But Shanahan appears to have righted the ship in Year 3. Drafting Robert Griffin III managed to be both a no-brainer and a brilliant bit of opportunism by the entire operation.
A much-less heralded draft pick also paying big dividends is running back Alfred Morris. A sixth-round steal, Morris delivered yet another strong performance in Sunday's 24-22 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. His 113-yard effort should lock up a starting job for a guy who was viewed as little more than an insurance policy two months ago.
"I never would have expected for all of this to happen so soon," Morris told ESPN.com's Dan Graziano during a Monday phone conversation. "But life's crazy. Some other guys got nicked and bruised, and I got the opportunity to show the coaches what I could do, and they liked it."
Morris played college ball at Florida Atlantic, serving as the primary ball carrier on a team that went 1-11. Scouts saw a plodder who practically had "FULLBACK" stamped on his forehead.
Shanahan saw differently. Morris fit his vision as a running back who can make one cut and head upfield. Morris humorously says that negative rushes represent one of his "pet peeves."
Through four games, Morris' 376 yards rushing leads all rookies. According to the Elias Sports Bureau (via The Washington Post) Morris and Griffin became the first pair of rookie teammates in NFL history to rush for four touchdowns each in their team's first four games.
It appears Shanahan might know what he's doing, after all.