Shanahan's History Indicates Anything Could Happen with Alfred Morris in 2013

Brad Gagnon NFL National ColumnistSeptember 6, 2013

September 30, 2012; Tampa, FL, USA; Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan and running back Alfred Morris (46) prior to the game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Alfred Morris had one hell of a rookie season. The Washington Redskins' sixth-round pick finished second in the NFL in rushing yards, second in rushing touchdowns and fourth in yards per attempt among backs with at least 200 carries. 

Morris is a driven 24-year-old who, by all indications, had a very productive first full offseason as well, so on the surface you'd be crazy not to believe he'll continue to flourish in his sophomore season. 

From the very start of his career in Washington, the good news for Morris has been that he was drafted by Mike Shanahan and the Redskins. That Shanahan zone-blocking scheme never seems to fail and has turned a lot of late-round picks into stars. 

The problem, though, is that Shanahan's backs rarely actually string together multiple successful seasons. Often, it's on to the next one, just like that. 

And so there's at least a chance that Morris will evaporate from the league of extraordinary running backs as quickly as—or quicker than—he arrived. 

Terrell Davis has really been Shanahan's only long-term success story. Only Barry Sanders ran for more yards than Davis between 1995 and 1998, but even he peaked at the age of 26 and never ran for more than 800 yards again. 

Olandis Gary came from nowhere to finish second among rookie backs in rushing under Shanahan in 1999. But Gary could only muster 839 yards over the next four years before his career came to an unceremonious end.

Sixth-round pick Mike Anderson led all rookie backs with a 1,487-yard, 15-touchdown campaign in 2000, but he'd run for only 1,321 yards and nine scores the next three years combined. 

Clinton Portis had one hell of a career, but even his numbers sunk after he was traded from the Denver Broncos prior to his third season. 

Tatum Bell disappeared as quickly as he arrived, as did Mike Bell. And don't forget that Evan Royster and Roy Helu were both big hits for short spurts under Shanahan in 2011. 

The point is, in the world of running backs, and especially in Shanahan's world of running backs, the baton can be passed abruptly and when you least expect it. Helu's the third-down back, but maybe it'll actually be his turn to shine for a whole season this time.

Or maybe, Chris Thompson will shock the world. As a rookie late-round pick, he meets the Shanahan sudden stardom criteria. 

It wouldn't even take a bad break or an injury. Just one poor performance from Morris and one big one from either of those guys could shift the backfield outlook in D.C. It's a cruel reality, and it's something that Redskins fans and fantasy football peeps should consider going forward.

Is Alfred Morris the next Terrell Davis or another Olandis Gary or Mike Anderson? Stay tuned.