WWSD? What Would Shanahan Do? That's the question on the minds of so many Redskins fans with former Denver head coach Mike Shanahanreportedly agreeing to a deal, and I thought I'd tell you the four things I think he'll do early in his regime:
• Bring his son Kyle in to help develop the next Washington franchise quarterback. Can't see them keeping Jason Campbell, particularly when keeping him means investing in a new contract when he hasn't played well enough to deserve it. Look for the Shanahans to look hard at first-round passers (remember the stunner when they drafted Jay Cutler in 2006?) and particularly at an accurate intermediate thrower coming off elbow surgery, Sam Bradford. Kyle's like his dad, so he'll be looking at the entire field and not caring what the draftniks say. That's why it wouldn't surprise me to see the Redskins pick a quarterback down the line (Zac Robinson, Colt McCoy) and address a terrible offensive line in the first round.
• Try to get another year out of Clinton Portis. The Redskins owe him a ton of money anyway, and he fits the one-cut, upfield running style Mike Shanahan will want. Plus, the Redskins have so many holes and can't fill them all in one year; it'll be better for Shanahan to plug this hole with vets and a couple of undrafted free-agents this year. Now, the question is, how much will Portis have left after missing the end of the season with post-concussion syndrome? And will Portis want to give it another try? My guess is Shanahan will persuade Portis to give it one more year. Don't forget: Portis played two seasons under Shanahan in Denver (2002-03).
• Look for a defensive coordinator who will give the 3-4 a shot. Shanahan was thinking hard about the 3-4 when I saw him in at Steelers camp last summer. Though Cincinnati defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer will likely be available (the Bengals probably won't pay him Snyder money to be an assistant) and is experienced with the 3-4 from his Dallas days, I'm not sure Zimmer will be Shanahan's choice for coordinator. But Shanahan knows he wants to be much better at stopping the run in Washington than he was in Denver.
• Expect the unexpected. Shanahan doesn't care what you or I think. He drafted Maurice Clarett in the third round, paid sick sums of money to unpopular free-agents who didn't pan out (particularly on defense), handed the reins of his offense to Brian Griese and Jake Plummer when they weren't the belles of the NFL ball. He'll make a few decisions, particularly in free-agency, that will make you scratch your head. But he'll be decisive, and at least on offense, will have a very good track record behind him. It'll be a fun off-season in Washington when he signs his contract.
Now for you e-mail. First, a note about the hot story of Sunday that seems to be the tepid yawner of today: I asked my Twitter family last night if the league should look into mandating playing starters if a team has its playoff position ensured. In three hours, I got 465 responses. Of the 401 who answered the question directly, it was 335-66 opposed to league intervention on the issue. That will make Bill Polian very happy. But I'm not convinced it's a dead issue. Not at all.
• THE LEAGUE HAS A TOUGH CALL HERE. From Bob Blair of Reno, Nev.: "Roger Goodell has two priorities that appear to be at odds -- add games to the regular season schedule while also creating incentive for teams to play their starters late in the season. It would seem that with more games, that just creates the possibility of more disparity in team W-L records and the associated playoff positioning. It sort of seems like he wants his cake and to eat it as well, doesn't it?''
Not really. What Goodell wants is for fans who pay regular-season prices not to get screwed any more than they are now with the preseason games. What would happen, let's say, if the Colts had their last two of three at home this year instead of away? Then they'd have had the option of playing four of 10 home games this year (including two in the preseason) at exhibition-game quality. You're asking fans in a place like central Indiana -- where many season-ticket holders have second jobs to pay for season tickets -- to pay for 60 percent real games and 40 percent phonies, potentially, in the case with my scenario. For Goodell to do nothing, in my opinion, would be shirking his job. Of course, we all think it's asinine for owners to charge regular-season prices for exhibition games. It's the biggest ripoff in the NFL. But that's not going to change until the league goes to 18 regular-season and two in the preseason. Then, the league will be robbing ticketholders for one game, not two.
• IT'S FLAWED. From Terry Wehner of Gardner, Mass.: "Perfect solution for the issue of resting players: Move ALL divisional games to last six weeks of the season. Thoughts?''
So the Colts would have been 13-0, facing the 7-6 Texas or 7-6 Jags or 6-7 Titans. How would that help? Let's back up. If the Colts were 10-0 when division play started, they'd have clinched the AFC South after two games -- maybe one, depending how their schedule fell. The division race would have been over almost by the time division play began. Now, you're right -- in many cases this would help. But ultimately it's a band-aid on a gunshot wound.
• SOME ANGER, BUT NOT AS MUCH AS I THOUGHT, ON MY ALL-PRO TEAM. From Andrew Scott of Houston: "Happy New Year, first of all. Secondly, was there a little rum in your eggnog latte when you submitted your all-pro team? Vincent Jackson over Andre Johnson? That's outrageous. Johnson had 39 more catches, 400 more yards, averaged 20 more yards per game and had 310 more yards after the catch! How is that less consistent than Jackson? Might I add that Jackson had Philip Rivers at QB, I can't imagine the numbers Johnson would put up if he had a QB like Rivers. Andre Johnson does it all, is as strong as a bull and is the ultimate teammate. Love your articles, but that is a flat-out terrible decision.''
I had a number of impassioned pleas for Johnson, and I respect him a great deal. It was very difficult to leave him off my team. In fact, both Tony Dungy and Rodney Harrison looked at me like I had two heads Saturday night when I raised the prospect of Jackson and Wes Welker over Johnson. This was my logic.
I don't believe you can go purely by stats when you look at receiver or tight end. There's also opportunity. Johnson was targeted by Matt Schaub 171 times this year, or almost 11 pass attempts per game. Jackson was targeted 108 times (in 15 games) by Rivers, or seven times a game; Antonio Gates got 114 passes thrown his way. When Owen Daniels went down for the season with eight games to go, Schaub began throwing to Johnson even more -- 91 times in his last eight games.
Did he produce? Absolutely. He was great. I simply thought in making two clutch game-winning catches (including one in the final seconds at the Giants when the Giants were still contenders) in the Chargers' strong run this year, and because of powerful athleticism that, in my mind, is the equal of Johnson, that Jackson deserved my vote slightly more.
I think Jackson's one of those players who gets overlooked a bit because of where he plays and by having Gates on his team. He's the only player in football to be over 17 yards a catch the past two years; even with his more limited chances, he matched Johnson this year in touchdowns with nine. One of the problems is picking two players from among a deep pool; it seems you're slighting the other great players in that pool. That's the hazard of picking these teams and sitting in judgment of people for things like the Pro Football Hall of Fame. There are more deserving candidates than you can pick. So you pick the guys you think are best, and take the heat on the others.
• WOODLEY FOR PRESIDENT. From Dan Coffey of the Panama Canal: "One does not need Black and Gold shades to see LaMarr Woodley as the pre-eminent strong side linebacker in the game. Every right tackle will thank Lamar one day (just as the left side has thanked Lawrence Taylor) for raising the stature and income of their position due to the "shock and awe" Lamar brings. Write No. 56 with a Sharpie for the next 7 years on your ballot.''
You actually live in the Panama Canal Zone? What's it like down there? I love Woodley. He's a great player. I thought for the full season Anthony Spencer was a more dominant force, particularly down the stretch when he was the toughest guy to block and biggest defensive threat on a playoff team.