The Life And Lies Of Mike Shanahan
Photo: Washington Post

On Wednesday former Washington Redskins coach and team president Mike Shanahan gave an interview which coincided with current Redskins head coach Jay Gruden’s press conference at the NFL combine. The interview went for about two hours and only created news for one thing - the sheer boldness of how willing Mike Shanahan was to lie and evade responsibility for the failures of his time in DC. There’s not enough time in the day to go over all of his lies, but let’s recap the big ones and why they’re fibs.

-That Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder made the trade for Donovan McNabb without him.

A lot of pundits and Redskins fans point to this move as what should have been a red flag for the Shanahan’s decision making. They gave up a second-round pick that could have theoretically been used on Rob Gronkowski, Zane Beadles, Lamarr Houston or Jason Worilds to get McNabb. And after 13 games (and a massive contract extension shortly before he was benched), they dealt him to Minnesota for basically nothing. How easily is this shown as a lie? Well, there’s a lot of links that describe his authority in DC, but how about one from the fall of 2010 (during his first season in DC):

“General manager Bruce Allen said over the weekend that Haynesworth won't be traded. Shanahan, who has final say over personnel matters....”

That speaks for itself.

-That Peyton Manning was considering signing with the Redskins in 2012.

Shanahan says that he visited with Peyton Manning about joining the Redskins in 2012 and that he was interested in the idea. However, according to Shanahan on Wednesday, what soured Peyton on potentially joining the Skins was that his brother was in the same division. This is a pretty one to shoot down. Mike (and his son Kyle) did indeed meet with Peyton Manning at Casa de Shanahan in Denver but it was a day or two after the Redskins made their trade for the #2 overall pick for Rg3. Peyton, nor any great QB with clear options to be the unquestioned starter, would even think about listening to any offer from the Redskins after they dealt 3 first round picks and a 2nd round pick for the QB of their future. Sports Illustrated's Peter King even reported that the meeting between the Shanahans and Peyton was such a farce that Broncos GM John Elway texted Shanahan in the middle of it to “put in a good word for us with Peyton.”

-That Rg3 put himself back in the game without his knowledge when he was hurt after a hit by Ngata.

It is largely believed that RG3 initially hurt his knee in week 14 of the 2012 season after a hit in the open field by Haloti Ngata (video of the hit follows)

Rg3 came out for a single play, played four more plays before having to come out again. Shanahan claims that he didn’t know what was happening until he saw Griffin returning to the field. He further claims that he looked over at Dr. James Andrews (on the sidelines as the skins’ team doctor) who gave him a thumbs up. This article is from the post game of that Ravens game

"[Griffin] didn't even let us look at him," Andrews said. "He came off the field, walked through the sidelines, circled back through the players, and took off back to the field. It wasn't our opinion. We didn't even get to touch him or talk to him. Scared the hell out of me."

Andrews says in a different article about the same incident that he finally shut Rg3 down that day after the fourth play of him on the field and doesn't mention that Mike Shanahan was involved in the decision to do so.

-That he wanted Marc Bulger over McNabb in 2010.

The claim here is that Shanahan’s plan was to start Bulger until a rookie/young QB had developed enough to become the starter. And that after the Bulger option became unavailable (his words) that Bruce Allen and Dan Snyder decided on McNabb. This is also easily shot down. Marc Bulger was released by the St. Louis Rams on the same day that the Redskins made the trade for McNabb and he signed with the Baltimore Ravens in June of that year (for 3.8 million dollars). How would Shanahan have known that Bulger was unavailable to the Redskins considering that they were talking with the Eagles about McNabb before Bulger was released (it is possible that they tampered with him but the Rams wouldn’t have wanted to deal him?). Bulger also asked out of the Rams (and the Rams granted his request). It seems like Shanahan could have talked a player with lesser career prospects like Bulger into a short term starting job, especially considering that Bulger eventually took a similar situation in Baltimore.

-That he told Dan Snyder and Bruce Allen that Rg3’s development would take 4-5 seasons.

Let’s assume for a second that Shanahan did tell Snyder and Allen this one minute before Shanahan approved the trade with St Louis for the draft pick that became RG3. And assume that Snyder and Allen gave him lip service about this. Why was Shanahan so driven about playing RG3 early, playing him through injuries (which happened multiple times in 2012), playing him when he clearly wasn’t anywhere near 100% in 2013 and only now saying that the Redskins needed patience when it came to RG3’s blossoming as an NFL star player?

In order to believe Shanahan here, you have to accept a premise that Mike Shanahan was relatively an observer to the running of the Washington Redskins on and off the field. This image of Shanahan is in direct conflict with the hard reality where Mike Shanahan demanded and got a clause in his contract with the franchise which said Dan Snyder wasn’t allowed to talk to the players under contract beyond short polite conversations. And the aforementioned contract clause where Shanahan had final say on all personnel decisions. To hear Mike Shanahan say it, he was a victim of a meddling owner/GM, lying medical staffers and a quarterback who kept forcing his way back on the field by taking him out of the decision process. That’s just too much to believe. However, this is the same person who once said during a radio interview that he "staked his reputation on Rex Grossman and John Beck" only to deny ever saying that when confronted about it after that 2011 season.