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Rick Snider: With Shanahan, Redskins finally have a lead worth following

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Sports,NFL,Redskins,Rick Snider

Finally, a coach not named Gibbs is worthy of his seven-figure paychecks from the Washington Redskins.

Since Joe Gibbs retired in 1993, the Redskins have gone to one coach after another without success. They hired offensive minds in Norv Turner and Jim Zorn, a college legend in Steve Spurrier, a taskmaster in Marty Schottenheimer, the heir apparent in Richie Petitbon and even brought back Gibbs himself.

But Mike Shanahan, who seemed ready to surrender at 3-6 and spent the bye week taking lashes from the media and fans after he essentially said so, may have turned in the Redskins' second-best coaching effort of the past two decades.

There's no doubt about No. 1: Gibbs led the Redskins to four straight wins after Sean Taylor's 2007 murder. Greatest coaching job I've ever seen. The team was emotionally devastated, lost its first game afterward to fall to 5-7 and easily could have finished 5-11. Gibbs showed why he already was in the Pro Football Hall of Fame -- how he won three Super Bowls -- by lifting the team spiritually.

It felt like one of those Hollywood win-it-for-the-Gipper moments. Gibbs really thought he was going to win another Super Bowl. So did I before Seattle bounced the Redskins in the first round. Gibbs retired two days later, and the dark age of Zorn arrived.

Shanahan's resurrection of a team that lost to woeful Carolina to fall to 3-6 ranks second. Washington has won six straight since, setting up a game with Dallas on Sunday for the NFC East title. Given that the Redskins have a rookie quarterback and running back, an untested kicker who was signed near midseason (but who has yet to miss) and a secondary that is beyond frustrating, there's no way anyone could expect them to win out. Yet that's what the Redskins are on the verge of doing.

Give Shanahan credit -- he adapted to the personnel he had available after being more inflexible the past two years. Kirk Cousins' stint during Robert Griffin III's absence was remarkable. The offensive line didn't falter against Philadelphia on Sunday even though it was missing one starter and had another hurt. It has been a steady effort from the sidelines.

Gibbs is also responsible for No. 3: The Redskins finished with five straight wins in 2005 and won their first playoff game. The Redskins opened 3-0 that season, then lost six of the next eight games. How he reversed that crew is a mystery, but when Gibbs was rolling, no one was better.

Schottenheimer earns the fourth spot after rallying Washington from 0-5 to 8-8 in 2001 before he was fired. Owner Dan Snyder blew it when he dismissed Schottenheimer in a power move. It haunted the team for four years. Maybe Schottenheimer was a control freak who should have worked more closely with the young owner, but he was a good coach who would have built a playoff team.

There is no No. 5 -- that's how slim the past 21 years have been. Well, partial credit can be given for Zorn's 6-2 start in 2008, Turner's 7-0 start in 1996 and Spurrier's preseason opener in Osaka, Japan.

As much as the Redskins have missed a standout quarterback for many years, they also haven't had a standout coach. Finally, they have both.

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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