The Washington Redskins launched a search for a new head coach Monday after the inevitable became official when they fired Mike Shanahan following a four-year stay that produced one NFC East title last season but, more recently, mounting losses and increasing discord.
Shanahan exited after a morning meeting at Redskins Park with owner Daniel Snyder and General Manager Bruce Allen, and Allen said at an afternoon news conference that the team would begin its search for Shanahan’s successor Monday night.
“We’re gonna try and do this as quickly as possible,” Allen said. “But more importantly we want to do it correctly.”
Allen also said he would now have final say over all player-related decisions such as the draft, free agency and contracts, power that has been held by Shanahan in his capacity as executive vice president. The announcement signaled there would be no major front office restructuring with Shanahan’s departure, although Allen did not rule out adding another executive to the front-office mix.
“The control will be mine and it will be working with our personnel department,” Allen said. “Obviously when we have a new head coach, there will be some schematic adjustments that we will make. But that power will be with me.”
The Redskins began sorting through a list of candidates that apparently includes former Chicago Bears coach Lovie Smith and former Pittsburgh Steelers coach Bill Cowher. One person familiar with the situation said Smith is a legitimate candidate for the Redskins’ vacancy but added it is not yet known where Smith ranks in comparison to other potential candidates. Smith already has interviewed for the Houston Texans’ coaching vacancy and has been mentioned as a potential leading candidate for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
There have been reports that the Redskins already have been in contact with Cowher. One person who has worked with Cowher said Monday, however, that he “would be surprised if he coached anywhere this year.”
Other potential candidates for the Redskins include college coaches such as Baylor’s Art Briles, Stanford’s David Shaw and Kevin Sumlin of Texas A&M; former Redskins guard and longtime NFL assistant Russ Grimm; former NFL coach Jon Gruden; and current NFL assistants Jay Gruden and Hue Jackson of Cincinnati, Ken Whisenhunt of San Diego, Greg Roman of San Francisco, Darrell Bevell of Seattle and Todd Bowles of Arizona.
The team will be hiring its eighth head coach since Snyder purchased the franchise in 1999. Allen said the job, in his view, remains attractive even with the Redskins coming off a 3-13 season. “I think coming into this environment, knowing that there is a nucleus, I think that it’ll be a very attractive position to coaches,” Allen said.
In addition to Allen, the Redskins front office hierarchy includes Morocco Brown, the director of pro personnel who oversees evaluation of free agents and other NFL players, and Scott Campbell, the director of player personnel who is in charge of scouting college players for the draft.
The Redskins on Monday also fired a group of assistant coaches that included Shanahan’s son, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, and special teams coach Keith Burns. They did not immediately dismiss another group of assistants that included defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, secondary coach Raheem Morris and offensive line coach Chris Foerster. The team’s next head coach will determine the status of those assistants, Allen said.
Allen said he and Snyder had a “cordial, professional meeting” with Shanahan. Allen said it was “near 99 percent” certain after the Redskins’ loss to the Dallas Cowboys in their second-to-last game of the season on Dec. 22 that Shanahan would be ousted. But he coached the season finale, Sunday’s loss to the New York Giants, because it was determined that gave the Redskins the best chance to win the game, according to Allen.
Snyder did not appear with Allen but issued a written statement. “Redskins fans deserve a better result,” he said. “We thank Mike for his efforts on behalf of the Redskins. We will focus on what it takes to build a winning team, and my pledge to this organization and to this community is to continue to commit the resources and talent necessary to put this team back in the playoffs.”
Shanahan had one season remaining on a five-year contract worth an estimated $7 million per season. He is to receive the full amount of money owed to him for next season under the terms of his contract, according to a person familiar with the situation.
Shanahan spoke to reporters for just less than five minutes at the team’s headquarters in Ashburn soon after his firing was announced. He did not take questions but thanked the team’s fans, Snyder, his players and media members.
He said he believes he leaves the team in better shape than it was in when he arrived in January 2010. He cited the expiration of the two-year, $36 million salary cap penalty imposed by the NFL last year for the manner in which the team structured players’ contracts during the sport’s season without a salary cap in 2010.
Shanahan said the cap reduction prevented the Redskins from adding some of the players they’d targeted to obtain, particularly on defense. He said he was proud that the team captured the division crown last season with the salary cap penalty in effect.
“So when you take a look at that, a lot has been done,” Shanahan said. “But any time you take a look at some of the cap situations that we went through, it’s always tough to have depth. And that’s what I thought really hurt us this year, was depth on our special teams, depth on our defense. We didn’t have the speed that we had a year ago.”
As word of Shanahan’s dismissal broke, Redskins players trickled in and out of the locker room to gather their belongings and depart for the offseason. Most stated their regrets that they hadn’t managed to save Shanahan’s job, and their season.
“I think 99.9 percent of [the blame] — none of these coaches played a down this year — it’s all on us,” linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said.
Quarterback Robert Griffin III declined to speak to reporters when approached at his locker, but later in the day, he gave a statement via conference call with reporters.
He explained that he hadn’t spoken in the morning because he didn’t want to comment until speaking with Shanahan. The two have clashed for much of the year.
“Coach Shanahan has taught me a lot in the last two years of being with him,” Griffin said. I want to thank him for drafting me to the Washington Redskins and giving me the chance to live out my dreams.” Griffin also thanked Kyle Shanahan and quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur, who was also let go Monday.
“We did a lot of great things together, and I wish all three of them the best in the future,” he said.
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