Burning question: how long is Mike Shanahan’s leash in Washington?

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty ImagesMike Shanahan isn’t going anywhere… most likely. There’s a notion that this is a do or die year for the Washington Redskins’ head coach — “Shanahan must finish the 2012 season with a winning record or Dan Snyder will fire him,” the running theme goes.

With the exception of Joe Gibbs, Snyder has never tolerated a head coach of his Washington Redskins for more than two seasons. Thus, Shanahan must already be on thin ice, right?

The notion is wrong. Short-attention-span fans and the media that caters to them put this forth. High turnover has been the bane of the Redskins and Snyder might possibly could perhaps maybe recognize that. (Since we are speaking of Snyder, no one is sure.)

But, Shanahan is far from safe. Eleven wins in two seasons is the worst record of any Snyder-era coach. Here are six scenarios that could lead to Shanahan’s dismissal at the end of the season.

1. No effort to acquire Robert Griffin III. Quarterback is the most important position in 21st-century football, but it is not the only position that matters. The Redskins have holes in offensive skill positions, defensive secondary and they need quality depth everywhere. They are not the only team vying for Griffin v3.0. We get it. But, a sub-.500 record without trying to move up for RG3 would lead to riots at FedEx Field. Astute fans understand the obstacles to the effort (Looking at you, Mike Holmgren), but will only accept alternatives to Griffin as Plan B.

2. Peyton Manning flops in Washington. After Donovan McNabb, Mark Brunell and Jeff George, Redskins fans have no stomach for another one-shot, one-year fix at quarterback, even for one of the stature of Manning. The elder Manning threw 33 touchdown passes in 2010, twice as many as Rex Grossman threw in 2011. The 2010 Colts won 10 games with Manning and only 2 games without him a year later. So, it’s odd that signing Peyton causes such consternation in Washington.

Skeptical fans want to see Manning make those throws first. Even then, no one believes that he would bring immediate success with the lack of weapons on the roster. If that’s the case, they would rather the ‘Skins use a placeholder like Kyle Orton and try for Matt Barkley or Denard Robinson in the 2013 NFL Draft. Peyton Manning is the widely admired player whose time has passed.

3. Rex Grossman in a starting role. It’s two seasons and three players later, yet the Redskins are no better off than they were with Jason Campbell. Last season ‘Skins fans held their nose and hoped for the best when training camp opened with Grossman vying with John Beck to start.

Rex vs. Beck was an admirable con job then. Rex is not marketable now. Fans will sit on their wallets if he’s in a frontline role. Nothing kills a coaching career faster than fans that will not spend. Sooner or later, the Washington PR machine will notice that Grossman’s full name is Rex Grossman the Third. Any sales pitch based on “RG3″ is going to remind fans that the real RG3 is elsewhere. This won’t help Shanahan.

4. Poor 2012 Draft picks. Shanahan and GM Bruce Allen amazed Washington fans with their 2011 NFL Draft moves that brought the team more picks that were well used. Ten of the 12 drafted rookies saw action. Most shape up to be valued contributors for years to come. Fans wished throughout Dan Snyder’s ownership for that approach. It would be bad for Shanahan if it turns out that was all a fluke. Good talent decisions are proof of a plan, and help buy more time.  

5. Declining trend in another losing season. Steve Spurrier “left” when the Redskins regressed in his second year. Snyder made the decision about Jim Zorn at the end of his first season when the Redskins closed with a 2-6 finish. Only a homer would expect Washington to mount a serious title run this year, but Shanahan must finish the season on a high note. Oh yeah, it helps if Washington has a winning record at home.

6. Failure to score. The Redskins scored 27 touchdowns on offense in 2011. The Super Bowl champion Giants scored 46. The Green Bay Packers scored 63. Failure to boost Washington’s scoring potency to a competitive level will cost somebody named Shanahan, not necessarily Mike, his job.    

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Anthony Brown

About Anthony Brown

Lifelong Redskins fan and blogger about football and life since 2004. Joined MVN's Hog Heaven blog in 2005 and then moved Redskins Hog Heaven to Bolguin Network. Believes that the course of a season is pre-ordained by management decisions made during the offseason. Can occasionally be found on the This Given Sunday blog and he does guest posts.