There is a common ground that I'm seeing amongst the Redskins faithful... It's that the head coach shouldn't also be the GM. There are many valid reasons for that logic, none more than he has no one to really answer to. This is a great point in my eyes. Who does a head coach, that's also a GM, answer to? Generally, that would be the owner... But our owner has gotten into a bit of hot water with the fanbase amd is attempting to stay out of football matters, and on top of that he all but guaranteed Shanahan five years (which he can absolutely go back on, that's the beauty of being the owner, I suppose).
But the overwhelming majority around here does indeed suggest that the route to go is to have a GM and head coach that are separate. Which I'm not sure I agree or disagree with. But I do see both sides of the coin.
By having a general manager involved with the head coach, you essentially divide power amongst them. But when you do that, you often put the head coach in a poor spot with guys on his roster that he never wanted. Sometimes, that's a good thing, sometimes, it's not. The positive in the GM > Coach set up is that you can absolutely hold the coach accountable for their actions while still maintaining some semblence of order in the franchise. The negative of the GM > Coach relationship is that the coach can be outvoted.
Take for example the New England Patriots. Bob Kraft didn't let Parcells "shop for the groceries" as Parcells puts it so Parcells left. They hired Pete Carroll to run the team, but he wasn't given full power. He split it with Bobby Grier (VP player personnel) and COO Andy Wasynczuk. Kraft now admits that to be an error.
When Carroll returned to Seattle, he insisted he get the keys to the kingdom or he wouldn't join the organization, and Paul Allen obliged. It's worked out for Seattle thus far. Carroll's Seattle teams have had fairly subpar offenses as a whole in his three year tenure, but there has been a ton of improvement on the field.
2008: 4-12 (Holmgren)
2009: 5-11 (Mara)
2010: 7-9 (Carroll)
2011: 7-9 (Carroll)
2012: 5-4 (Carroll)
Furthermore, their defense rankings skyrocketed. (Pts/Yards)
2008: 25/30 (Holmgren)
2009: 25/24 (Mara)
2010: 25/27 (Carroll)
2011: 7/9 (Carroll)
2012: 3/4 (Carroll)
And we all know what happened with the Patriots when Bob Kraft learned from his error... He hired Belichick and gave him full control. And they won. Super Bowls.
But what worked in New England, and looks like it's panning out in Seattle, doesn't necessarily have to work in D.C. But that also doesn't mean a head coach power structure can't work in D.C., either.
Thus far, it would be a lie to say we've gotten off to a good start with Shanahan. It's been rocky, and whether he's here or not our front office needs to decide the structure in which we go forward with. But let's also keep in mind, we've had many different front office structures in Snyder's tenure. We had Marty/Vinny, Gibbs/Pretty Much Everyone, Zorn/Vinny/Snyder and now Shanahan with full control.
I think a coach having full control is a great strategy. They need to be able to pick their staff and their personnel, so long as they are capable when it comes to personnel. A young coach may be aided by having a personnel guy there to help guide him, while still allowing the coach to shop for his own groceries.
I'm not sure, just like with all things football related, there is a right or wrong answer. I think it depends on where you are and who you are. And those are the kinds of decisions ownership must make and stick to. But I will say this: The Head Coach = General Manager approach has worked, many times. Just because it's not working right now doesn't mean it can't succeed in Washington.