Mike Shanahan again has become the most second-guessed person in Washington.
The coach finally earned some credibility among fans when the Redskins ended the regular season with a seven-game winning streak. After a 14-27 start over 2? seasons, he again looked like the coach who won two Super Bowls in Denver.
And then all that goodwill collapsed with Robert Griffin III's knee.
Griffin reinjured the knee during the 24-14 playoff loss to Seattle on Sunday, ending Washington's season and perhaps starting a long rehab for the quarterback. An MRI on Tuesday will reveal whether Griffin needs surgery.
Griffin shouldn't have played after he tweaked the knee, which he first hurt against Baltimore on Dec.?9. Griffin helped the Redskins to a 14-0 lead following their first two series Sunday, but he clearly was hurting. The offense never scored again -- never came close, in fact.
Shanahan used his not-my-fault defense -- as he has too often in his three seasons here. Many fans no longer believe him. He tried deflecting responsibility toward doctors and Griffin. It's hard to buy that; Shanahan micromanages so much that he places video cameras in team meeting rooms so he can monitor things from his office.
Shanahan is paid $7 million to decide who plays. Sure, Griffin wanted to stay in, but that choice is not the responsibility of a rookie quarterback who hasn't realized the difference between wanting to help the team and harming it by playing hurt. Shanahan knows the difference. He should take full responsibility. Instead, it's always someone else's fault.
At this point, the Redskins need to wait another season before deciding whether to extend Shanahan's deal past 2014. He coaxed a great stretch run out of this team to win the NFC East title and drafted a number of talented players. The team played better than its personnel down the stretch.
But is Shanahan truly the one to lead Washington to the next level? Can he manage Griffin -- who was injured three times this season -- well enough that he can be the starting quarterback for a decade? After watching Shanahan refuse to pull Griffin against Seattle, it's clear he only cares about winning now.
That's what Shanahan ultimately needs to worry about, but there are ways to do it without ruining the team's franchise player. If Griffin gets seriously injured, the Redskins are flat out doomed for years. Shanahan may end up like many of his predecessors who became rich before departing and left Redskins fans with nothing.
Surely Shanahan knew Griffin wasn't effective. But the Redskins still led until midway through the fourth quarter. Shanahan was hoping the defense would hold on, that maybe Griffin could produce one more big play to seal the game.
Shanahan wasn't honest with himself, or he would have gone to backup Kirk Cousins. For that, Redskins fans are furious. The next seven months -- until training camp -- will feature an endless debate on why Shanahan didn't pull Griffin.
It's possible Shanahan's chances for the Pro Football Hall of Fame ended Sunday. He's a good coach with a great resume, but the lasting impression over the way he handled Griffin and lost this game will cost him votes.
Maybe that's not fair. But then, Redskins fans know how it feels.