End of term: Redskins fire coach Mike Shanahan

Mike Shanahan reached into the presidential playbook for his

Washington Redskins farewell address, plucking a line that would

fit nicely into the concession speech of a candidate who couldn’t

win re-election.

”We’re better off today,” the coach said, ”than we were four

years ago.”

Whether the Redskins are actually better off, or whether

Shanahan’s words are merely the football equivalent of political

rhetoric, he won’t be around to prove the point. He was fired

Monday after a 3-13 season, his plan to restore professionalism and

consistent success to the franchise having disintegrated into a sea

of tension and losing.

”Four years ago,” general manager Bruce Allen said, ”we

thought we did the right thing. … Unfortunately, today, our

results aren’t what we hoped.”

Shanahan was dismissed after a morning meeting with Allen and

owner Dan Snyder, a formality expected for several weeks as

Washington wrapped up its worst season since 1994. The coach went

24-40 in four Redskins seasons and had one year remaining on his

five-year, $35 million contract.

”Redskins fans deserve a better result,” Snyder said in a

statement released by the team.

Snyder was not available for further comment. He is now seeking

his eighth head coach for his 16th season as an NFL owner – a span

that includes just four winning seasons, two playoff victories and

seven last-place finishes in the NFC East.

Allen, however, said that Snyder is ”still one of the great

fans” and isn’t the source of the problem.

”It’s not Dan calling the plays, it’s not Dan picking the

plays. It’s the people he’s hired,” Allen said. ”It’s our job to

actually turn this team into a winner.”

Allen also announced a new power structure, saying the team’s

next coach will not have the all-encompassing role held by

Shanahan. Allen said he has an ”open list” as he begins the

search for a replacement, including NFL and college coaches, but

that he will assume of the duties of having final say over the

roster.

”That power will be with me,” Allen said.

Shanahan had a five-minute turn at the podium, thanking fans,

players, reporters and Snyder. The coach did not take questions but

instead defended his efforts to rebuild the Redskins while

repeating his assertion that an NFL-levied salary cap penalty

hindered his ability to improve the roster even more.

”Any time you take a look at some of the cap situations that we

went through, it’s always tough to have depth,” Shanahan said.

”And that’s what I thought really hurt us this year.”

Asked if he agreed with Shanahan that the team is better off

than four years ago, Allen said: ”In ways, yes.”

”There is a nucleus for success,” Allen said. ”And we saw it

just a year ago.”

Shanahan’s career regular-season record is 170-138 over 20

seasons with the Los Angeles Raiders, Denver Broncos and Redskins.

He captured Super Bowls titles with the Broncos in 1990s, but he

won only one playoff game over his final 10 years in Denver and was

fired after the 2008 season.

He came to Washington in 2010 and went through two losing

seasons before selecting quarterback Robert Griffin III with the

No. 2 overall draft pick. A season-ending seven-game winning streak

propelled the Redskins to 10-6 record in 2012, their first division

title in 13 years.

But Griffin was injured in the playoff loss to the Seattle

Seahawks and required major knee surgery days later, setting the

stage for a year of conflict as the quarterback vowed to return in

record time and felt empowered enough to openly challenge some of

his Shanahan’s decisions.

Griffin returned for Week 1 of the regular season, but he wasn’t

the same dynamic player who won the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the

Year award in 2012. He was benched for the final three games of the

season.

Griffin also declined to answer reporters’ questions Monday. In

brief remarks, he said that Shanahan ”has taught me a lot in just

two years.”

Also dismissed Monday were eight assistant coaches, including

offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, the head coach’s son.

Snyder’s search for a new coach presents plenty of intrigue.

He’s tried nearly every angle: the hot college coach with no NFL

experience (Steve Spurrier), the franchise icon (Joe Gibbs), the

promising youngish coordinator (Jim Zorn) and the established

demand-control-over-everything big names (Marty Schottenheimer and

Shanahan).

Shanahan demanded contractual control over all football matters

when he joined the Redskins, and he repeatedly emphasized the need

to run a disciplined organization with a sense of decorum. Snyder

met Shanahan’s requests to upgrade the Redskins Park facility,

spending millions on a new practice bubble and other amenities.

Shanahan weeded out the disgruntled players but ultimately was

unable to stymie what he called the ”circus atmosphere” that has

permeated the Redskins under Snyder.

Leaks, rumors and power struggles were just as bad as before, as

were the losses. The Redskins’ season-ending eight-game losing

streak is their longest in more than 50 years. Shanahan leaves with

the same regular-season winning percentage (.375) in Washington as

Spurrier and Zorn.

”Any coach, any organization knows in pro sports you need to

eliminate distractions,” Allen said. ”Instead, we created our own

distractions. And it distracted from our play on the field.”

AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org

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