Standing before a packed media room, new Redskins GM Bruce Allen introduced new head coach Mike Shanahan and said, "Ladies and gentlemen, we've got our man."
Shanahan spoke for about 30 minutes, talking repeatedly of his excitement to work for owner Daniel Snyder, whom he has known for about 10 years, and for Allen, against whom he competed for more than a dozen years when the two were in the AFC West.
Looking more authoritative than his predecessor, Jim Zorn, who was fired Monday, Shanahan looked every bit the part of a man who has been a head coach for 14 seasons, trailing only Bill Belichick among active coaches with regular-season victories.
"I am excited and honored to be the coach of the Washington Redskins," Shanahan said. "Super Bowls, championships … this is a place that has a great history. This is a very, very special place."
Shanahan reportedly will earn a total of $35 million over the course of a five-year deal. He was vague when asked about specifics of how the roster will look or what offensive principles he might bring with him. But his most interesting comments came on the subjects of QB Jason Campbell and RB Clinton Portis.
About Campbell, Shanahan appeared to give the quarterback a positive review. "I am looking forward to working with him," he said. "I love the way he handles himself. Hopefully the best years for Jason are ahead of him." Campbell will be a free agent this offseason — either a restricted or unrestricted free agent, depending on the state of the Collective Bargaining Agreement — who could benefit from Shanahan's arrival.
Portis, however, didn't get as strong an endorsement from Shanahan initially. Remember, he coached Portis for his first two seasons in the NFL but traded him to Washington for CB Champ Bailey and a second-round draft pick. Portis' season ended with him on injured reserve because of concussions, and he appears to have lost a step since the second half of the 2008 season.
"It's hard to say right now," Shanahan said of Portis. "I'll have to look at all the film. Not watching him on a day-to-day basis, how they work in the offseason program, what they do to make themselves better. … To say that right now, with the injuries, is premature."
Shanahan's next words appeared telling. "If you are going to make a commitment to be as good as you could be, then you have a chance to be special," he said, not naming Portis specifically. "But I loved his toughness in Denver."
Portis typically has worked out away from the team in the offseason in Miami, which has been at odds with what Zorn and Joe Gibbs preferred.
The Allen-Shanahan team will have other tough personnel and coaching decisions. Kyle Shanahan, Mike's son, already has joined the staff as offensive coordinator, and the elder Shanahan said he didn't worry about Kyle holding up to the pressure of calling plays in Washington for his father's team. "Like Bruce (Allen), (who has) been around football with a Hall of Fame dad … Kyle has been around football all his life. He'll be fine."
Shanahan admitted he had final say on personnel matters in Denver, but it was a power, he said, he didn't have to invoke. Now with Allen, Shanahan — who also carries the title of executive vice president — feels he has someone "to disagree with me" on personnel decisions. "When I was in Denver, I had final say on everything — supposedly — and the press ran with it," he said. "Bruce will not agree with me. That’s what I am looking for. Do I have the final say? Maybe you could say that. But I will never use that because we will work together as a team."
Snyder long had sought to land Shanahan, who was fired after the '08 season by the Broncos, and the Redskins' owner often called the out-of-work coach as a pseudo-consultant. It was widely rumored that Snyder was courting Shanahan to replace Zorn as early as the first few weeks of the season, when the Redskins' team plane was spotted landing in Denver, where Shanahan still was living. Shanahan, though, denied that he and Snyder met at that point. Allen said he first contacted Shanahan following Sunday's season-ending loss to the Chargers, and a deal came together late Tuesday night.
The Redskins are in a major rebuilding process, the first one Shanahan has faced in a long time. The team has some bright spots, but following a 4-12 season and with a high degree of personnel uncertainty, there's a lot of work to do. Plus, the competition in the NFC East, which featured two playoff teams this season, as well as the underachieving 8-8 Giants, is fierce.
"I hate to use the word 'rebuilding,' but any time you win four games, that’s going to happen," Shanahan said. "I can’t tell you how long it’s going to take. But I’ll tell you one thing: We are going to get better every day."
Snyder once joked with Broncos owner Pat Bowlen, when they were sitting at a table at the owners' meetings together, that he would "like to trade for your coach," which surprised Shanahan. On Tuesday, Snyder got his man.