The day after the NFL season ends is known as Black Monday and yesterday it lived up to its billing. Seven head coaches and five general managers were given their walking papers yesterday.
Redskins head coach and de facto general manager Mike Shanahan, of course, kept his job as the Redskins won the NFC East title. But his fingerprints were all over Black Monday yesterday. Two NFL GM’s lost their gigs due to deals made by Shanahan.
During the 2011 draft Gene Smith of the Jaguars wanted to trade up in the first round to take quarterback Blaine Gabbert. Shanahan was happy to accommodate and the Redskins first-round pick, the 10th overall, went to Jacksonville in exchange for the Jags’ first rounder, the 16th overall, and their second-round pick. Shanahan took Ryan Kerrigan with the first pick and dealt the second-rounder for picks that included wide receiver Leonard Hankerson.
The Gabbert pick turned out to be a disaster, and one that proved to be fatal for Smith. The Missouri product has had much more than the usual young quarterback growing pains and in his second year he was benched with a 1-9 record after 10 games. The Jaguars fired head coach Jack Del Rio halfway through the 2011 season and yesterday Gabbert officially became both a coach and a GM killer as Smith was told to clear out his office.
When the trade was made, many wondered why Shanahan didn’t go ahead and draft Gabbert for his team. With Donovan McNabb on the way out, his quarterbacks were John Beck and Rex Grossman. We all know how that worked out as the Redskins were ineffective offensively and went 5-11.
But Shanahan just had bad quarterbacks; he didn’t have a bad quarterback on whom he had expended a top-10 draft pick and commensurate salary like Smith did. Shanahan did own that 5-11 record, though, and he knew he couldn’t post too many more of those without the possibility of a Black Monday pink slip of his own in the near future.
So Shanahan set out to get himself a quarterback. That 5-11 record got the Redskins the sixth pick in the draft, a slot that would not be high enough to get Robert Griffin III or Andrew Luck, the top two quarterbacks in the draft. But it was close enough to trade up and after decided that he needed either Griffin or Luck, Shanahan went to work to trade up.
The first draft pick belonged to the Colts, who also needed a quarterback with the departure of Peyton Manning seeming inevitable. They weren’t trading the pick. However the Rams, who had drafted Sam Bradford in 2010, did have the “for sale” sign on the second pick.
The Browns, who possessed the fourth pick, were the other serious contenders for the pick. Shanahan bid three first-round picks and a second. Cleveland GM Tom Heckert wouldn’t go higher than three firsts. The Redskins got the pick.
Hecker not only lost out on RG3, he lost his job. His failure to trade up to get Griffin was cited in reports as being the tipping point in the decision to let him go.
Shanahan hasn’t been on the right side of every deal (see the Donovan McNabb trade). But he has been able to win a couple lately, two deals that were so big that they cost the losers in those transactions their jobs.