Mike Shanahan has been on this Hot Seat before. But what makes this time different is the reports that the Redskins coach is hoping owner Dan Snyder will fire him.
So he can end up as coach of the Houston Texans.
It seemed a bit strange that early in Saturday’s game against Kansas City, Shanahan was repeatedly smiling as he stood in the snow with the Chiefs dashing through it on the way to a 45-10 romp.
Of course, that being Washington you can’t be too hasty to judge people based on the expressions on their faces, or for that matter, the words issuing from their mouths. And Shanahan has had little to say about his job status, only that he will talk with Snyder at the end of the season.
Some stories point to an irreparable rift between Snyder and his head coach. One story had Shanahan almost quitting at the end of last season. Cleaning out his office, in fact.
One story that had impact was written by ESPN’s Dan Graziano, who attributed Shanahan’s disenchantment to Snyder’s coziness with quarterback Robert Griffin III. Graziano quoted an anonymous source close to Shanahan as saying the coach “had grown tired of the way Snyder empowered Griffin and openly esteemed him above all other players.”
According to Graziano, Shanahan considered the owner’s behavior toward the athlete to be “a complete farce” and “not conducive to winning.”
Now stories are out about Snyder being unhappy about the stories of Shanahan’s discontent and even wondering if they originated from the coach.
Hence, the idea that he might go to Houston, which fired its head coach, Gary Kubiak, and has a talented roster and the inside tract on the No. 1 pick in the next draft, which can’t be had in Washington since Shanahan traded away the team’s first-rounder – and other picks – for Griffin.
What makes the Houston scenario somewhat plausible is that Shanahan’s son Kyle was highly praised for his work as Kubiak’s offensive coordinator in 2008-9. He was credited with developing Matt Schaub into a Pro Bowl quarterback. Shanahan left Houston when his dad got the job in Washington and hired him away to be his own OC.
Kyle has not been nearly as popular in Washington, drawing not so veiled criticism from Griffin for his play-calling. One of the stories is that Griffin’s problem is more with the son than the father. Rumors have Shanahan looking around the league to land Kyle a job somewhere else.
A year ago, all this heat on the Red Lobster would have seemed impossible, as would a 3-10 record .
Shanahan had installed Griffin in a zone-read, pass/run offense that made him an unstoppable force as a rookie. The Redskins were a playoff team. Shanahan had rebuilt the franchise in three years. Seldom had Washington seen such solid progress anywhere else.
But then came the playoff game, Jan. 6, when the Shanahans let Griffin talk them into playing him when his right knee was wobbly. So the knee crumbled, for the second time in Griffin’s young career. The knee and career have not been the same since.
Washington’s offensive line gives Griffin so little protection (sacked six times by Kansas City) that Shanahan wants to bench him for the rest of the season “to make sure he’s ready for our off-season program” (yes, he really said that).
There may be no way to put that knee injury behind them. The question will be forever debated over why Mike Shanahan failed to protect the team’s most valuable asset, which is why he’s being so extra cautious now.
Shanahan said he’s been talking with Snyder about Griffin’s playing status but not about his own future with the team.
Snyder is on the hook to Shanahan for $6 million in 2014, the final year of his five-year contract. Perhaps the owner would like for Shanahan to quit and relieve him of the obligation.
Perhaps Shanahan would rather be fired, with Snyder still owing him for a guaranteed contract.
At a media conference carried by NFL Network, Shanahan did say he wants to remain with the Redskins.
But when pressed on why he doesn’t categorically deny all the controversial stories, he said, “We’re 3-and-10. That’s what happens when you’re 3 and 10. We can’t talk about the playoffs. We can’t talk about our draft choice. We don’t have a first-round draft choice. . . We’ve got to talk about something . . . ”
He danced around the swirling issues like someone who’s been in the beltway for too long.
Shanahan has been accused of shadiness before. Recall that Dan Reeves chose a Super Bowl platform to say Shanahan undermined him in Denver when Reeves was the head coach and Shanahan was an assistant.
So now in Washington, Shanahan is again suspected of intrigue and deception. So why would he want to leave this city? It suits him perfectly.