Should Shanahan wear two hats?

Should Shanahan wear two hats?
February 11, 2013, 11:15 am
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Tarik El-Bashir previews the Redskins' free agency

The New York Giants made some notable roster moves last week. They released defensive lineman Chris Canty, linebacker Michael Boley and running back Ahmad Bradshaw, cutting three players who were important in their 2011 Super Bowl season and who appear to have some tread left on their tires.

Boley is 30 and last year he had 64 tackles, intercepted three passes, and recovered two fumbles, returning one of them 70 yards for a touchdown. Bradshaw will be 27 next month and he has fewer than 1000 carries in the NFL. Last year, he gained yards rushing and scored six touchdowns. Canty, 30, did miss seven games with injuries last year but he still recorded three sacks.

General Manager Jerry Reese is the one who made the calls to let the players go. Certainly Tom Coughlin was consulted during the process but the final say belonged to Reese.

The decisions were largely driven by salary cap considerations. New York was about $4 million over the cap and the moves saved a total of $13.75 million against the cap.

The Redskins have a different setup when it comes to making such decisions. Head Coach Mike Shanahan has final say over who stays on the roster and who goes. He consults with Bruce Allen, mainly about salary cap ramifications, and his assistant coaches, scouts, and others but he has the last word.

There are arguments for both ways of doing things. The one in favor of the Redskins’ approach was best expressed by Hall of Fame coach Bill Parcells. "If I'm going to be asked to cook the meal,” said the ex-Giants coach. “I'd like to be able to pick the groceries."

On the other side, it’s a matter of short-term vs. long-term focus. Coaches are wired for the next practice, the next game, the next season. They tend to make decisions based on what will help them immediately.

Someone like Reese, on the other hand, can take the long-term view and make decisions that might not help the team’s next game but will help in the future.

Dan Graziano of ESPN.com wrote the following:

It cannot have been easy for GM Jerry Reese to say goodbye to Bradshaw, who played through significant pain to help deliver the team's Super Bowl title last year. But between Bradshaw's salary and the chronic foot injuries that kept him from practicing during the week or playing at full strength on Sundays, the Giants believed it was the right thing to do. It's not the first time they've cut a player while he was still an effective producer for them, and if Bradshaw's best days are behind him, it won't be the first time the Giants cut a still-productive player just in time.

He goes on to list players such as Jeremy Shockey, Brandon Jacobs, Derrick Ward, Amani Toomer, Shaun O’Hara, Steve Smith and Kevin Boss. All of them were traded, released or allowed to leave as free agents by Reese. None of them went on to do much of anything later on.

In another post, Graziano says that the Giants’ draft philosophy meshes with their strategy of preferring to err on the side of letting players go a year too early instead of keeping them a year too long.

Reese himself would tell you that the Giants look at the draft in a very specific way. They do not view it as an annual opportunity to make big-splash, instant-impact additions to the following season's team. The Giants use the draft as a means of crafting and maintaining a deep roster that can regenerate itself with players who have spent time developing in their system.

Shanahan has some similar decisions to make as the Redskins are about $4 million over the salary cap. There are some players on the roster who have helped the Redskins win games in the past and they may be able to help them win games in 2013. But they may not be very helpful beyond that. We’re talking about players like Santana Moss, London Fletcher, and Reed Doughty. Together the three of them account for almost $14 million in salary cap space.

Let’s also put free agent guard Kory Lichtensteiger into the discussion. He’ll be 28 next season and he had a solid season at left guard. It will cost between $2 and $3 million a year to bring him back. The Redskins drafted Josh LeRibeus in the third round last year and he played right guard well when Lichtensteiger was injured late in the season. LeRibeus’ 2013 salary will be $555,000.

The point here is not to make the case that any of those player should necessarily be cut or allowed to walk. It’s just to question if Shanahan will take into account the same considerations that someone like Reese does when making that decision.

Shanahan has spent his first three years in Washington getting rid of players he didn’t want. To his credit, very few of the players he let go have done much of anything elsewhere. The decisions to get rid of those players were relatively easy ones.

Now, it’s getting to be time for Shanahan to make the call on players he brought in, like Lichtensteiger, or ones he decided to re-sign to contracts when they became free agents such as Fletcher, Moss and Doughty. Those are tougher calls.

And it wouldn’t be an easy call for an empowered GM to make, either. But you can argue that such a GM would be able to make a decision that balances 2013 and seasons to come. A coach wearing the two hats might not be able to do the same.

This doesn’t mean that Shanahan will make the wrong call. But Redskins fans should hope that he is able to take the proper perspective when he makes the decision.