It nearly happened during the offseason. It nearly happened this season. But according to multiple league sources, it will happen in the next 24 hours: Jim Zorn will be fired as coach of the Washington Redskins.
The expected change would pave the way for Washington and its new executive vice president and general manager, Bruce Allen, to step up its pursuit of former Denver Broncos coach Mike Shanahan -- or any other candidate the team is considering.
Washington closed out its season at San Diego, and it's possible that Allen could fire Zorn on the long plane ride home. But it is more likely that Zorn will be dismissed Monday, once the team is back and settled in Washington. Either way, Zorn is expected to be the first head coach fired in what always is one of the most tumultuous times of the year in the NFL.
"I would not even comment on that," Zorn said after Sunday's game. "There are a lot of things, I'm sure, out there as far as stories. There already has been. So I get that. I'm working on our team meeting, our offseason schedule, and until I'm told that I'm on any other effort, I'm getting ready."
The Redskins finished 4-12 following Sunday's 23-20 loss to the Chargers, regressing from their 8-8 finish in Zorn's first season.
Zorn appeared on the edge of being fired in October, when he was stripped of his offensive play-calling responsibilities after a loss to the Kansas City Chiefs dropped the team to 2-4. Those responsibilities were given to consultant Sherman Lewis, who, two weeks before, had been retired and was calling bingo games at a senior center and delivering Meals on Wheels.
At the time, Zorn stopped short of saying he was given an ultimatum, but said he would comply with the request "because I want to stay here and win."
Days later, then-executive vice president of football operations Vinny Cerrato said Zorn would finish out the season. Cerrato abruptly resigned last month.
Zorn, formerly a quarterbacks coach with the Seattle Seahawks, joined the Redskins as an offensive coordinator in 2008 -- and two weeks later, found himself the team's head coach, after the team had interviewed coaching candidates for a month. He had never been a coordinator for an NFL team before the Redskins hired him and wasn't even on Snyder's list of candidates when Joe Gibbs retired at the end of the 2007 season.
Zorn started 6-2 as a rookie head coach last season, but the team struggled over the second half and finished 8-8. This year's team has been hurt by numerous injuries, a lack of depth and tons of off-the-field distractions, but also by an inability of Zorn's West Coast offense to consistently find the end zone.
"I'm still reeling from this loss," Zorn said after Sunday's game. "Anything that I say about my future here would just be babbling along. I'm going to be forthright and ask and get things moving, but I certainly want to be the head coach here."
Whoever follows Zorn will be the seventh coach hired by the Redskins since Daniel Snyder bought the team in 1999.
Snyder has interviewed assistant coach Jerry Gray for the job, according to the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which monitors minority hiring in the NFL.
Gray's interview was an effort to comply with the Rooney Rule, which requires that teams consider a minority candidate for the head coaching position. With the Rooney Rule satisfied, the Redskins are free to act quickly to hire a replacement for Zorn.
"I don't know what to expect. Nobody does," Gray said after Sunday's game. "Bruce is going to evaluate everybody."
Asked if he would like the job, Gray said: "Well, if it's open and they call me, of course I do."
Adam Schefter is an ESPN NFL Insider. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.