ASHBURN, Va. — The Washington Redskins have reached the point where they’re thankful for the smallest of mercies.
Such as the news that Mike Shanahan expects a swift resolution to his status as coach once the season ends.
That means just one more week of waiting. One more week of mundane talk about practices, hamstring injuries and game plans. One more week to discuss how historically bad this Redskins team is.
One more week of Shanahan making his obligatory statement that he wants to return for another season, and that his stewardship of the team has been hampered by an NFL-imposed salary cap penalty. And that nothing will be resolved until he and owner Dan Snyder sit down to talk.
“I love these guys,” Shanahan said Monday, repeating the familiar phrases. “And we’ve been working extremely hard to put this thing together, and we’ve had a couple of bumps, which we all know with the salary cap, but I’m looking forward to building this football team. But, like I said, it’s a situation where I’ll get a chance to sit down with Dan at the end of the season and we’ll go from there.”
Asked if the meeting and its outcome will happen soon after Sunday’s finale against the New York Giants, the coach replied: “I’m sure it will.” He added, however, that Snyder gets to make the final call.
At this point, it’s hard to see how Shanahan survives the season, even if it means Snyder has to eat the final year of the coach’s five-year, $35 million contract — plus the money owed to assistant coaches also dismissed to make way for a new staff. The other options are that Shanahan gets a contract extension or returns for a lame-duck season.
But both of those seem unlikely given the less-than-cozy relationship between Shanahan and franchise quarterback Robert Griffin III.
Snyder doesn’t want a repeat of the dithering that followed the 2007 season, when he was caught off-guard by Joe Gibbs’ resignation and took a month to hire underqualified Jim Zorn as a replacement. That move set back the franchise for several years.
If he does fire Shanahan, Snyder will no doubt have a favorite candidate — the trendy names include everyone from Art Briles to David Shaw, Ken Whisenhunt to Russ Grimm — lined up for an interview in a matter of hours.
Meanwhile, the Redskins (3-12) are one defeat away from their worst record since 1994, when they were 3-13 in Norv Turner’s first season as coach. A loss Sunday would also give the Redskins their first eight-game losing streak in more than a half-century, since they dropped 17 straight over the 1960 and 1961 seasons.
Shanahan has clinched his worst record in his 20 years as a head coach; he went 5-11 with the Redskins in 2011. A loss Sunday would give him a 24-40 record in Washington, the same regular-season winning percentage (.375) as Steve Spurrier and Zorn — two regimes that ended in failure after two seasons.
The Redskins now sit alone as the second-worst team in the NFL, one game ahead of Houston (2-13), which has already fired coach Gary Kubiak. Perhaps no one is enjoying Washington’s season more than the St. Louis Rams, who will have a premium first-round draft pick in the spring as part of the trade that allowed Shanahan and Co. to select Griffin last year.
At least the Redskins have played competitive football recently, losing by one point to both Atlanta and Dallas in the two games since Kirk Cousins took over at quarterback for Griffin.
But any thoughts that Cousins would energize the offense and create some sort of QB controversy for next season — or, at the very minimum, increase his trade value — haven’t come to fruition. Cousins committed three turnovers against the struggling Falcons, then appeared to overcompensate by playing more conservatively against the worst-in-NFL Cowboys defense.
And, of course, the Redskins much-maligned special teams units gave up another long punt return. Washington is allowing 18.5 yards per punt return, within striking distance of the record of 18.9 allowed by the 2010 San Diego Chargers.
The Redskins also blew a nine-point, fourth-quarter lead, and again had issues with clock management. All familiar stuff.
“It’s always tough to lose,” Shanahan said. “We felt like we had the game under control.”
Notes: LB Nick Barnett has a third-degree tear of the MCL in his left knee and will need six weeks to recover. He’ll be placed on injured reserve and replaced by LB Will Compton from the practice squad for the final game. … Shanahan said LB Brian Orakpo is “day to day” with a right groin injury.
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