Shanahan becomes Redskins' new head coach

Posted Jan. 05, 2010 @ 10:16 p.m.
Posted By Eric Edholm

When Daniel Snyder identifies what he wants, he rarely hesitates.

The Redskins moved quickly to change their on-field leadership, firing head coach Jim Zorn moments after their plane touched down from San Diego early Monday morning and beginning the final stages of negotiations with Mike Shanahan as the long-rumored successor later that day. The finishing touches on Shanahan's contract were completed Tuesday evening.

The deal will pay Shanahan approximately $7 million per year, the Denver Post reported, and ESPN is saying that Shanahan, not GM Bruce Allen, will have the final say on all football decisions. Shanahan will hold the title of executive vice president of football operations and head coach. A news conference at Redskins Park has been scheduled for 2 p.m. ET Wednesday.

Shanahan did not coach this season following his firing by the Broncos after he had posted a 146-98 mark and won two Super Bowl titles in Denver. Zorn finished his troublesome two-year run in Washington with a 12-20 mark — the same record held by another failed high-profile head coach, Steve Spurrier, who was hired by Snyder.

Handpicked by Snyder and new general manager Bruce Allen, a longtime Shanahan adversary in the AFC West, Shanahan joins a team that has some talent but one that went 4-12 with losses to the two-win Lions and four-win Chiefs. The Redskins finished last in the NFC East for the second straight season.

The division now becomes even more respected with the addition of Shanahan, who will face off twice next season against Tom Coughlin and the Giants, who won the Super Bowl two seasons ago; the Eagles and Andy Reid, one of the winningest coaches of the past decade; and the division-champion Cowboys.

His first major decision in terms of personnel will be on the future of QB Jason Campbell, who is a free-agent-to-be in the offseason. Without a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, Campbell will be a restricted free agent; if a new CBA is reached before the March deadline, Campbell would be unrestricted. Shanahan is most famous for helping guide John Elway to two titles at the end of the QB's career, but he also worked well with Jay Cutler — ironically, the apple of Snyder's eye last offseason — in Cutler's first three pro seasons.

Shanahan also has a tough decision to make regarding RB Clinton Portis — a player he once traded away from the Broncos, who is coming off a season-ending concussion — and has the task of rebuilding an aged offensive line.

Shanahan reportedly has been at work behind the scenes, trying to put a staff together, as well as a wish list for coaches still employed by other clubs. Among the rumored names Shanahan wants on his staff is Bengals defensive coordinator Mike Zimmer, whose team faces the Jets in the first round of the playoffs next weekend. Zimmer would not be available until the Bengals are eliminated from the postseason. Kyle Shanahan, Mike's son and the Texans' offensive coordinator, is expected to be named to the same position with the Redskins.

After a 6-2 start last season, his first as a head coach, Zorn lost 18 of his next 24 games, including Sunday's finale at San Diego. He was hired first by Snyder as the team's offensive coordinator after Joe Gibbs stepped down and before a new head coach had been hired. Through the process of searching for Gibbs' replacement, Snyder and former GM Vinny Cerrato became more enamored of Zorn, who ended up getting the job despite having been only a QB coach in Seattle. His failure to develop Campbell further was a big reason for his lack of support in D.C., and the struggling offense led the Redskins to strip Zorn of the play-calling duties and hand them to offensive consultant Sherman Lewis in mid-October.

Shanahan, 57, has a 154-103 record in 15-plus seasons of coaching the Broncos (1995-2008) and Raiders (1988-89), with back-to-back Super Bowl titles in Denver in the 1997 and '98 seasons.

Shanahan once was thought to be untouchable in Denver, chiefly because of his two rings and his strong relationship with Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, but the two decided to part ways after the 2008 season. The Broncos won three straight division titles and went a combined 33-15 in 2003 to '05, but three straight seasons of missing the playoffs — and a late collapse that included three straight losses in his final year there — led to Shanahan's ouster.

With Zorn and Cerrato out and Shanahan and Allen in, the Redskins are undergoing yet another major shift under Snyder. The owner's 10 years with the team have yielded only two postseason appearances and no division titles, despite Snyder vowing to do whatever it takes to field a winner. He earned the prize of the free-agent market last year in DT Albert Haynesworth, who signed with Washington mere hours after the free-agency period had begun, and used that same swift approach in hiring his new coach Tuesday.

The team promises to be aggressive in free agency and the draft (the Redskins hold a major piece with the No. 4 overall pick) as they typically are, and the possibility of having no salary cap in effect could make the free-spending Redskins even more active this offseason.

 

PFW has launched its brand-new NFL Draft Newsletter series, with the second issue now ready for mailing. Produced by PFW's player personnel department under the direction of Nolan Nawrocki, the series consists of four information-packed issues. For more info or to subscribe — click here for PDF e-pub or here for print format.