“I’ll get a chance to talk to Dan tomorrow,” Shanahan said. “And after I talk to Dan, hopefully I’ll get a chance to talk to you guys, and you guys can ask me all those questions you’ve been wanting to ask me for a while and I’ll get a chance to answer them.”
Shanahan declined to say whether he believed he had coached his final game with the Redskins. But he acknowledged his accountability for the team’s woes this season.
“I thought we’ve done a lot of good things,” he said. “But at the end of the day, you’ve got to win. We weren’t able to do that, and for whatever reason, I’m responsible for that and disappointed we couldn’t get that done.”
There was no official word from the Redskins on Shanahan’s fate. His departure would leave the team in search for its eighth head coach since Snyder purchased the franchise from the Jack Kent Cooke estate in 1999. Snyder’s coaches have been Norv Turner, Terry Robiskie, Marty Schottenheimer, Steve Spurrier, Joe Gibbs, Jim Zorn and Shanahan. Only one of them — Turner — left the Redskins with a combined winning record.
Speculation about Shanahan’s successor has focused on Baylor University’s Art Briles, who coached quarterback Robert Griffin III in college; Super Bowl-winning coaches Jon Gruden and Bill Cowher; former Redskins assistant coach and Pro Football Hall of Fame guard Russ Grimm; former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith; and current NFL offensive coordinators Ken Whisenhunt of San Diego, Greg Roman of San Francisco, Jay Gruden of Cincinnati and Darrell Bevell of Seattle.
But Shanahan’s departure would raise even deeper questions for a once-proud franchise that has had only six winning seasons over the last two decades. His hiring in January 2010 was greeted with expectations that he would bring stability and professionalism to a franchise that for years has often lacked both. Four years later, however, the organization is in disarray and the roster is in need of a major overhaul. His coaching tenure included one glorious late-season surge to an NFC East title a year ago but also three losing seasons and increasingly frayed relationships with Snyder and Griffin. His combined record in Washington is 24-40.
“Obviously it’s something we’ve heard about for a number of weeks now,” linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said in the locker room after the game. “So, I mean, I guess the day was gonna finally come. That’s not to say we know for sure what’s gonna happen or not. But we have a — my guess is as good as anybody’s, really.”
In addition to what are expected to be significant personnel changes, the Redskins also could restructure their front office this offseason. Shanahan had final say over football decisions and General Manager Bruce Allen, an ally of Snyder who is expected to remain, is considered more of a contract negotiator and salary cap manager than talent evaluator. The Redskins potentially could hire an executive under Allen to make decisions on personnel unless they add a coach with enough clout to have final say over all player-related matters.
Shanahan, a two-time Super Bowl winner with the Denver Broncos in the 1990s, declined to answer questions about his legacy with the team and any regrets that he might have. But he did say this was among the most difficult seasons he has had in his coaching career.
“I’ve had a few,” he said. “This is right up there with them. Any time you’re responsible for a football team and you come away with three wins, it’s always disappointing.”
Redskins players continued to defend Shanahan.
“Of course we took a step back, but in my opinion, it has nothing to do with him,” said left tackle Trent Williams, the Redskins’ lone Pro Bowl selection. “He’s gonna take the blame. He’ll say it’s his fault just because that’s the type of man he is. He’s a great coach, and that’s what great coaches do. But us as a team, the players only, we didn’t do what it took to get the job done.”
Shanahan has completed the fourth season of a five-year contract that pays him an estimated $7 million per season. It is believed he would receive the remainder of the money owed to him under his contract if he is fired. He would forfeit that money if he resigns, a move he has said he does not intend to make.
The Redskins would have to pay an estimated $6 million in additional money to members of Shanahan’s coaching staff to dismiss the entire staff because of contracts for some coaches that run beyond this season. But some members of Shanahan’s staff, including secondary coach Raheem Morris, could be candidates to stay.