Mr. Wonderful has met his match.
The Washington Redskins have become to football what the Maple Leafs are to the National Hockey League. Serial losers. Even Mike Shanahan, the Einstein of offensive (and be careful how you interpret that word) football, hasn't been able to put that Humpty Dumpty back together again.
Apparently Albert Haynesworth wasn't the big cancer, after all. He might not have been worth $100 million US but that's a whole other can to kick. It turns out this team had bigger issues than Haynesworth. And, considering his belt size, that's saying something.
Shanahan's reputation made him a teflon-don last season and there was justification in believing he once again knew more than anyone else when the club jumped off to a surprising 3-1 start this year. But reality, injuries and quarterback John Beck have conspired to turn this Cinderfella's season into a pumpkin.
They are winless in four with just 11 points over the past two games. The Redskins haven't been so toothless since their first two contests under defensive-oriented coach Marty Schottenheimer a decade ago. For the first time since taking the job as head coach, and with a 9-15 start to his Redskins' career, Shanahan is facing public criticism.
In January 2010, owner Daniel Snyder gave Shanahan everything he requested to join the organization: Player-personnel control, an assurance the owner would no longer meddle, his choice at quarterback, his son, Kyle, as the offensive coordinator.
Nine weeks into the season, Shanahan's reputation is taking a beating after embarrassing 23-0 and 19-11 losses to Buffalo and, Sunday, to the 49ers. At training camp Shanahan said he would "put his reputation" on the play of Rex Grossman and John Beck.
Tuesday he said Beck would again start this week against the Dolphins. But, now 0-7 as an NFL starter, Beck has done little to warrant Shanahan's confidence. The team's problems shouldn't fall solely on Beck's shoulders, Shanahan said this week, pointing to injuries, as well as receivers running lousy routes and dropping balls.
"Sometimes it looks like it's all the quarterback," Shanahan said, "and it's understandable. When you lose a few pieces to the puzzle, the quarterback's going to look pretty average. And we're playing pretty average as a group."
Of course that's what the Argos said in defence of Cleo Lemon, too, and everyone knows how well that turned out. Meantime, Fred Davis and Jabar Gaffney are the team's top receivers, and neither offered glowing endorsements of Beck. Both claimed they were open numerous times downfield Sunday. Beck, they told the Washington Post, he just didn't spot them.
"I was getting open," said Davis, who had with four catches. "I don't know if Beck had enough time to hit me."
Said Gaffney: "For whatever reason, John goes through his reads, a lot of times he didn't come to me. That's neither here nor there. That's for coach to talk to John about.
"I don't want to be like a selfish guy, going, 'Hey, I'm open, I'm open, I'm open,'" he said. "But it's certain times during the game where I will look to him like, 'Hey, just throw it. Throw it to me. Give me a chance to turn things around.'"
Shanahan's chance to turn things around depends on how long Snyder can maintain his distance. History suggests that time will soon run out, especially when Shanahan's recent failings continue to overshadown past glories.
This isn't Denver. Washington fans and media are getting grumpier as they watch a Redskins' team that has not progressed under the two-time Super Bowl winner. They might have a point. Since that last Super Bowl in 1998, Shanahan has won just one playoff game. His teams have had one winning season since 2005.
And, if the club had any other offensive coordinator than the head coach's son, there would be calls for his removal. Shanahan says this roster is more talented than it was last season but it ranks 27th in points and 21st in yards gained in the NFL. Last year? It was 25th and 18th. That doesn't look like progress. At least not in anyone's playbook other than the one at which the Shanahan family is looking.
Shanahan took over an organization that was a joke. Into his second season and after 23 games, the much ballyhooed Shanahan has a worse record then Jim Zorn, and a lot of people treated him like he was the head moron of Duffus Inc.
The only soft spots left on Washington's schedule are games against Seattle and Minnesota and Shanahan's team has to win three of its last eight just to equal the record that got Zorn fired.
Evidently, being a genius these days, isn't all it's cracked up to be.
SUH VOTED DIRTIEST PLAYER
In a league where being bad is sometimes good, Steelers' linebacker James Harrison will just have to try harder.
In a poll of his fellow players by the Sporting News, Harrison was a distant runner-up to Ndamukong Suh as the dirtiest player in the NFL.
In a poll of 111 players on 31 teams, Suh got 36 votes, easily beating (not to mention, spearing, socking or cudgelling) Harrison and his puny nine votes.
The vote comes at the same time as Harrison, as well as safety Ryan Clark of the Steelers and Baltimore's Ray Lewis, faced fines for questionable hits during Sunday's game between the teams.
The Harrison hit occurred in the third quarter when the Steelers linebacker was involved in a helment-to-helmet hit on Ray Rice after the running back was already tackled. There was no flag.
Harrison was fined $100,000 for a series of hits last season. That culminated with Harrison telling reporters he couldn't play this game anymore.
Not sure. but evidently he can't play it as well -- or badly, depending on your point of view -- as Suh. Cardinals' linebacker Daryl Washington voted for Suh but noted that isn't necessarily a poor reflection on the Lions' defensive tackle. "I'm on the defensive side of the ball. I like the way he plays. I wouldn't mind having a guy like that in front of me," Washington said.
Others collecting votes were : Titans cornerback Cortland Finnegan, with eight votes, Falcons tackle Tyson Clabo with seven, Steelers receiver Hines Ward, six, and Dolphins guard Richie Incognito got four and Bears safety Brandon Meriweather, three.
The players' poll named Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, as the most over-rated player, and Titans running back Chris Johnson the biggest disappointment. The 49ers' Jim Harbaugh was named the top coach.