Mike Shanahan

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Peyton Manning to the Redskins? It almost happened in 2012

Peyton Manning to the Redskins? It almost happened in 2012

When the Indianapolis Colts released Peyton Manning in March of 2012, the quarterback became arguably the highest-profile free agent in NFL history. Manning would end up signing with the Broncos and have a storied second-act of his career, leading Denver to a Super Bowl title in 2015.

But before Manning ultimately decided on signing with the Broncos, he visited with other clubs, including the Redskins. The quarterback had a history with then-Washington head coach Mike Shanahan and said in an oral history of his free agency in The Athletic that he was interested in playing for the Burgundy and Gold at the time.

After taking his initial visit to the Broncos on March 9 and 10th, Manning had some extra time before he left Denver. Then, he went to Shanahan's house, where the head coach and then-Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan broke down the team's offense.

Manning was intrigued and interested in signing with Washington. That feeling was mutual, as both Shanahan's wanted the Pro Bowl quarterback to come to the nation's capital.

"We were very much interested in Peyton at that time," Mike Shanahan told The Athletic. "I mean, I followed his career. I know him quite well, so I feel like we had an excellent chance to get him. But knowing that Eli [Manning] was in the NFC East, it surely wasn’t a slam dunk."


However, any chance the Redskins had of landing Manning took a significant hit the day prior to the quarterback's home-visit with the Shanahans.

On March 9, the Redskins traded up from the sixth overall pick in the 2012 NFL Draft to the second selection. With that pick, the Redskins would select the reigning Heisman Trophy winner, Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III.

With the Redskins moving in a different, younger direction at the quarterback position in Griffin, signing Manning didn't make sense for Washington.

"I had known Mike for a long time, played for him in a Pro Bowl, and we’ve stayed in touch, and so I felt comfortable talking to them," Manning told the Athletic. "But they had made a trade for the second pick of the draft, which they ended up taking Robert Griffin III. So as soon as they made that trade, even Mike kind of knew that eliminated them. It just wasn’t going to make sense. Kind of like the Colts, they were obviously going to go with a quarterback in the first round."

Griffin's tenure with the Redskins started off incredibly, as the quarterback led Washington to their first division title in 13 years as a rookie. But over the next three years, between injuries and other factors, Griffin would never return to his rookie form. He was released by the Redskins following the 2015 season, the same year Manning won a Super Bowl with Denver.


It may be unfair to play the what-if game eight years after the fact, but it's surely worth wondering how different things would have been had the five-time MVP come to play in Washington instead of Denver.

"I think Peyton was disappointed. Kyle and I were kind of surprised that he still wanted to meet with us," Shanahan told the Athletic. "I can remember talking with [Broncos GM John] Elway one time not too long ago, a few years ago. He said, 'Mike, do you realize that Peyton, I think, was going to go to your place? I think he really wanted to go to your place more than our place.' I said, 'Really? I didn’t know that.' And that came from John. I knew we were fairly close."


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Good, bad and ugly make up Redskins head coach debuts over the years

Good, bad and ugly make up Redskins head coach debuts over the years

As the old saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. That is true in all walks of life, including the professional sports world. And while the NFL may be a “what have you done for me lately” business, it is imperative to kick off a coaching tenure on a positive note,  rather than playing from behind the entire way.

Ron Rivera is set to take over as the 30th head coach in franchise history when his squad presumably lines up against the Eagles on September 13th in Landover. With team workouts currently not an option, it is certainly too early to gauge how those two teams will match up in Week 1 - but if recent history is any indication, that debut could go either way.


It could end up like Mike Shanahan’s primetime victory in his 2010 debut against the rival Cowboys, or like the return of Joe Gibbs back in 2004 that saw Washington outlast Tampa Bay, and even like Steve Spurrier’s high-powered win over the Cardinals in 2002 - all first impressions that the burgundy and gold promptly celebrated with a “Victory Monday” and left the fanbase hopeful for a return to glory.

But the glass could end up looking half empty as well, as it has so many times before. Jay Gruden and Jim Zorn certainly didn’t inspire confidence with their initial performances in the district. Neither did Marty Schottenheimer, who lost the opener of his only season with the Redskins. You can go all the way back to Norv Turner, who had the difficult task of following the first run of legendary Coach Gibbs with the Redskins, and he did so by falling to the Seahawks in 1994.


What is also important to note is that the debut isn't the all-telling game for head coaches. Though it sets the tone, some have rebounded from poor starts, while others have struggled after solid beginnings. Spurrier's first win was followed by two disappointing years, while Joe Gibbs' 0-5 start in 1981 was soon forgotten when he held up the Lombardi Trophy three times.

In 2011, Rivera lost in his head coaching debut with the Panthers, but a lot has changed since then. He eventually figured things out in Carolina, amassing 76 wins over 9 successful seasons, including an appearance in Super Bowl 50. Rivera created a reputation that preceded his arrival in Ashburn, and since then it has been clear that it is a new era for the Redskins.

As for how that era begins? History tells us to buckle up.

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Mike Shanahan's intentions are clear when talking about Kirk Cousins and Super Bowl

Mike Shanahan's intentions are clear when talking about Kirk Cousins and Super Bowl

When Mike Shanahan speaks, compliments of Kirk Cousins tend to follow, but on Wednesday the former Redskins coach's praise went all the way to the Super Bowl

"There's no question he is a franchise guy," Shanahan said speaking with Colin Cowherd. "You give him a good system, and Kirk Cousins will win you a Super Bowl."

Now that is a loaded statement for a QB without a playoff win.

Shanahan has always been steadfast in his appreciation of Cousins' game and work ethic, and the former two-time Super Bowl winner in Denver continued to brag about his former 4th-round draft choice. 

"I'd never been around a person that studied that hard, worked that hard," Shanahan said of Cousins. 

Cousins diligence to football is well documented, but remember, Shanahan coached and was around QBs like Joe Montana and John Elway. If the praise sounds effusive, it's worth pointing out that Shanahan seems to very much want back in the NFL in a personnel role, perhaps reunited with his son Kyle as a coach.

One way to boost a personnel profile? Brag about the unheralded 4th-round QB you selected that is now a Pro Bowl alternate. Cousins has thrown for back-to-back 4,000 yard seasons, and is a player worth bragging about, but Shanahan also takes every opportunity to say that drafting and playing Robert Griffin III was not his choice. It's one thing to point out your successes, but the repeated RG3 dredging makes it somewhat obvious Shanahan is working to publicly clear his name so he can be more appealing for his next employer. 


Besides, not many people would still argue that Cousins isn't a franchise QB. He's currently playing on a franchise tag, so in the most literal sense of the word, he's an actual franchise player. Shanahan's "franchise guy" proclamation doesn't mean much anymore, so time to go a step further, and say he's a potential Super Bowl winner. 

Jay Gruden's predecessor also went on to compare Cousins to Drew Brees, an MVP and Super Bowl winner. Brees' found his greatest success in New Orleans, after he left the team that drafted him in San Diego, which Shanahan mentioned. 

At a certain point, Shanahan's effusive praise of Cousins seems less a coach reflecting proudly on his former player, and more of a freshly shined bullet point on a resume. 

Cousins has established himself as an NFL starter, which is no small feat, and he's shown to be one of the top 10 or 15 passers in the league. That's worthy of some celebration, though from Shahanan, it's starting to sound like something else entirely. 

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