champs, and a clearly overachieving Falcon team that had no business being in the Superbowl in the first place. Ironically, that Falcon squad owed much of its overachieving success to its coach, Dan Reeves, who got them to the freaking Superbowl with those legends Jamaal Anderson at RB and Crystal Chandelier…errr… Chris Chandler at QB.

Anyway, more importantly, in the decade after Elway retired (and Davis was soon done in by injury) Shanahan managed to win about 57% of his games and recorded one playoff win. Ten years. 57%. One playoff win. Oh, did I mention that he had pretty much carte blanche over personnel decisions as well? Must be genius.

Funny too, how Washington’s struggles this year are now supposedly due McNabb’s inadequacies, huh? Quick… a Redskin WR or their starting RB. I’m not trying to say that McNabb is great ---he is clearly in decline--- but funny how the offensive geniuses of the Shanahans [Mike and (his nepotistic hire) offensive coordinator son Kyle] can’t fix things. I guess geniuses cannot win without hall-of-fame talent at all important skill positions.

You know what great coaches do? They repeatedly find ways to win important games with underdog rosters. Does that describe Shanahan? I don’t think so.

Finally, I also hold Shanahan primarily responsible for the whole Haynesworth fiasco. See, I have some sympathy for Haynesworth --- he is a problematic dumbass, but to his credit he has never presented himself as anything but a problematic dumbass. When Shanahan took over, he decided he would impose his despotic style and whip every one into submission from day one. Haynesworth, who had already been paid over $40 mill in guaranteed money, didn’t quite appreciate being pissed on. So he basically told him to fuck off. To be perfectly honest, in Haynesworth’s place, I would most likely have done the same thing. Great players often come with great egos. If I were signed to a $100 mil contract with over $40 mil in guaranteed money, I’d expect the incoming coach to treat me as an important part of the franchise too. Even a disciplinarian like Parcells used to have separate rules for players like LT --- Great coaches find a way to deal with, and bring the best out of, troublesome talent while despotic egomaniacs want everyone to kiss their ass in their prescribed manner.

Apropos of nothing, no self-respecting defensive lineman should show any respect or loyalty to Shanahan anyway. Shanahan made a career of perfecting the art of chop blocking without getting flagged. Shanahan’s O-lines always played dirty. It is one thing to push the envelope in game strategy but entirely another when the innovations are aimed at ending, or threatening to end, the careers of D-linemen. Dirty blocking is one of the primary reasons Shanahan could get a thousand yards out of any old RB. His early success as a coach and his premature elevation to genius status protected him from much of the calls and criticism that was due to him for the way his O-lines played.

All this is not to say that Shanahan won’t manage to have some winning seasons in Washington (the NFL is composed of two kinds of franchises: bad ones that never really win anything and good ones that go through cycles of prosperity and poverty; Washington belongs to the latter and they are wayyyyy overdue). But it won’t mean much if he does. As Norv Turner demonstrates week in and week out, year after year, teams in the NFL can find ways to win despite their head coaches. And at the first signs of Washington’s success, Mike will get his genius label back, Kyle will land a multi-million dollar head coaching job……and po-too-weet, and so it goes….

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scribbler50 said...

Glad you're posting again, Stache, and you've picked a worthy topic. Meaning an unworthy "genius".

I have to admit, I was kind of on board with him at the beginning of the season as far as his treatment (or mistreatment as it all turns out) of Haynesworth, seeing it as a Lombardy kind of a deal. "If nothing else we're going to hit the field in shape!" But it soon became apparent this was a vendetta on Shannahan's part, pissing away all that talent at the detriment of the team. And after reading your take on the situation, as much as it bothers me to say this, you're right that certain players have to be treated differently. Not coddled but finessed which he's failed to do.

As we know too damn well, many of these athletes are spoiled millionaire children which ain't gonna change, so you DO have to play psychologist to move their asses. Phil Jackson comes to mind and what he's done with Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant. Which is win championships! And even though "hustle" was never a problem with Michael and Kobe, ego certainly was and Jackson stroked it. I doubt (sacrilege of sacrileges!) that Vince Lombardy could even coach today with his style.

And as far as the McNabb stuff goes, your word "asshole" applies and in fucking spades. On two very public occasions he flat-out humiliated Donovan McNabb, and now he's made him third string which is ridiculous. Vendetta II. Two super bowl victories does not entitle this coach to act this way. And as people have been saying for years which you've stated here, take away John Elway and he's just another journeyman. A Norv Turner indeed or far worse. And when you throw in the chop block business he's Jerry Glanville. Or a felon.

The only thing I disagree with is that he'll pick this team off the mat and regain the "genius" title. With that impatient owner and Shannahan's style of coaching, which means alienating his players instead of galvanizing them, the Washington Redskins ain't gettin' off the mat!

Hey, great post, my friend, now don't make us wait another two months!
Merry Christmas.

Anonymoustache said...

Thanks for the great comments, Scrib50 --- really good point about Phil Jackson managing egos....and, if I may add, headcases like Rodman!
Anyway, I'll try to be better about posting....been a tiring year....i may actually put up another rant tonight on the sports media's toadying...