- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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A day after an ESPN.com report detailed the possible instability surrounding Mike Shanahan's future in Washington, I've come up with five thoughts on the situation:
It's not a slam dunk that Washington Redskins owner Dan Snyder will fire coach Mike Shanahan on Monday or even before the end of the season. I texted with one coach who said everything was normal as of late morning. Not saying it couldn't happen at any time because it is obviously being strongly discussed, but there are a lot of factors to consider, such as how much money must be paid out to Shanahan or any of his assistants (it would be a lot) and whether, as the Washington Post's Mark Maske reported, they can fire him with cause. If that's the case, then Snyder could do this without a financial burden. When lawyers get involved, the process slows. It's also a reason to believe it would happen sooner rather than later. But even if Snyder can't fire without cause, the process has started. No beat reporter will venture far from their phone until this situation is resolved.
It's also clear Snyder was not prepared to make any move before the season ended. I heard Snyder was bewildered by the ESPN.com report that said Shanahan was ready to quit after last season. Snyder understands his image around the country, and in the profession, and was content with letting the season play out and then making a decision. The last thing he wanted to do, from what I was told, was make an emotional decision. In the past, the Redskins were a Fire-Aim-Ready organization, making impetuous moves (see: Lewis, Sherman). If they had fired Shanahan last night or after the game, that's exactly what this move would have felt like, an emotional one without a legitimate plan.
The other factor is who would take over as an interim coach. Jim Haslett said earlier this season that he regretted serving as the St. Louis Rams' interim coach in 2008. Raheem Morris also was a head coach and could handle the role, but does he want to? If the Redskins finished strong, the extra effort could start to repair his reputation after his stint in Tampa Bay. But it's a risk because if they don't finish well -- in other words, if they play like they have for 13 weeks -- then it won't help Morris. He can recover, but a strong finish would help.
What if Shanahan announces Monday that he plans on starting Kirk Cousins on Sunday? I can't imagine that sitting well with Snyder and it comes across as a parting shot from Shanahan. But with the process of firing him already in serious discussions, I don't know that any one move in particular would be the final act, though this would qualify. It's not about Snyder's relationship with Robert Griffin III, it's about knowing the importance of the second-year quarterback to the future of the organization.
When you talk to people close to Griffin, it's clear he is tired of how his relationship with Snyder has been portrayed, that they're not as close as the stories suggest and don't talk often, especially during the season. Snyder was knocked in the past for chummy relationships with players; it created a hierarchy that others in the locker room did not like at all. Snyder hasn't created a winning organization and he has done a lot that can be criticized because he has presided over seven 10-loss seasons and only three 10-win seasons. Maybe he never builds one. But in this case, he has done what Shanahan wants in terms of building the bubble and moving camp to Richmond, among other moves. And it's safe to say Griffin also knows that, fair or not, any move involving Shanahan will stain him in the short term (and if they hire Art Briles, it will do so even more, a lot more). It's also true that the other young players on the roster are having a tough time with all the stories and distractions. The veterans? They've seen worse.
1dJohn Keim and Adam Caplan