Shanahan's future with Redskins shrouded in mystery

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

ASHBURN, Va. -- As the sun set here Monday, more than dark of night shrouded the Washington Redskins and the future of Mike Shanahan, who technically is in the fourth year of his five-year, $35 million contract as the team's executive vice president/head coach.

In reality, there are many who wonder whether he is in the final moments with the Redskins and that owner Daniel Snyder may cut the cord any second.

However, despite stories that were suspiciously leaked Sunday about Shanahan almost leaving late last season because he disliked Snyder's way of dealing with quarterback Robert Griffin III, there is a chance these two may stay together until the end of the season. That may only be due to the fact that the team cannot find a way to fire him without paying his remaining year's pay -- $7 million.

According to a report in the Washington Post, team officials may be looking into their ability to fire Shanahan for cause, -- which would be based on his being involved in disseminating the story about almost leaving last year. That might violate terms of his contract, but the team would need to prove Shanahan was linked to the release of the story, and he would still have the ability to contest such an accusation.

If any of this is true, it demonstrates the level of dysfunction and distrust to which the relationship between Shanahan and Snyder has fallen. One of the few motives for getting such a story circulated would be to show Shanahan wanted out of the relationship even before Snyder wanted to fire him, analogous to a teen romance

Shanahan, who did little to quell suspicions by refusing to confirm or deny the story, went through the motions well enough to get through another day on the job Monday. He at least pretended to address questions about his desire to stay with the team.

"You always want to come back," Shanahan said. "I love these (players). They know that they're going to get my best shot over the next three games and I'm hoping I get their best shot."

That certainly wasn't the case in Sunday's 45-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, the most lopsided defeat of Shanahan's four seasons and Washington's worst loss in more than six years.

A day after declining to discuss his relationship with Snyder, Shanahan said he met Monday with the owner, saying, "I get along with Dan quite well. He's been a very supportive owner and I hope I can win for him."

But perhaps not with Griffin at quarterback. Shanahan said that he is seriously contemplating sitting him for the remaining three games because that might be best for the organization after the pass protection surrendered 25 sacks during the past five games. Shanahan said that if last year's record-setting Offensive Rookie of the Year was injured again, it "would set our franchise back. ... Hopefully, Robert will understand why we're doing it (if we do)."

Griffin was pulled before Washington's first series of the fourth quarter Sunday with the Redskins behind 45-10 and after he had been sacked five times in 31 drop-backs. But when asked if he had any doubt that he would remain the starter, Griffin said, "No. That's not an issue."

Shanahan said that he told Snyder, "I don't need to be (Griffin's) best friend."

Indeed, but being benched for whatever reason surely won't sit well with Griffin, whom Shanahan indulged by letting him keep playing against the Seahawks when he was obviously hurt in the playoffs last year. The subsequent, more serious damage wasn't just to Griffin's right knee, but to their relationship and apparently will soon culminate in the seventh coaching change during Snyder's 15 seasons in command.

After the surprising 10-6 record in 2012, the Redskins retained 21 of 22 starters during the offseason. Their only important loss was Pro Bowl special teams coverage ace Lorenzo Alexander.

The Redskins were without a first-round draft pick this year and will be without one the next two years as well, thanks to the trade with St. Louis for the pick that became Griffin. However, tight end Jordan Reed, whom they chose in the third round, has been a real find.

Until three weeks ago, the Redskins were remarkably healthy. Fifteen starters have started all 13 games. And yet, they're 3-10.

"There's always a lot of noise when you're 3-10," said Shanahan, who hasn't lost more than 11 games in any of his 19 seasons as a head coach and said he apologized to his players for causing a distraction. "There's going to be a lot more noise over the next three weeks."

Incredibly, if Washington loses to the Falcons and repeats its previous defeats against Dallas and the New York Giants, Shanahan would finish 24-40 with the Redskins. And that's not even counting the costly playoff loss to Seattle.

That is the same .375 winning percentage that NFL head coaching neophytes Steve Spurrier and Jim Zorn compiled in two years working for Snyder without anywhere close to the control of personnel that the current coach has.

Defensive tackle Barry Cofield, the only player made available to the media Monday, said that Griffin's teammates aren't aware of him receiving special treatment from Snyder as ESPN reported in its story about the deteriorating relationship between the owner and Shanahan.

"The story caught everybody off guard," said co-captain Cofield. "(Robert is) one, if the hardest-working players on the team."

Cofield added that he would understand if Griffin, one of the nation's most famous athletes, received extra security from Snyder as the story alleged.