Washington Redskins-Mike Shanahan standoff: Team could attempt to withhold remaining money due under his contract if they fire him

December 9, 2013
The Post's Mike Jones says Dan Snyder has decisions to make regarding Mike Shanahan's future, but Art Briles is not the answer. (Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

The Washington Redskins were sorting through their options Monday regarding Coach Mike Shanahan and one of the possibilities is firing Shanahan for cause and attempting to withhold the money due to him for the remainder of his contract, according to multiple people familiar with the situation.

One person familiar with the matter said it was not clear what the team would do and added it was not certain the Redskins would take that approach even if they decide to dismiss Shanahan. According to this person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic, there were “a number of things on the table.”

Several people with knowledge of the situation agreed it is likely that Shanahan and the Redskins will part ways by the end of the season, at the latest. The major remaining uncertainty, these people said, is how and when the divorce between Shanahan and the team will be crafted.

Shanahan’s contract runs through next season and pays him approximately $7 million per year. It is believed that under normal circumstances, the Redskins would owe Shanahan the remainder of his contract if they fire him and he would forfeit the rest of his contract if he resigns.

But if the Redskins fire him for cause, they could contend that Shanahan violated his contract and therefore forfeited his right to the money due to him under the deal, according to those people with knowledge of the matter. The Redskins likely would contend that Shanahan was involved in the dissemination of a report Sunday by ESPN that he considered quitting his job after last season because of the relationship between team owner Daniel Snyder and quarterback Robert Griffin III, according to those people.

Shanahan would have the ability to challenge such a tactic by the Redskins via a grievance. One person familiar with NFL legal matters said he didn’t know if the Redskins would take such an approach with Shanahan but they would face a difficult task in proving such a case.

Another person familiar with the matter said the Redskins could take such an approach in a bid to create some leverage in dealings with Shanahan and then attempt to negotiate a settlement with him. That person said it’s also possible that the Redskins instead will keep Shanahan for the remainder of the season and try to wait him out, seeing if he will resign and free the team from the obligation of paying him for next season.

“It could become a stare-down over the money,” said this person, who added that team officials were being guarded Monday about what they would do.

The Redskins did not respond to requests for comment on the issue and Shanahan was not immediately available to address the topic. He is scheduled to speak to media members Monday afternoon at Redskins Park.

Mike Shanahan could be parting ways with Robert Griffin III and the Redskins by the end of the season at the latest (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)
Mike Shanahan could be parting ways with Robert Griffin III and the Redskins by the end of the season at the latest. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

Members of Shanahan’s coaching staff were said to be going about their business Monday as if they will coach Sunday’s game at Atlanta.

The Redskins’ 45-10 loss Sunday to the Kansas City Chiefs dropped their record to 3-10. They are 24-37 in four seasons under Shanahan, a two-time Super Bowl-winning coach for the Denver Broncos.

Shanahan removed Griffin from the late stages of Sunday’s game, going to second-year backup Kirk Cousins. Shanahan declined to say after the game whether Griffin or Cousins will be this week’s starter.

Shanahan refused to answer questions Sunday about his relationship with Snyder and his job status. Several people familiar with the situation said Sunday that members of the team’s management were angry about the ESPN report and questioned the timing and motivation behind it, believing that Shanahan might have been involved as part of an attempt to leave his job and pursue a head coaching opportunity elsewhere. Some speculation has linked him to the Houston Texans’ head coaching vacancy but the Houston Chronicle reported that Shanahan will not be a candidate.

Have a Redskins question? E-mail Mike Jones at mike.jones@washpost.com with the subject line “Mailbag question” for him to answer it in The Mailbag on Tuesdays.

What’s ahead:

● Mike Shanahan is expected to meet with members of the media at 3 p.m.

More from The Post:

Five observations on the state of the Redskins

Off-field drama wearing on Griffin | Players take the blame

Snyder’s relationship with Shanahan might be beyond repair

Reid: Shanahan’s days are numbered | Boswell: D.C. deserves neither

Bog: Six questions Shanahan wouldn’t answer | Wilbon called this | More

Mark Maske covers the NFL for The Washington Post.
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