Being a head coach in the NFL has got to be one of the toughest jobs imaginable. So many things are out of your control, yet you are held responsible for just about every screw up the team makes. Good thing it pays well and is probably a hell of a lot of fun.

Coaches generally get credit (or lack thereof) from two things: the scheme they implement and their ability to lead men. But what about the need to put together a quality roster every year? Ok, that’s not exactly an ignored topic, but not the main one either, oddly enough.

Jay Gruden and Bruce Allen are tied at the hip; one’s success dependent on the other 

Some coaches have minimal say in personnel decisions, and the ones who shop for the groceries need to hit on the really important positions like quarterback, left tackle, pass rusher.

But it takes 53 players to make an NFL village.  There has to be that “pucker factor” moment when the draft is complete, there are no more viable free agents left to sign, and the head coach realizes that he doesn’t really have a legit, NFL-quality starter at every position.

Not superstars – it’s impossible to have Pro Bowlers at every position unless you’re sitting on a couch with a plastic controller in your hand.

Good NFL teams have guys at every position who would start on at least 3 or 4 other teams in the league. Players who show up on time to practice, stay alert in film sessions, don’t miss many assignments on game day, don’t get embarrassed out there.

Pros, in other words.


Looking back on the Shanahan era, I would assert that the Redskins roster was missing bona fide NFL starters on both sides of the ball in all four years of My Way Mike’s forgettable four-year tenure; more so than most other NFL teams.

Remember, Shanahan demanded–and got–total personnel control of the Redskins roster. And every year, he soiled his shorts on at least two positions.

You may recall that he confidently declared he could win with John Beck. JOHN MOTHERSCRATCHING BECK. Jeff Beck might have been more effective.

DeSean Jackson brings bona fide superstar cred to the Redskins roster
DeSean Jackson brings bona fide superstar cred to the Redskins roster

Shanahan never did find a right tackle. The Redskins spent two years without a real kicker or punter. Safety? Let’s not get started (or let’s – Madieu Williams was a 16-game starter not too long ago). Before Alfred Morris, Ryan Torrain was the money back, such that he was. Jabar Gaffney was a go-to receiver in 2011. Any Redskins fan could add a few more to the list.

To be fair, Shanahan inherited a team that was largely in putrid condition. The Redskins roster looked like Swiss cheese — a few solid starters with lots of obvious holes. He left it better than he found it, but that isn’t saying much.

But remember how Mike made that famous tour of all those successful teams during his one-year coaching hiatus? Remember how much he learned? Remember how he told us that once he had a little time, the Redskins roster was going to resemble the Patriots and the Steelers, and we were all going to say “Oh, that’s how you do it!”

Yeah. Not so much.


For the first time in I don’t know how many years, the Redskins appear to be poised to field a starting 22 with players who would be in the same position on at least a handful of other teams. Again, let’s give credit where credit is due here: many of these guys are Shanahan’s picks. But many are already gone too, more then there should have been, on average.

What a difference a GM makes, especially when he gets to do his job.

Of course, one never knows how it’s all going to play out between now and the 68 days before training camp starts, let alone the regular season. We’re a long way off from knowing how effective the Redskins roster moves were this offseason, but Bruce Allen the Skins scouting staff appears to have scored very solid marks so far.

The Redskins roster is looking up under Bruce Allen's direction (Evan Redmon / SOW)
The Redskins roster is looking up under Bruce Allen’s direction (Evan Redmon / SOW)

Yes, there are those damn injuries every year, and there is one position on defense – MLB – with a pretty big question mark in front of it (safety and CB are going to be ok, folks). We’re all hoping Keenan Robinson can swat away the injury bug and shut the competition out, but that’s a long way from a sure thing. There figures to be fierce competition from the 468 linebackers the Redskins signed in the offseason to stand next to Perry Riley.

That said, I really like the way this roster is shaping up. It’s not perfect; no roster ever is. But it’s…comfortably competent.

DeSean Jackson made us all fell a little better about the WR position, didn’t he? Jason Hatcher may not replicate the 11 sacks he had last season but he doesn’t have to. The Skins drafted an athlete at RT. There are grownups at safety with competition breathing down their necks. Things are thin at CB but the top three – Hall, Amerson, Porter – don’t keep me up at night.

Assuming Robert Griffin III is who we think he is, then the big three are intact: quarterback, left tackle, pass rusher(s). WR is deep and good. So is TE. RB appears set as well (I love me some Lache Seastrunk – Roy Helu better watch his back). The O-line will undergo a major renovation and that’s a good thing. D-line is solid with good depth. Not sure about punter, but if that your biggest worry, then that’s a good problem to have.

As Kenny Mayne used to say, football games are not played on paper, they are played inside TV sets. Funny stuff. But, on paper, the Redskins have their best roster in…what, since Gibbs, part one? Maybe. That would be a fantastic debate.

Every year, at least one NFL team rises from the ash heap. The Chiefs were the darlings of 2013. Could the Redskins be that team in 2014?

I think so. In years past, predicting a bounce-back year for the Burgundy and Gold often felt like whistling past the graveyard. This year, it feels right.

5 Comments on this Post

  1. Stan the oldest RedSkin fan

    It all hinges on our defense-defense-defense. Last years defense couldn’t stop my 92 year old grandmother from scoring…….

  2. Shanahan was a turd, but he drafted really well. All of his first round picks with the Redskins have made the pro bowl at least once. He got a steal with Morris in the 6th round, got Perry Riley in the 4th, Jordan Reed in the 3rd, and Amerson in the 2nd. He inherited an old and terrible team strapped for draft picks. Also, the last two seasons he coached a team that played with an $18 million salary cap penalty for both seasons. That’s a major reason why there were non-quality starters on the roster. You’re not giving Shanahan enough credit for what he did to this roster with what he had to work with. Thanks to him, we have a franchise quarterback, a franchise running back, a franchise left tackle, and a handful of young players with pro bowl ability.

  3. I totally agree with Anthony. And I hate to sound like a politician here….. but IMHO, Shanahan completely changed this team, and put us in the position we are in now. He inherited the biggest bunch of waste that existed in the NFL, and Vinny & Dan just screwed the Team up for years to come. Shanahan delivered us a QB for the first time in 25 years. That’s a franchise QB- not a 1 ond done, or 2 and done guy. He gave us pro-bowler (caliber) players at QB, RB, WR (only 1….. the rest stunk except for Moss who grew older)….. LT, OLB, OLB, and a few more. He changed the basis for everything, moving forward. And he did it with severe $18mil caps the final 2 years.

    Here’s the plotician part. Shanahan also needed to go. Yeah- he needed to be replaced. After 4 years, he just didn’t have it any more. I believe the reports about him being less organized, and more desheveled than in the past. I think his “My way or the highway thing” grew old, and the guys were over it. And here’s the real shame of it all…… he blew it on the day he signed his contract to become the next Redskins HC. Or at least…. on the day he decided to dismantle one of the NFL’s premier defenses over the previous 3 or 4 seasons.

    Shoot- that was the ONLY thing the prior regime did even partially well. That D was excellent, though they did not get a lot of TO’s. So Shanny goes after offense, right? And leaves the D alone, right? Nope. He tears down the D, while ignoring the worst O- and worst O-Line in Football. So he focuses on D the first 2 years, though it wasn’t broken. So there’s 2 more years of horrible O- and horrible O-Line. The last 2 years, they focused on O- but had the Cap-penalty. So they couldn’t ever get the O-Line straight. You know…… Gibbs won us 3 SBs b’c he won football games in (2) key areas. O-Line. And D-Line. Shanahan never delivered either of those 2 things. We still have a terrible O-Line. I sure hope the (2) rooks can deliver- and fast!

    • BlackRobbb

      Do you even know what the ‘F’ you’re talking about? Shanahan fought against drafting RG3.

  4. In ever heard that. But it’s quite possibly true. Otherwise, how is my post not spot-on? Every word of it is right on the money, unless I’m wrong about the RG3 thing. Very possible, and wouldn’t be the first time I was wrong. Maybe. Maybe not. But is that literally the only sentence you read in my post. I know exactly what I’m talking about. I doubt you do- especially based on the above post. Brilliant analysis you provided there, on my take. LOL


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