Now that the Redskins season has hit it's first chunk of severe turbulence, there is the natural instinct to start wondering: "Just how good is our pilot?"
It has been an article of faith, that Mike Shanahan is the second best "modern" coach this team has ever had. Certainly, with two Super Bowl Rings, only Saint Joe himself outranks in that category.
But, that said, we're all wondering: "What have we gotten into with this guy?"
For what it is worth, here's a pretty detailed, thoughtful take from a long time Broncos fan about the Shanahan demise in Mile High.
Granted, it is a fan take, not one from an actual member of the "football media", although it needs to be noted that professional football media takes are often of lesser quality than this.
You can read the entire take here, but of primary concern is the defensive side of the football - an area that currently looks as easy to exploit as Dina Lohan after a few cocktails.
Shanahan's defensive downfall in Denver? According to this fan....
On defense, things were nearly the opposite. After a six-year run with Greg Robinson that spanned two super bowl wins, the defense collapsed and Shanahan began his revolving door of defensive coordinators. Every year or two, he brought in a new coordinator. Some did not work out for coaching reasons, others for personality reasons. Most of these coordinators were successful before coaching in Denver, and some, such as Ray Rhodes and Larry Coyer have gone on to success with other teams. None of them had much success in Denver.
With each turnover of coordinators came a new defensive system, which required a different type of player to make it work. Shanahan reshuffled the roster, including in some cases signing players off their living room couch weeks before the season started. Realistically it takes two or three years of drafting a signing to put together an NFL roster to fit a system. Trying to do it it one year, the Broncos cut or traded quality players who didn't fit for bad players of the right type. Each turnover degraded the talent on their roster even further.
Shanahan's last year in Denver marked one of the worst performances by an NFL in history. The defense ranked last or nearly last in every significant defensive statistical category and at one point was on a pace to surrender the most points by an NFL defense in history.
As a measure of the deterioration of their defensive talent over the final years of the Shanahan era, Josh McDaniels cut nine defensive starters from Shanahan's roster - only two of whom were in the league (in a backup role) during the last season.
One of the main problems with Shanahan's approach to personnel was that he was never willing to rebuild. He stated that he should be able to put a team on the field every year that was competitive to win a super bowl. He approached team building as if he were just "one player away" from a super bowl roster. He would try to sign the one player that could put them over the top by paying big bucks to a free agent. Most of these high-priced free agents did not work out. Some such as Darryl Gardner were washed up, over the hill, while others (Dale Carter) did not fit whatever system Denver was running at the time. With large chunks of salary cap tied up in unproductive free agents, Denver was unable or unwilling to sign productive players that they had developed who moved on to other teams (Bertrand Berry, Monsanto Pope)
The period from 2000 to 2005 was marred by generally poor drafting on both sides of the ball. At one point the team had only two starters who had been drafted during that period. The draft problems -- whatever they were -- seem to have been somewhat fixed with excellent drafts in 2006 and 2008 sandwiching a marginal draft in 2007.
All told, we have no choice but to sit back and see if Shanahan (and Allen, FWIW) can bend this team into the shape they want it to look like. This will take time. The aftermath of the Snyder-Cerrato ("Snyderatto!") roster and way of doing things, is going to involve some growing pains.