Is coach Mike Shanahan really capable of turning around the Washington Redskins, or is he just another overpriced has-been?
Halfway through his five-year deal, Shanahan is 14-26, including 3-5 this season after a humiliating 27-12 loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday. The defense is in shambles, the offense is essentially a rookie quarterback and rookie running back and special teams makes too many gaffes.
With no first-round picks the next two seasons and an $18 million salary cap penalty again next year, the Redskins look closer to ruin than revival under Shanahan.
Steve Spurrier and Jim Zorn were both 12-20 in their two seasons in Washington, one win better than Shanahan. Otto Graham went 17-22-3. Norv Turner's 50-60-1 looks like a nirvana compared to the Shan?ahan era.
Shanahan preaches patience, but all failed leaders say that. More time is rarely the answer. The Redskins have won roughly one-third of their games under Shanahan, and only Robert Griffin III provides hope the team will improve.
But nothing will get better if receivers drop 10 passes, if the defense allows teams to score on their first four possessions and if extra points get blocked. All of those things happened against the Steelers on Sunday. Despite amazing numbers for a rookie quarterback, Griffin can't do it alone.
Shanahan will claim he needed to purge the roster before he could win here. True, there wasn't a lot of talent upon his 2010 arrival, but Shanahan messed up his first three quarterback choices and couldn't find ways to make Albert Haynesworth and LaRon Landry work.
For all the talk of improving the passing game, the best target has been carryover Santana Moss. Fred Davis was the leading receiver until he was injured. Where are Shanahan's upgrades?
The 3-4 defense was supposed to be the next great thing. In two of three seasons, it has been a great big disaster. The first year was permissible considering the team didn't have the right talent, but two years later it's in shambles again. The back four are awful, and the pass rush seems nonexistent. Losing Brian Orakpo only accounts for so much.
As for special teams, Shanahan seems as lost as Turner once was. Special teams has become the lost unit for the Redskins.
This all falls under Shanahan's watch. He's in charge of acquiring personnel. He's in charge of the defense and special teams, too.
But here's the funny part -- owner Dan Snyder doesn't want to fire Shanahan no matter the results because of charges by fans that he's too meddlesome. There are fans who believe Shanahan should stay to the end of his contract. These are the same people who stood on the Titanic's top deck unconcerned until it submerged.
Snyder has completely backed away after the Zorn disaster, and he probably has given Shanahan too much power. Nothing's going to happen until at least 2014, when Snyder must assess whether Shanahan is worth keeping for the last season.
Shanahan has another 24 games to prove whether he's just another formerly successful coach who couldn't win in Washington.