REDSKINS: List of candidates is long and varied
ASHBURN—With Mike Shanahan’s dismissal as head coach of the Washington Redskins now official, the focus has quickly shifted to who might replace him.
As he looks for his eighth head coach since he bought the Redskins in 1999, Daniel Snyder will have a wide array of candidates.
The list of prospective coaches is expected to include former Super Bowl winners Bill Cowher and Jon Gruden, and less-accomplished former coaches like Ken Whisenhunt and Lovie Smith. Up-and-coming offensive coordinators Jay Gruden of Cincinnati, Greg Roman of San Francisco and Darrell Bevell of Seattle also could draw consideration, as could long-time NFL assistant and former Redskin Russ Grimm.
Baylor head coach Art Briles has long had his name highlighted as a potential candidate because of his relationship with franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III. The other hot names of the college ranks expected to someday wind up as NFL head coaches include Stanford’s David Shaw and Texas A&M’s Kevin Sumlin.
It remains to be seen what kind of coach Snyder will settle on, however. In his six previous choices since he fired Norv Turner (the coach he inherited when he purchased the team from the estate of the late Jack Kent Cooke), Snyder has virtually tried it all.
After dismissing Turner’s interim, Terry Robiskie, Snyder lured Marty Schottenheimer out of retirement, but then fired him after one 8–8 season after the two clashed over Schottenheimer’s level of control over team personnel. Snyder went the hot-shot college coach route when he hired Steve Spurrier, whose “Fun ‘n’ Gun” offense failed to pan out over two NFL seasons.
Then Snyder coaxed Hall of Fame coach Joe Gibbs out of retirement in hopes that he could lead the Redskins to a fourth Super Bowl trophy.
Gibbs directed two playoff campaigns in four seasons before retiring again with a year left on his deal. That move came as a surprise to Snyder, however, and he wound up having to settle for the inexperienced Jim Zorn, who had no experience as a coordinator.
Zorn went 12–20 in two seasons before receiving his walking papers with the franchise in shambles. And then Snyder went the legend route once again, landing Shanahan.
The two-time Super Bowl winning coach was expected to bring much-needed stability. But instead, his Redskins career featured three seasons of 10 or more losses in four years, and the final month of his tenure featured a return to the circus-like atmosphere of years past.
If Snyder pursues a big-name coach, he could wind up having to pay more than $20 million for two coaching staffs combined.
It remains to be seen if either Cowher or Gruden have interest in returning to the sideline—and working for Snyder. Earlier this month, Cowher was critical of Snyder, saying that Washington’s problems “start from the top.” But years ago, Schottenheimer said he would never coach for Snyder, and a month later, he agreed to do so.
Meanwhile, Gruden has said he intends to return to Monday Night Football for another season rather than coach in 2014.
Snyder also could have a hard time convincing Briles to leave Baylor for the NFL.
The 58-year-old coach has maintained a strong bond with Griffin, attending several Redskins games in the past two seasons. And he has a reputation of success when it comes to reclamation projects. He turned around the University of Houston’s football program, and now has developed Baylor into a powerhouse. Griffin helped spearhead those efforts at Baylor. But one person familiar with Briles’s thinking said that he believed it to be “a long shot” that Briles would leave his native Texas and the school where he is considered royalty. Another wondered if he could handle the politics of the NFL or the bright, high-pressure spotlight in D.C.
One former NFL executive said that he expected the Redskins to pursue Whisenhunt, who also is rumored to have drawn interest from Houston, and potentially from Detroit as well.
Whisenhunt, who played tight end for the Redskins from 1989–90, is the San Diego Chargers’ offensive coordinator. Whisenhunt coached Arizona from 2007 to 2012 and guided the Cardinals to their first Super Bowl appearance in 2008.
Another league insider said that Grimm could also receive consideration from Redskins officials. A third called it possible that Raheem Morris, currently Washington’s defensive backs coach and the former head coach in Tampa Bay, could receive consideration as either the head coach or defensive coordinator.