Week 11 is upon us, and the most important game on the slate features a pair of three-win teams.
What was supposed to be an exciting clash between the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles is instead defined by one gigantic question.
Can Mike Shanahan actually win in Washington?
The Shanahan era has been nothing short of erroneous. The fabled coach with the Hall of Fame résumé was supposed to march into Washington, wave his magic playbook, lead with an iron fist and, alongside general manager Bruce Allen, wipe away the embarrassment of the predictably ill-fated and mocked Jim Zorn-Vinny Cerrato combination.
To his credit, Washington owner Daniel Snyder had finally gotten it right. He'd stopped being meddlesome. He'd hired football people with an actual pedigree (unlike the Zorn and Cerrato comedy act) to run the ship.
So far, it's been a disaster.
Being fair, Allen and Shanahan inherited a mess that demanded a herculean effort to clean up. But the results have been wretched.
In 2010, the Redskins dealt a pair of draft picks, including a second-rounder, to Philadelphia for Donovan McNabb, who was not a good fit for Washington's offense and proceeded to feud with both the coach and his offensive-coordinator son, Kyle Shanahan. As it turned out, McNabb was done as a quarterback. Then, in 2011, the Redskins actually thought they could succeed with John Beck and Rex Grossman under center. Washington won five games.
This year, Washington shocked the world -- and me -- by opening the season with a thunderous road win over the New Orleans Saints behind rookie sensation Robert Griffin III. Fans and Redskins nation immediately -- and rightly -- fell in love.
Since then, however, it's been more of the same, with Washington continuing to resemble Zorn's version of the 'Skins.
The Redskins followed up the win in New Orleans with a letdown on the road against the St. Louis Rams and a loss at home to the Cincinnati Bengals. The Week 7 loss to the New York Giants, in which Eli Manning and RG3 exchanged fourth-quarter touchdowns, was one thing. Getting punched in the mouth by the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 8 was another.
The Redskins hit a new low when the anemic Carolina Panthers stomped into the nation's capital and smoked them in a stunning Week 9 upset, dropping them to 3-6.
After that game, Shanahan conducted a wacky and defeatist news conference in which he talked about "evaluating" and seemed to give up on the season. His players seemed miffed. Shanahan spent last Monday backtracking. But the significant damage was already done.
Shanahan had looked and sounded helpless, like he'd already lost the fight in D.C.
Yes, the 'Skins have been hit with some major and legitimate injuries. Fierce pass rusher Brian Orakpo has been on injured reserve for most of the year. The season is over for Adam Carriker, too. Prized free-agent receiver Pierre Garcon has been nicked up, and he's barely played.
But the Redskins should have more wins. They should be more competitive behind the arm, athleticism, savvy and pure sizzle of RG3, and with the development of rookie running back Alfred Morris, who has become the perfect fit for Shanahan's system.
Shanahan hasn't quite taken charge like he did when he coached the Denver Broncos. The old Shanahan would've cut cornerback DeAngelo Hall for intimidating, challenging and being disrespectful to a ref in Pittsburgh. The league fined Hall, who should've been suspended, $30,000. Shanahan could've scored major points in the locker room by axing the sideshow clown.
Enter the Eagles this weekend. Philly makes Washington look like the 1972 Dolphins. The Eagles are a rudderless outfit with no leadership, no pulse and no hope. Eagles coach Andy Reid is done at the end of the year. Rookie quarterback Nick Foles is on track to make his first NFL start in place of injured veteran Mike Vick. The defense is an embarrassment.
I've always believed one wouldn't truly place Shanahan on the hot seat until after the 2013 season. Finally, after years of searching, the Washington Redskins have a franchise quarterback in RG3, who was worth the two first-round draft picks it took to obtain him. He's a perfect fit for the system. The Shanahans, in theory, are perfect for him. The Redskins wouldn't want to mess him up by constantly changing the offense.
But at some point, Shanahan needs to win some games. The team needs to perform. Shanahan needs to resemble the coach we saw in Denver, the coach he was hired to be.
So far, the Shanahan regime has been a failure.
I think the 'Skins will win on Sunday. They should.
If they don't, I wonder when they can. Where's the evidence they can turn it around?
Follow Adam Schein on Twitter @AdamSchein.