Generally, every coach — let alone a two-time Super Bowl winner like Shanahan — would want an extension before the final year of a contract. It would be surprising if Shanahan agreed to let things play out during a lame-duck season. What’s more likely is that Shanahan would push for a new deal in the offseason, forcing Snyder to make a huge decision. For the Redskins’ sake, Snyder should either commit to Shanahan beyond next season or fire him with a year left on his contract.
Fact is, having job security is essential for coaches to maintain command of the locker room. When owners back coaches with their wallets, players notice. They also pay attention when owners take a wait-and-see approach with the guys they’re expected to follow.
Shanahan knows this. The last thing he would want is to begin next season with his job status hanging over the Redskins. If Shanahan returns without an extension, it would be the type of distraction that could torpedo the team’s season before it starts.
From the first day of training camp, Shanahan’s contract situation would be the biggest Redskins story. Each time the team lost, speculation would intensify about Shanahan possibly being fired. As part of their daily to-do list, reporters who cover the team would question players about Shanahan’s status.
The Redskins failed in that poisonous working environment under Shanahan’s predecessor, Jim Zorn. Early in Zorn’s second season, it became clear he wouldn’t return for a third. Figuring Zorn wouldn’t be around after the 2009 season, players tuned him out. There was chaos in the organization and it showed on the field: the Redskins went 4-12. That’s not a sound way to run a football team.
With Shanahan’s arrival, the Redskins finally got on the right path. He brought stability to one of the NFL’s most unstable organizations. Snyder — whose team has had seven head coaches in his 15 years as owner — stepped aside while Shanahan directed the football operation. Last season, the Redskins won their first NFC East title in 13 years.
At Shanahan’s direction, the Redskins stopped chasing other teams’ stars and began drafting and developing their own. They’ve made smart moves in free agency instead of big ones. Shanahan is most responsible for the Redskins’ grown-up approach to roster building. Shanahan built his reputation on offense, and the Redskins had the league’s most balanced and dynamic offense a season ago.