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Reviewing The Conventional Wisdom On Mike Shanahan's Drafts

Posted by Matt Terl on January 6, 2011 – 12:15 pm

As the Cowboys prepare for an afternoon press conference, presumably to announce Jason Garrett as their new head coach, one of the columnists at the Dallas Morning News has already started gloating about how pleased he is that the team won’t be able to hire Mike Shanahan.

“It was on this day one year ago that the Cowboys were saved from making a mistake that would have sent the franchise reeling into the dark ages,” Gerry Fraley writes. “They will get a second chance with Garrett. This day marks the first anniversary of the Washington Redskins hiring its latest celebrity coach: Mike Shanahan.”

Fraley is entitled to his opinion, of course; to no one’s surprise I disagree with his basic thesis. The whole basis of this column — Thank goodness our rivals saved us from ourselves! — is just a sports columnist being a sports columnist, and not something that I would usually bother to mention. But one of Fraley’s anti-Shanhan arguments really jumped out at me:

After the season-ending loss, Shanahan talked about “a good draft” helping the Redskins return to contention. Check Shanahan’s draft history with Denver. If the Redskins have a good draft, it will be Shanahan’s first in a while.

Fraley is far from the first person to make this assertion — and it drives me crazy every time — but the specific phrasing here, the “first in a while” bit … that makes this occurence particularly galling.

See, here’s the thing: Shanahan’s drafts aren’t nearly as bad as they’re made out to be, and, if anything, they seemed to get better as he accrued more experience. They say you can’t really judge a draft class until three seasons in, which (by coincidence) is how long it’s been since Shanahan’s 2008 draft in Denver. Fraley says Shanahan’s next good draft will be his “first in a while”; I say we don’t even have to look farther back than that draft, Shanahan’s last before coming to Washington. So instead of relying on the conventional wisdom that Shanhan’s drafts are terrible, let’s actually look at those picks: Read more »

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