Can Mike Shanahan Do What Only Joe Gibbs Has Done?


There’s no denying that Mike Shanahan’s arrival in DC has spawned an atmosphere of hope that rivals the swearing in of President Barack Obama and the return of Joe Gibbs to the Redskins.  (Yep, I just compared a Redskins Head Coach’s return to an historic Presidential inauguration.)  Positive change is in the air, though as is the case with any iconic figure’s reign, the depth and breath of that change can’t truly be measured until the second or third year that person is at the helm.  

In Joe Gibbs’ second season as Head Coach of the Washington Redskins, the ‘Skins won the Super Bowl.  In President Obama’s second year as President, well, at least he’s come out swinging lately.  Jimmy Johnson, in his third year as Head Coach of those hated Dallas Cowboys, led a team that was on life support when he inherited it to an 11 and 5 record.  The next year, he led them to the first of two Super Bowls.

With the 2010 season starting tomorrow night, it seems like a good time to ask how Mike Shanahan will stack up to Joe Gibbs.  After all, Gibbs accomplished a feat no other Redskins’ coach has ever achieved.  You probably think I’m talking about winning three Super Bowls for DC.  Nope, that ain’t it.  I’m talking about an even more important achievement – sweeping the Cowboys.  Since the Dallas Cowboys and Washington Redskins began playing each other twice each season in 1961, the only Skins’ Head Coach to sweep the Cowboys was Gibbs.  He did it three times in 1984, 1987, and 2005.  I contend that, even though the Redskins didn’t win a Super Bowl after the ’84 and ’05 seasons, the fans still had two huge reasons to be ecstatic.  Sweeping Dallas always makes us happy.

So, can Shanny do it?  We know he can win Super Bowls.   He’s one of only six coaches, along with Jimmy Johnson, to win The Show in back-to-back years.   But, can he sweep those stinkin’ Cowpokes?  Shanahan’s record against Dallas as a Head Coach is 3 and 1.  Not bad.  That’s not quite as good as his record against Washington, which is 4 and 1.   When you beat someone repeatedly, that person definitely takes notice.  Don’t think for a second that Shanahan didn’t catch Dan Snyder’s eye well before this year.  We know he caught Jerry Jones’ eye.

I’m guessing that Jerry Jones will ultimately be dissappointed in his team’s overall level of success this year.  I’m sure, if he had possessed a crystal ball at the end of 2008 and could have foreseen how the 2009 season ended and how 2010 will end, he’d have fired Wade Phillips and hired Mike Shanahan before Dan Snyder had a chance to land him.  There were plenty of rumors to that effect.  On January 4, 2009, ESPN’s Chris Mortensen reported that sources within the Cowboys’ organization outright told him Shanahan would be Jerry Jones’ choice if he were to fire Phillips.  Timing is everything, and Jerry’s timing just hasn’t been right.

As I researched this article, something kept jumping out at me.  Maybe a force beyond our control didn’t want Mike Shanahan coaching the Cowboys.  He certainly crossed paths with them enough.   The first Super Bowl Shanahan won was as George Seiffert’s Offensive Coordinator with the 49ers in 1994.  The 49ers beat Dallas in the NFC Conference Championship game after having lost to them in the playoffs the two previous years.  According to Chris Mortensen,  Shanahan competed with Jerry Jones for Tony Romo’s services when Romo was an undrafted free agent out of college.  Though Shanahan offered Romo more money, Jerry Jones signed him.

Speaking of crossing paths, Shanahan already replaced Wade Phillips once.  He did that when he signed on to coach Denver.   How funny would it have been for him to have replaced Phillips twice and gone on to do what Phillips seemingly can only dream of both times?  That would have been cruel and unusual punishment, not that Wade Phillips deserves to be punished.  Check that, he is the Head Coach of the Cowboys after all.  That’s a crime in itself.

If you watch the second part of Shanahan’s NFL Network interview from last year, you’ll hear him state what it took to get him to come here to coach.  He didn’t mention the Redskins specifically, but he was clear about his criteria.  Check it out: Mike Shanahan talks about his future with Adam Schefter .  There’s no doubt about it, Mike Shanahan wants to acquire more Lombardi Trophies.  Like any winning head coach, he has a formula for achieving success on his terms.  Let’s hope that includes sweeping the Cowboys year in and year out.  Go Skins!