He then cryptically offered a picture of the possible changes that might be in store if he does return. He dropped Gary Kubiak's name twice, stoking questions that there might be a new offensive coordinator. He also said that Robert Griffin III is ''clearly'' the starting quarterback but would welcome ''legitimate competition'' from Kirk Cousins.
Just another day in the world of the Redskins.
Shanahan said Monday it was ''accurate'' that he doesn't plan to quit after what will be his third losing season in four years. The Redskins (3-11) have lost six straight, and the coach has one year remaining on his five-year, $35 million contract.
However, he reiterated that his fate won't be determined until he and owner Dan Snyder meet at the end of the season and discuss their views about the direction of the franchise.
''All we can do at the end of the season is communicate,'' Shanahan said. ''And I think we have that type of relationship where we can talk and be honest to each other.''
One possibility is the Shanahan returns with a new set of coordinators. Defensive coordinator Jim Haslett could surely be on the bubble, given the way the defense has performed, but a change on the other side had seemed improbable because the coach's son, Kyle Shanahan, is the offensive coordinator.
Yet Kyle Shanahan last week sounded like someone pitching himself for a new job and expressed annoyance that people ''always put an 's' on the last name of the 'Shanahans''' when discussing the Redskins, a first possible hint that the father-son experiment had run its course.
Mike Shanahan gave a rambling answer Monday when asked about his coordinators and mentioned Kubiak, who was the coach's longtime offensive coordinator with the Denver Broncos and who is out of work - having been recently fired by the Houston Texans.
''It doesn't matter if Gary Kubiak is my offensive coordinator, Mike Heimerdinger, Jim Haslett - a coordinator's a coordinator,'' Shanahan said. ''They've got a job to do. And they're going to do it. If they don't do it, then the chances are they're not going to be a coordinator for long. That has nothing to do with anybody in particular. But they've got some autonomy there in relative to their position, if it's Jim, if it's Kyle - obviously I get involved with all the football matters, and I will be heavily involved on both sides.''
Mike Shanahan also named Kubiak and Haslett as examples of people who might have connections to the people have leaking various stories about the Redskins in recent weeks.
Then there's the question of the quarterback dynamic if Mike Shanahan returns. With Griffin benched for the rest of the year, Cousins threw for 381 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions in Sunday's 27-26 loss to the Atlanta Falcons. That's more yards than Griffin has tallied in any of 28 starts, and Cousins' better pocket presence was evident as he took only one sack and led scoring drives late in both halves before an incomplete pass on a 2-point conversion attempt in the final minute settled the game.
The coach cautioned that it was Cousins' first start of the season - ''Let's not get carried away with one game,'' he said - but he walked a fine line when discussing the quarterback situation for next season.
''The thing that you want on your football team is that you want competition, legitimate competition,'' Mike Shanahan said. ''The better players you have, the more people compete. When you look behind your shoulder and you know that guy's pretty good, it makes you work a little bit harder.
''Robert is clearly our starting quarterback ... I think Robert's got a lot of confidence in himself and he should,'' the coach added. ''He's got all the ability in the world and he will get better and better every day. And I think that's one of the reasons why we decided to not play him for the last three games. We wanted him to go into the offseason fully healthy.''
Notes: Rookie TE Jordan Reed, the team's second leading receiver, is still experiencing headaches from the concussion he suffered Nov. 17 against Philadelphia. Reed missed his fourth consecutive game Sunday. ... FB Darrel Young aggravated his hamstring injury and could be sidelined again for next week's game against Dallas.
AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org
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- Robert Griffin III