DMA 7-22 Sports

January 7, 2010 12:30 AM

DC on Shanahan: Why So Queasy?

shana1.jpgThe Redskins got their new coach, but you get the feeling DC somehow doesn't seem too smitten about it.

Wilbon on the radio termed the hiring a "foul tip."

Just on his record alone, Mike Shanahan is a top NFL coach. No disputing that. With those two John Elway-Super Bowl wins tucked into his hip pocket, Shanahan is getting the big money from Skins owner Daniel Snyder to get a Lombardi Trophy back to the nation's capital.

Two-three years ago, the rave in coaching hires meant elevating fresh-face assistants like Pittsburgh's Mike Tomlin, Baltimore's John Harbaugh, Atlanta's Mike Smith and Miami's Tony Sparano, each of whom has gotten to the playoffs with Tomlin winning a Super Bowl and Harbaugh getting to the AFC championship game.

Jim Zorn fit that mold of his peers, but Snyder had not such luck on the winning.

So Shanahan, bounced out of Denver after the 2008 season after 14 years and a 146-91 regular season and playoffs career record, gets the call to DC.

Some queasiness over Shanahan in the District probably has more to do with style over substance -- though there is no discounting the Elway angle of the coach's resume. Shanahan got lucky when he got to Denver in 1995 as QB Elway, an all-time great, was already at the top of his game.

After Elway retired after the second consecutive winning Super Bowl season in 1998, Shanahan won only one other playoff game over the next 10 seasons from the mushy AFC West.

No matter how chipper he appeared at the news conference Jan. 6 at Redskins camp in Ashburn, VA, you have to wonder whether the icy-like yet confident Shanahan persona will play at all in DC.

Surely, DC doesn't play like Denver. "Final authority," too, plays differently in DC than it would Denver.

DC is a privileged place where deals are cut, bread is broken, and, mostly, collaboration is how you get things done. The late Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-MA, known as the leading liberal in the Senate during his time, danced with conservative President George W. Bush to get the "No Child Left Behind" education law passed early in Bush's first term.

As he gets entrenched in the job and responsibility of building a winner over the next five years, you would like to think that coach and executive vice president Shanahan won't retreat as a solo act like he could in Denver.

Grabbing a parka and skullcap and hunkering down along the side of a mountain won't work in DC. Constituents won't stand for it. And the nation's capital is a place where constituent service rules and stakeholders come out of the woodwork. You have to be accommodating, flexible and engaging here.

He's a tough-minded football coach, yes, but Shanahan will need to make his rounds on the circuit - the Capitol Hills, K Streets, Pennsylvania Avenues.

And as he figures out what to do with Clinton Portis and Jason Campbell, how to motivate Albert Haynesworth, placate Sonny Jurgensen and Doc Walker, endear the *Washington Post *and beat the Cowboys, he'll need to soften that piercing glare, work the room and keep Mr. Snyder's back.

  • DMA 7-22 Sports is a blog about sports in the Washington-Baltimore market, covering amateurs, colleges and pros. The title DMA 7-22? Means "Designated Market Area," per use of media rating services, signifying Washington is the 7th largest media market in the United States, and Baltimore is the 22nd. You can reach M.V. Greene at

Photo: Mike Shanahan (Reuters)

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