ASHBURN, Va. - Two games into his third season in Washington, Mike Shanahan is just 12-22. That's two more defeats than predecessors Steve Spurrier and Jim Zorn recorded before being dismissed after just two seasons apiece with the Redskins.
However, while Spurrier and Zorn were neophyte NFL head coaches, Shanahan arrived in Washington with an excellent track record that included two Super Bowl victories during his 15-plus seasons with the Los Angeles Raiders and Denver. In fact, if the Redskins go just 5-9 the rest of the way in 2012, Shanahan will tie Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs of the Redskins and pass the legendary Paul Brown and Canton enshrinee Bud Grant for 12th on the career victory list.
And yet, Washington's upset loss last Sunday at St. Louis was just the latest indication that the 60-year-old coach isn't getting it done with the Redskins, at least when it's not the opener. He's 3-0 on opening day, 9-22 otherwise.
While Shanahan didn't match his incredible first four seasons with Denver -- when Hall of Famer John Elway quarterbacked the Broncos to a 54-18 record, including a 7-1 postseason mark with those consecutive Super Bowl triumphs -- during the next decade, he still went 92-73 while dealing New England's Bill Belichick/Tom Brady tandem its only playoff defeat in 11 postseason games from 2001-05.
Shanahan was 23-9 against AFC West rivals with Elway, but a solid 39-27 during the following decade. The coach was a staggering 33-3 (including postseason) at Mile High Stadium with No. 7 calling signals, but was 54-28 (including postseason) at home the rest of the way.
However, the Redskins were just 4-8 against their NFC East rivals during Shanahan's first two seasons in Washington. They were a league-worst 4-12 at home (more losses than Gibbs suffered in his first seven seasons at RFK Stadium and more than Hall of Fame coach George Allen endured during his seven seasons at RFK). If a coach can't win his home games and at least split his division contests, he's usually out of a job as Spurrier and Zorn know all too well.
"We get great support ... (but) we have struggled at home," Shanahan said in advance of Sunday's home opener against Cincinnati. "You want to win the opener at home for our fans."
Playing a rookie quarterback, even one as talented Robert Griffin III, likely bought Shanahan another season of patience from Redskins owner Dan Snyder and the long-frustrated fan base. Washington's visit to the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants on Oct. 21 is its only NFC East game during this season's first 10 weeks, but Shanahan needs to start proving that FedEx Field isn't such friendly territory for opponents.