When Jim Zorn was stripped of his play-calling duties earlier this season, it was expected that he would be fired at the end of the season -- if not sooner. When former Vice President of Football Operations Vinny Cerrato mentioned on his radio show that Zorn would not get the axe during the season, it was pretty much assumed he'd be gone once the Redskins' campaign mercifully ended.
The only question was: who would take his place? Owner Daniel Snyder would theoretically find it hard to resist the big-name hire, and there are plenty of big names out there. Bill Cowher ... Mike Shanahan ... Mike Holmgren ... Jon Gruden ... Tony Dungy.
Reports Friday suggested Shanahan might be the guy Snyder wants, which makes sense when compared to the other names I mentioned. Cowher apparently loves his gig with CBS; Gruden likewise with Monday Night Football (so much so, he signed a contract extension last month). Holmgren is in deep talks with the Cleveland Browns, and Dungy seems to be at peace with his role as NBC analyst and mentor for troubled athletes.
But would Shanahan be the right fit in Washington? If Snyder lets him and new general manager Bruce Allen do their jobs, it just might. Don't forget, Shanahan's got a pair of Super Bowl rings -- and he won them a lot more recently than the Redskins won their last Lombardi Trophy. Allen is a well-respected figure throughout the NFL, having found success with the Oakland Raiders and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
His associations with Gruden make those rumors tempting, but I'm not sure ESPN would let Gruden go that easily after getting him to ink a longer TV deal.
Allen has a reputation of building teams through the draft -- something the Redskins have done little of under the collective direction of Snyder and Cerrato. A team can't rely on free agency to win in the NFL, the way a team can in baseball or even the NBA. In the NFL, the draft is king; the teams that draft best are the ones who are always making the playoffs and contending for Super Bowls.
If Snyder understands that, and will give Allen and Shanahan free reign, then this might return Washington to NFL prominence. A franchise with the Redskins' history deserves better than the decade of mediocrity they've suffered through, and fans are rightfully excited about the potential Allen's hiring represents.
If Shanahan comes on-board too, then that excitement will only increase. But it all comes down to winning games; if the on-field results don't change, that enthusiasm will revert back to the same frustration and apathy that's permeating the Redskins culture now.
Here's hoping Allen works out ... and Shanahan joins the party.
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