Mike Shanahan's return? Why the carousel could spin his way

Mike Shanahan went 24-40 with the Redskins, his last head-coaching stop. (Peter Morgan/AP)

The following item is excerpted from the Week 17 edition of Albert Breer's exclusive Inside the NFL Notebook:

Earlier in the week, I put together a list of guys who could land head-coaching jobs in the coming weeks -- and I included Mike Holmgren, because he's quietly made it known he has eyes for the 49ers job.

How about the guy who succeeded him as 49ers offensive coordinator back in the 1990s?

It seems clear that Mike Shanahan still has the itch to get back on the sideline. And last year, he interviewed well enough in San Francisco to make CEO Jed York, according to sources, very seriously consider hiring him for the job that went to Jim Tomsula. He's 63, so that's a concern. Another would be the kind of staff he'd bring aboard. And his tenure in Washington didn't end on the best terms. But a closer examination of the roster shows he hardly left the cupboard there bare.

Shanahan had reservations about the Robert Griffin III trade that he expressed to the team's brass, and he didn't do a bad job building the team around that. One major reason he was fired was because he told upper management he wanted to go with Kirk Cousins as his quarterback -- and that belief in Cousins has certainly been validated. His first two first-round picks (Trent Williams, Ryan Kerrigan) were handsomely rewarded with second contracts this past summer. And he brought aboard foundational pieces like Pierre Garcon, Jordan Reed, Kory Lichtensteiger and Alfred Morris.

To be sure, general manager Scot McCloughan and coach Jay Gruden deserve all the credit in the world for getting Washington back not just to respectability, but the playoffs. Still, if you look at the players left behind there, and also in Denver in 2009, it's easy to see that Shanahan's work wasn't exactly all bad. And on a market that won't be overflowing with bona fide candidates, it's easy to see where Shanahan could be an interesting option for a team that's willing to hire an older guy, like Arizona did in 2013 and Minnesota did in 2014.

Follow Albert Breer on Twitter @AlbertBreer.

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