We introduce a model to describe the wide shear zones observed in modified Couette cell experiments with granular material. The model is a generalization of the recently proposed approach based on a variational principle. The instantaneous shear band is identified with the surface that minimizes the dissipation in a random potential that is biased by the local velocity difference and pressure. The apparent shear zone is the ensemble average of the instantaneous shear bands. The numerical simulation of this model matches excellently with experiments and has measurable predictions.