ASHBURN, Va. (AP) Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan declined to comment Monday when asked if he's coaching for his job over the next six weeks or whether he's discussed his status with team owner Dan Snyder.
That hasn't stopped everyone else from talking about it.
The Redskins are on pace to finish last in the NFC East for the third time in Shanahan's four seasons in Washington, with the glow of last year's division title fading after Sunday's 24-16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. The coach has one year remaining on a five-year, $35 million contract, leaving Snyder with a potentially tough call depending on how the rest of the season plays out.
With the record at 3-7, it's about time to stop trying to figure out how many wins the Redskins might need to make the playoffs. The next guessing game target: How many wins Shanahan might need to keep his job.
The coach made a case for himself Monday, saying he feels he has the franchise headed in the right direction. He also referenced how an NFL-imposed $36 million cap penalty has hurt the team's depth.
"In the future it will get better," Shanahan said, "because we do have the ability to get more depth, we've got the ability to add some players on both sides of the football, and that gives you a chance to get better as a football team."
What happens to Shanahan boils down to three scenarios: He gets a contract extension, he gets fired, or he gets no new deal but returns for the final year of his contract. Arguments can be made for all three:
- Shanahan could get an extension because he has successfully overhauled the dysfunctional culture he inherited when he took over the role of top decision-maker from former front office chief Vinny Cerrato. Shanahan also has put together a solid locker room with good leaders who will likely ensure the Redskins will play hard over the final six games.
- Shanahan might not return because his regular season record is 24-34, and seven of those wins were concentrated into an improbable run to the playoffs late last season. He and general manager Bruce Allen were responsible for the salary dump that led to the cap penalty. Shanahan finally has a franchise quarterback in Robert Griffin III, but only after misjudging badly the capabilities of Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman and John Beck.
- Snyder could split the difference and simply have Shanahan return for a fifth year without an extension, essentially putting the coach on notice that it's playoffs-or-bust next season. That would give Shanahan a full offseason to work with Griffin, who was limited this spring and summer following reconstructive knee surgery, as well as a regular free agency with money to spend. If the coach can't fix what's wrong under those conditions, then he's almost certainly done.
A year ago, Shanahan's future seemed certain.
The Shanahan-Griffin combo would make the Redskins perennial winners, perhaps Super Bowl champions, and the coach would eventually give way to his son, Kyle, who is currently the offensive coordinator.
Now they've reached a fork in the road. Win six straight to finish 9-7, then it's easier to lobby for an extension. Going .500 the rest of the way to get to 6-10 maybe buys another year. Stumble to 4-12 or 5-11, and the coach's days could be numbered.
In 2011, Shanahan revealed the pitch he made to Snyder for getting five years. It remains the coach's definitive word on his subject.
"When I first got here," Shanahan said, "I said: `Dan, if you don't plan on me coaching here five years and doing it the right way, you're hiring the wrong guy.' It's going to take some time to do it right."