If Redskins coach Mike Shan?ahan had run off the field in Cleveland holding up the "V" sign, he would have been perfectly justified in doing so.

Sunday's 38-21 win over the Browns was a victory of vindication for Shanahan, the truest sign yet that the team that had been the NFL's most dysfunctional for more than a decade was now functioning like a pro football franchise -- and moving in the right direction.

There have been some moments and decisions in which that direction was called into question, including a couple of high profile decisions involving quarterbacks in his first two years in Washington.

The way Shanahan handled the Donovan McNabb debacle after trading for him in 2010 and staked his reputation on Rex Grossman and John Beck last season would result in reasonable observers wondering whether this -- meaning Shanahan in Washington -- was going to work.

Shortly after taking over, Shanahan admitted he underestimated the lack of talent on the roster, which is hard to believe. We all saw it from afar, and Shanahan should have operated under the assumption that Vinny Cerrato had dug a deep grave for the franchise.

Those quarterback miscues obscured what was taking place over the course of time: the changing of the roster and culture.

We may not have seen it coming, but others did. When Casey Rabach was cut in training camp last year, he talked about how he wished he could stick around because he could see change coming and wanted to be part of it.

Eleven Shanahan draft picks are contributing to the resurgence of the Redskins, now in first place in the NFC East at 8-6. Gone are the players who came here to get a paycheck, replaced by fiery, hungry players with something to prove.

The Redskins changed the way they do business. They stayed away from the big splash free agent signings and avoided investing too much money in star players. Instead, they paid a guy like Pierre Garcon for what they believe is in front of him, not for what he has done in the past.

As a result, this is a team that plays hard and with a level of pride not witnessed here since Joe Gibbs' first tenure as Redskins coach.

Too much, too soon? I don't think so. Shanahan has managed to change the roster and, along with Bruce Allen, has put up the wall between the football operations and owner Daniel Snyder, who contributed to the dysfunction for more than a decade.

Granted, none of this happens without the arrival of the savior -- Robert Griffin III. But it was Shanahan who paved the way for his arrival with his gamble to acquire the draft pick to land RGIII. And it has been Shanahan -- along with his son and offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan -- who has developed and prepared not just one rookie quarterback but two -- Kirk Cousins, Sunday's victorious quarterback -- to play in the NFL.

"V" for vindication for Mike Shan?ahan.

Examiner columnist Thom Loverro is the co-host of "The Sports Fix" from noon to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday on ESPN980 and espn980.com. Contact him at tloverro@washingtonexaminer.com.