People say that Mike Shanahan has lost his touch. They say the Denver Broncos were correct and he needed to be let go. There are a lot of people are talking and they all seem to be saying the same things. “Shanahan won’t be able to fix the situation in Washington and his best years are gone.” Don’t get the Albert Haynesworth situation confused with the Mike Shanahan situation. Haynesworth was stepping on people’s faces long before Shanahan got to town and Mike didn’t ask for Albert, he was already in DC.
The blueprint has been laid out and this movie has been played before, this is just the sequel. After Elway and Terrell Davis were gone, Shanahan kept his teams competitive by building up running backs and trading them for quality players at other positions. The blueprint has also been laid out for the quarterback position. He either a) drafts a mobile quarterback that he really likes or b) goes after a mobile veteran quarterback that other teams undervalue.
I truly believe that Shanahan saw some Jay Cutler in rookie prospect Jake Locker. I’m sure that he expected Locker to be there when the Washington Redskins drafted at 10th overall. When Locker went 8th to Tennessee, Washington didn’t have another QB that they like that high and decided to trade back. At that moment, Washington decided to go the veteran route. Just as Locker was supposed to be his Cutler, I believe that Vince Young will be his Jake Plummer. Young is ideal for what Shanny is looking for in a quarterback. He’s taken his teams to the playoffs and has made bonehead plays from time to time, just like Plummer. But, Young still has some maturing and developing to do and he’s more athletic. I believe that Shanahan will see Vince as too much to pass up on.
Back to the running back value in the Shanahan system. Mike filled a glaring hole in the Broncos defense when he traded Clinton Portis for Champ Bailey. Portis ran for over 1,500 yards in each of his first two years in Denver before Shanahan traded him to Washington, a feat he’s only accomplished once in Washington in 7 years. Everyone wondered how Shanahan could trade a franchise running back at such an early stage of his career, but Shanny got the game’s best cornerback at the time and a draft pick, which became Portis replacement, in Tatum Bell. Bell ended up having a 1,000 yard rushing season in his short time in which he split carries with Mike Anderson. Bell later was part of a trade to bring in cornerback Dre Bly.
The reason Shanahan is so comfortable in moving these 1,000 yard rushers is proven best by Mike Anderson. Anderson didn’t even play sports in high school. After high school, Anderson joined the marines and followed that up by playing some junior college ball. Anderson was a standout at his JUCO and transferred to Utah. Shanahan drafted Anderson with a 6th round pick and he went on to winning offensive rookie of the year. He also ran for over 1,000 yards twice in his career. Injuries ended up plaguing Anderson, so Mike wasn’t able to get trade value for him in the end, but Anderson was still a resounding success.
Before Anderson was drafted, Olandis Gary was the guy. Gary replaced Terrell Davis after Davis got injured and went on to run for over 1,100 yards that year. Injuries also bothered Gary and he didn’t bring any trade value for Denver but did for Buffalo. Following the 1,000 yard seasons of Gary, Anderson and Portis, was Reuben Droughns. Droughns came in and ran for over 1,200 yards for Denver after he was cut by Detroit and Miami. Shanahan quickly traded him for defensive line help that the Broncos were in desperate need of. Bell was next in line after the Droughns trade. Then Shanahan got value out of an undrafted player in Selvin Young and a 7th round pick by the name of Peyton Hillis.
Mike Shanahan was fired after the 2008 season, and it wasn’t a coincidence that his firing came after the season where he couldn’t keep a healthy running back. The injuries got so bad in Denver that they were actually signing guys off the street to play the next week. So as the running game goes, so does Mike Shanahan and more importantly his franchise. This is the reason the Redskins fan base should be ecstatic with the latest NFL draft.
In the 2011 NFL draft, Shanahan moved up to draft a running back. If Shanahan values a running back enough to actually move up for him, he’s basically a can’t miss prospect for his zone blocking scheme. Mike acquired Roy Helu Jr. and Evan Royster in the draft; this to go along with Ryan Torain, who he drafted in Denver and became a household name in 2010. Shanahan also has other ideal zone running backs in Keiland Williams, James Davis, and Andre Brown.
You best believe that you’ll be hearing some of these names involved in trades in the near future. It will more than likely be the most successful of these running backs and they’ll be traded for instant upgrades to other weaknesses on the Redskins team. The running game won’t miss a beat and Vince Young should be helping to run the show. Mike just has to make sure that he has the right offensive lineman for his scheme. Seeing how he’s the best at getting these guys, I’m sure he will and I’m sure he’ll turn the Redskins around.
Hang in there Redskins fans because if you watch the original movie, you’ll know that he’s capable of turning your team into consistent winners. With the acquisitions of these running backs, the improving offensive line, and the rookie receivers, Aldrick Robinson, Niles Paul, and in my estimation, the steal of the draft, Leonard Hankerson, this team will be contending sooner, rather than later. The defense will see the most improvement when these running backs start getting traded, because that’s how his system works.
Jayson Braddock is an NFL Scout / NFL Writer & On-Air Personality. Jayson is also a football insider for the Dylan Gwinn show on 790 AM in Houston, TX - Listeners NOT in the Houston metropolitan area can hear Jayson on iheart radio or sports790.com. You may email Jayson directly @ firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @JaysonBraddock