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Shanahan Ready To Exit Stage Left

by David Elfin
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David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at...
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Mike Shanahan (credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Mike Shanahan (credit: Rob Carr/Getty Images)

Just because it didn’t happen after yesterday’s 45-10 humiliation by visiting Kansas City or today as the walking Deadskins began their preparations for Sunday’s next defeat at Atlanta, we all know Mike Shanahan is a goner in Ashburn.

The only questions are whether Redskins owner Dan Snyder fires him or Shanahan resigns and how they decide how much of the $7 million he’s due in 2014 that he’ll receive.

A day after declining to discuss his relationship with Snyder, Shanahan said he met today 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.”

And for his players.

“You always want to come back,” Shanahan said. “I love these guys. 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.”

Even if that happens, the coach knows that he’s gone. So much so that he is widely believed to be the source of yesterday’s story that he wanted to quit in January because of Snyder’s close relationship with Robert Griffin III before the quarterback suffered a major knee injury in the playoff loss to Seattle.

Shanahan not only didn’t deny the report after yesterday’s humiliating 45-10 loss to visiting Kansas City, he termed its substance, “something that happened a year ago.”

After the drubbing by the Chiefs, Griffin was asked if he had any doubt that he would remain the starter. He said, “No. That’s not an issue.”

Guess again, kid.

Shanahan said that he’s seriously contemplating sitting Griffin for the remaining three games because that might be what’s best for the organization after the pass protection surrendered 25 during the past five. 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].”

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. The subsequent more serious damage wasn’t just to Griffin’s right knee, but to their relationship and will soon culminate in the seventh coaching change during Snyder’s 15 seasons in command.

Speaking of change, it’s amazing how much can change in less than 12 months. A year ago today, Washington rallied past eventual Super Bowl champion Baltimore for the fourth of what would be seven straight victories en route to its first NFC East title since 1999 and its first postseason appearance in five years.

It seemed that the often-meddlesome Snyder had finally found the right coach in two-time Super Bowl champion Shanahan, who had finally found the right quarterback for the Redskins in Griffin.

After three straight double-digit losing seasons, Washington was finally a contender again, a belief verified with the early 14-0 lead over visiting Seattle in the playoff opener.

The Redskins retained 21 of 22 starters during the offseason. Their only important loss was Pro Bowl special teams coverage ace Lorenzo Alexander. Tight end Jordan Reed, whom they chose in the third round of the first of their three first-rounder-less drafts – thanks to the trade with St. Louis for the pick that became Griffin – has been a true find. Until three weeks ago, they 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 (not counting the so-costly playoff loss to Seattle) for 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 had.

Shanahan has topped Spurrier and Zorn in losing his last five games since neither of them ever lost more than four in a row. Marty Schottenheimer lost his first five games in Washington, a streak that, when combined with his my way or the highway style, prompted Snyder to fire him despite an 8-3 finish. Heck, Snyder fired Norv Turner a year ago last Wednesday after consecutive home losses to Philadelphia and the Giants by a combined five points dropped the Redskins to 7-6 less than a year after they had won the NFC East. That star-studded roster performed even worse for interim coach Terry Robiskie. At 18-13, Turner remains the only coach with a winning record during Snyder’s regime and he’s the one the owner inherited.

Shanahan won’t come close to matching that success in Washington. Will any coach whom Snyder hires?

 
 

David Elfin began writing about sports when he was a junior at Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School. He is Washington’s representative on the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee and the author of seven books, most recently, “Washington Redskins: The Complete Illustrated History.” A pre-game regular on 106.7-The Fan the last three Redskins seasons, he has been its columnist since March 2011.

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