Mike Shanahan challenges Dave Owens to find the leaker

December 9, 2013

(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

For the second time in recent weeks, a strongly written but anonymously sourced report, coming from a national media outlet, made pretty startling claims about stuff that goes on inside Redskins Park shortly before a Redskins game.

The first time — when NFL.com’s Mike Silver reported that RGIII didn’t want his bad film shown in team meetings — fans speculated about the source on Twitter and message boards, but I didn’t see the mainstream media join in.

This time — when ESPN.com’s Dan Graziano reported that Mike Shanahan considered quitting at the end of 2012 — media members named names. ESPN 980′s Chris Russell, for example, said on air that he was 99 percent sure the source was Shanahan himself. And Peter King made a similar suggestion on MMQB:

I now do not wonder whether Shahanan will get a contract extension in Washington. I now wonder whether he’ll be working for Snyder at the end of Monday. There is no question Snyder will think the ESPN story was borne of the close relationship between Shanahan and Adam Schefter of ESPN, no matter what Shanahan tells him. Won’t be long before Snyder’s looking for the eighth coach of his stormy tenure.

Of course, through 25 awkward minutes on Monday, media members at Shanahan’s weekly press conference attempted to probe such matters. WUSA’s Dave Owens probed hardest, if you will.

Owens has had awkward interactions with Shanahan at least three weeks in a row — see here, here and here. But this was the most uncomfortable. Not sure if the transcript does it justice, but here it is.

Owens: “Mike, you talked about how you’re in love with this football team, and certainly there were players yesterday that supported you as well. Does it boggle your mind, then, where this information is coming from? I mean, if there’s this love going around, WHO is talking? WHERE are they coming from? WHO is this? I mean, we’re sitting here talking about this stuff and not football.”

Shanahan: “Well, why don’t you find out, and then you can tell me? Because I’m pretty busy with football. But I’ve got to answer these questions.”

Owens: “Because I’m not the coach of the Washington Redskins.”

Shanahan: “I know, but you can find that information and tell me where it’s coming from.”

Owens: “What would that do? I mean, I’m asking you. I mean, I think it’s a fair question, to ask you that question. I mean, this is stuff that is detrimental to the process, I would think. As we talked earlier, your football team is trying to get ready to go play a football game with all of this stuff swirling. I would think you or anybody else would want to know, where is this stuff coming from? I mean, there’s so much love going on. WHERE is it coming from and why can’t we make this thing stop so we can go try and win a football game? That’s all I’m asking, coach.”

Shanahan: “Ok. We’re 3-10. That’s what happens when you’re 3-10. We can’t talk about the playoffs. We can’t talk about our draft choice; we don’t have a first-round draft choice. We’re going to talk about something. And normally that occurs after a winning season. I’m sure something like this is happening in different markets across the country, when you have those type of expectations.”

Of course, there was also this, from earlier in the afternoon. First Owens said the appearance of such reports would lead fans to assume that there is a fracture somewhere in the organization.

“Well, first of all, I’m not going to go into detail about my conversation with Dan,” Shanahan said.”I’m not going to go into detail about our relationship. All I’m saying to you is I get along with Dan quite well. He’s been a very supportive owner. And hopefully I can win for him.”

“So that thought process would be wrong?” Owens asked. “The thought that the relationship is not fractured would be wrong. The thought that all the things that we’re hearing, those things are wrong, those reports are wrong. Is that kind of what you’re saying?”

“No,” Shanahan noted. “You heard what I said.”

Dan Steinberg writes about all things DC sports at the DC Sports Bog.
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Dan Steinberg | December 9, 2013