The Redskins-Shanahan marriage begins with great promise

Mike Shanahan, who won two Super Bowls as head coach of the Denver Broncos. is Daniel Snyder's choice to coach the Washington Redskins.
By Barry Svrluga
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 7, 2010

When new Washington Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan emerged from a door and entered an auditorium Wednesday afternoon at the team's Ashburn training facility, he joined General Manager Bruce Allen in heading for a table adorned with two burgundy Redskins helmets. All the elements of Redskins introductory news conferences past were there: owner Daniel Snyder, the television cameras broadcasting live, the former players milling in the background.

Absent, though, were the Redskins' three Super Bowl trophies -- symbols of the franchise's best days, but clearly, in a new era, meant to be part of the past. Shanahan, who signed a five-year deal to coach the team Tuesday night and was introduced Wednesday, has won two Super Bowl trophies of his own, and the message upon his arrival was unmistakable: His intention is to add to his total, and to that of his new franchise, in Washington, where such success came a generation ago.

"I want to thank Dan for the opportunity to be his head football coach," Shanahan said, looking at Snyder, who did not address the gathering and sat in the front row of the packed room. "I promise you, I won't disappoint you. I'm going to give you everything I got.

"One of the reasons that I am here is that I've never met a guy that is more positive, more passionate about the Washington Redskins. His desire to do things the right way, to give me every opportunity to be successful -- that doesn't happen very often in the NFL, where you go to a place and that person is going to give you every chance to win the Super Bowl. That's why we're in this game."

Shanahan is the seventh coach in Snyder's 11-year tenure as owner, and the Redskins haven't truly been in the mix for a championship during that time. The last of the Redskins' three Super Bowl titles came after the 1991 season, and Shanahan, who replaces the fired Jim Zorn, won his with the Denver Broncos following the 1997 and '98 seasons. He was given the titles of executive vice president and coach -- joining Allen, who was hired last month as executive vice president and general manager -- in the franchise's radically different leadership structure.

"We were looking for a man who was passionate about football," Allen said, "passionate about the Redskins' history, someone who had a good winning record, and someone who could lead our team on and off the field, lead our coaches on and off the field to the greatest heights. Ladies and gentlemen, we got our man."

Publicly, the key figures said the machinations of the deal, reportedly worth $7 million annually, worked quickly. Allen said he called Shanahan on Sunday night, shortly after the Redskins lost their season finale in San Diego to finish 4-12. Allen fired Zorn in a brief meeting before sunrise Monday. By that afternoon, Shanahan had landed at Dulles International Airport, and Snyder, Allen and Shanahan met into the night at Snyder's Potomac home. By Tuesday evening, the principles were dining at the Palm in Tysons Corner, celebrating.

"This was a very easy process," said Sandy Montag, Shanahan's agent. "This was not a hard deal to do."

Throughout the NFL this past season, there has been the impression that Shanahan was in the process of becoming Washington's coach, particularly after Zorn's fate became apparent. Wednesday, Shanahan said he and Snyder established a relationship a decade ago, when they met at a Pro Bowl. They frequently spoke at NFL owners' meetings, Shanahan said, and "talked pretty consistently over the last 10 years."

Shanahan denied meeting Snyder in Denver, where Snyder's private plane flew after a Sept. 27 loss at Detroit. But the conversations between current owner and prospective coach continued, even as Zorn's team struggled.

"We did talk throughout the year, like we have over the last 10 years," Shanahan said. "Like I said, that guy is the most passionate -- has more passion for this organization than anybody I've ever seen."

Allen, too, said he kept in touch with Shanahan over the course of last offseason, after Allen had been fired as the general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Shanahan had been fired by the Broncos. Allen and Shanahan knew each other from years of competing in the AFC West, where Allen served as an executive with the Raiders. Later, when Allen was in Tampa Bay, he worked with Shanahan's son Kyle, then an assistant with the Bucs, who will become the Redskins' offensive coordinator.

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