ASHBURN, Va. — Mike Shanahan reached into the presidential playbook for his Washington Redskins farewell address, plucking a line that would fit nicely into the concession speech of a candidate who couldn’t win re-election.
“We’re better off today,” the coach said, “than we were four years ago.”
Whether the Redskins are actually better off, or whether Shanahan’s words are merely the football equivalent of political rhetoric, he won’t be around to prove the point. He was fired Monday after a 3-13 season, his plan to restore professionalism and consistent success to the franchise having disintegrated into a sea of tension and losing.
“Four years ago,” general manager Bruce Allen said, “we thought we did the right thing. ... Unfortunately, today, our results aren’t what we hoped.”
Shanahan was dismissed after a morning meeting with Allen and owner Dan Snyder, a formality expected for several weeks as Washington wrapped up its worst season since 1994. The coach went 24-40 in four Redskins seasons and had one year remaining on his five-year, $35 million contract.
“Redskins fans deserve a better result,” Snyder said in a statement released by the team.
Snyder was not available for further comment. He is now seeking his eighth head coach for his 16th season as an NFL owner — a span that includes just four winning seasons, two playoff victories and seven last-place finishes in the NFC East.
Allen, however, said that Snyder is “still one of the great fans” and isn’t the source of the problem.
“It’s not Dan calling the plays, it’s not Dan picking the plays. It’s the people he’s hired,” Allen said. “It’s our job to actually turn this team into a winner.”
Allen also announced a new power structure, saying the team’s next coach will not have the all-encompassing role held by Shanahan. Allen said he has an “open list” as he begins the search for a replacement, including NFL and college coaches, but that he will assume of the duties of having final say over the roster.
“That power will be with me,” Allen said.
Shanahan had a five-minute turn at the podium, thanking fans, players, reporters and Snyder. The coach did not take questions but instead defended his efforts to rebuild the Redskins while repeating his assertion that an NFL-levied salary cap penalty hindered his ability to improve the roster even more.
“Any time you take a look at some of the cap situations that we went through, it’s always tough to have depth,” Shanahan said. “And that’s what I thought really hurt us this year.”
Asked if he agreed with Shanahan that the team is better off than four years ago, Allen said: “In ways, yes.”
“There is a nucleus for success,” Allen said. “And we saw it just a year ago.”
Shanahan’s career regular-season record is 170-138 over 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Raiders, Denver Broncos and Redskins. He captured Super Bowls titles with the Broncos in 1990s, but he won only one playoff game over his final 10 years in Denver and was fired after the 2008 season.
He came to Washington in 2010 and went through two losing seasons before selecting quarterback Robert Griffin III with the No. 2 overall draft pick. A season-ending seven-game winning streak propelled the Redskins to 10-6 record in 2012, their first division title in 13 years.
But Griffin was injured in the playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks and required major knee surgery days later, setting the stage for a year of conflict as the quarterback vowed to return in record time and felt empowered enough to openly challenge some of his Shanahan’s decisions.
Griffin returned for Week 1 of the regular season, but he wasn’t the same dynamic player who won the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2012. He was benched for the final three games of the season.
Griffin also declined to answer reporters’ questions Monday. In brief remarks, he said that Shanahan “has taught me a lot in just two years.”
Also dismissed Monday were eight assistant coaches, including offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, the head coach’s son.
Snyder’s search for a new coach presents plenty of intrigue. He’s tried nearly every angle: the hot college coach with no NFL experience (Steve Spurrier), the franchise icon (Joe Gibbs), the promising youngish coordinator (Jim Zorn) and the established demand-control-over-everything big names (Marty Schottenheimer and Shanahan).
Shanahan demanded contractual control over all football matters when he joined the Redskins, and he repeatedly emphasized the need to run a disciplined organization with a sense of decorum. Snyder met Shanahan’s requests to upgrade the Redskins Park facility, spending millions on a new practice bubble and other amenities.
Shanahan weeded out the disgruntled players but ultimately was unable to stymie what he called the “circus atmosphere” that has permeated the Redskins under Snyder.
Leaks, rumors and power struggles were just as bad as before, as were the losses. The Redskins’ season-ending eight-game losing streak is their longest in more than 50 years. Shanahan leaves with the same regular-season winning percentage (.375) in Washington as Spurrier and Zorn.
“Any coach, any organization knows in pro sports you need to eliminate distractions,” Allen said. “Instead, we created our own distractions. And it distracted from our play on the field.”