Rick Snider: Redskins' Kyle Shanahan displays willingness to adapt

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Photo - Cliff Owen/AP
Under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, the Washington Redskins have rushed for 100 yards or more in an NFL-high 13 straight games.
Cliff Owen/AP Under offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, the Washington Redskins have rushed for 100 yards or more in an NFL-high 13 straight games.
Sports,NFL,Redskins,Rick Snider

Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has found redemption.

The son of coach Mike Shanahan once was thought to be the problem with quarterback Donovan McNabb. Last season his competence was questioned, with his quarterbacks creating more turnovers than Betty Crocker.

It's funny how a great rookie quarterback suddenly makes Shan?ahan look pretty smart.

Shanahan, 32, looked so young when he joined the Redskins three years ago I nearly mistook him for one of the equipment managers. He came with a fast-track resume of only two seasons as an assistant with Houston before he was named the Texans' offensive coordinator in 2008.

It wasn't nepotism as with so many NFL father-son combinations. Kyle Shanahan purposely worked away from Mike Shanahan to earn his credentials. The Texans' offense blossomed under the younger Shanahan, who obviously has watched his father's offense work for decades.

The Redskins were a chance for the two to reunite in a business in which competitors rarely see each other. Kyle wanted his kids to see their grandparents, so working together in Washington seemed a smart move.

But it was rocky. McNabb didn't sync with either Shanahan, especially one three years younger. Neither McNabb nor the Shanahans adapted, and the quarterback was benched with three games remaining and then traded over the offseason.

Kyle Shanahan was thought to be the villain. But that notion eventually was proved false when McNabb faced similar problems in his next stop with Minnesota.

The offensive coordinator then needed to make something of turnover-prone Rex Grossman and unproven John Beck. They combined for 18 touchdowns and 24 interceptions last season.

The Shanahans were deemed unwilling to adapt the offense. Would they really draft such a unique, out-of-the-box passer like Robert Griffin III? Would they ruin him by forcing him to adapt?

The result has been stunning. The Redskins look like Baylor East, with Griffin running more college plays than expected. Normally NFL teams set the standard instead of pilfering from college playbooks. Some of that is ego, but the pro game's pace won't always work with college plays that rely on physical mismatches not seen in the NFL.

The offense often has been unstoppable even with a rookie quarterback. Yet it's also balanced with a current NFL-high 13 straight rushing efforts of 100 yards or more. Indeed, 1,244 yards are the most by Washington after seven games since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger. Alfred Morris' 658 yards lead the NFC.

Some of the rushing numbers come from Griffin's elusiveness with 468 yards. Still, Morris has carried many drives with that classic, pounding-away style.

Maybe Kyle Shanahan allowed Griffin to be himself a little too much in the beginning and the hits mounted. However, the plan changed even before Griffin suffered a concussion against Atlanta. It's now a hybrid of pass/run to keep Griffin safer.

Griffin is an exceptionally bright passer, and Shanahan was smart enough to embrace it. The playbook has no gaps. Suddenly, they're both looking good.

Examiner columnist Rick Snider has covered local sports since 1978. Read more on Twitter @Snide_Remarks or email rsnider@washingtonexaminer.com.

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