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Sam Huff column: Shanahan is back

Sam Huff was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1982. Huff, a Middleburg resident, played in the National Football League from 1956 through 1969 as a linebacker with the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins.

At the beginning of the National Football League season, I wrote a column for the Loudoun Times Mirror titled, “A Winning Season” about the realities, the necessary structure and major influences involved in producing that winning season. There is always a little luck that can make a tremendous difference, but in an entire season, luck will not take you there – not all the way. 

When the season starts, every NFL team aims for the Super Bowl, or at least for the playoffs. Getting there is difficult. It takes an exceptionally talented team that has excellent teamwork, the hottest hands around the league and great coaching to realize that final victory. However, there are 32 exceptionally talented teams in the NFL, all of which at the beginning of the season want that ultimate win, the Super Bowl. 

As far as the players are concerned, no one makes it onto any NFL team without being exceptionally talented. The selection process is exacting, and when the final cuts are made, when the team rosters are formed for each season, luck is not usually a major factor. The football players who make the final cut have had years of practice and experience behind them, or they would not be there. Sure, some are cut that may have been better than some of those who make the teams, but most of the time, the coaches know their business. Their job depends on picking the right player for the right position. 

I was almost caught in the situation of being misplaced. If Tom Landry, the defensive coach for the New York Giants at the time I played for the team, had not moved me to middle linebacker, I might have gone home to West Virginia and never had an NFL career. Tom Landry knew what the team needed. I fit the position, and that position changed my life. Landry and the offensive coach at the time, Vince Lombardi, both went on to set a standard for NFL coaching that is legendary. They both knew how to produce a winning season, and they both had many because they knew how to use the talents the team‘s players had. 

The Redskins just had a winning season. It takes a great deal of money to put that NFL team on the field for the first kickoff and keep it there for the season. Dan Snyder, who owns the Redskins, did his part. General Manager Bruce Allen did his part.

The Redskins’ Executive Vice President and Head Coach Mike Shanahan has done it again. He has produced another winning season, something he has done many times before. Before he came to the Redskins, he won back-to-back Super Bowls, XXXII and XXXIII. Only six NFL coaches have done that, and only 13 have won two Super Bowls. He had risen to the top by substantial and consistent improvements wherever he has coached. He’s been part of teams that played in 10 AFC or NFC Championships games and he has coached in six Super Bowls. That’s great coaching. 

This year, the Redskins had Bruce Allen, who is a brilliant general manager, had an excellent team that worked exceptionally well together, had those unusually hot hands and had an experienced and exceptionally knowledgeable coach, Mike Shanahan. The combination produced the “Beast of the East.” Even though we did not win Sunday against Seattle, we had a fantastic season.



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