A relationship that started with news crews waiting outside Tyson's The Palm restaurant like paparazzi as Mike Shanahan and Dan Snyder dined inside in January 2010 ended bitterly Monday: The Washington Redskins fired their head coach, allowing him to leave town with millions of dollars owed him for the fifth and final year of his contract.
Members of the coaching staff also were fired, including Shanahan's son, Kyle Shanahan.
At an afternoon press conference, General Manager Bruce Allen said he would be meeting with other coaches Monday. The futures of those who aren't fired now will be up to the next head coach to determine. The search for that coach begins Monday night, Allen said.
“Obviously, this is a painful day for me and the organization, but it is fitting after a painful season,” Allen said.
“Redskins fans deserve a better result,” owner Daniel M. Snyder said in a statement released to the media. “We thank Mike for his efforts on behalf of the Redskins.
"We will focus on what it takes to build a winning team, and my pledge to this organization and to this community is to continue to commit the resources and talent necessary to put this team back in the playoffs," the statement read.
Shanahan spoke briefly after the firing, and mostly about the team's struggles to acquire new players under the restrictions of the salary cap. But he did thank the fans, the media and the players.
He also thanked the man who just fired him: "I'd also like to thank Dan for the opportunity to be here, under a great organization. This is the best," Shanahan said.
After Sunday's game, Shanahan took responsibility for the 3-13 team's on-the-field failures this year.
“I thought we’ve done a lot of good things,” Shanahan said. “But at the end of the day, you’ve got to win. We weren’t able to do that, and for whatever reason, I’m responsible for that and disappointed we couldn’t get that done.”
“To sit here and talk about Mike Shanahan leaving is difficult because we are all 3-13,” Allen said.
Players have also taken the blame for the season, Allen said. Josh Wilson gave him a book that said sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.
“We’ve got to learn to go in the right direction, and that’s what we’re going to do," Allen said.
Speculation now will focus on the team's next coach, it's eighth since Snyder bought the team in 1999. One person rumored to be in contention is Art Briles of Baylor University, where Griffin played in college. Former Steelers coach Bill Cowher and former Raiders and Buccaneers coach Jon Gruden have also been mentioned as possibilities. (Fan site Hogs Haven has already posted a bracket of coaching possibilities.)
That search begins Monday evening, Allen said. The team will consider NFL and college coaches and coaches with and without head coaching experience. First and foremost, the team is looking for a leader. They also want someone who can manage time, considering how little of it the coach will have with players in the offseason, Allen said.
Whoever the next coach will be, the search will allow the team to turn attention away from its ghastly 2012 season. Star quarterback Robert Griffin III struggled after a knee injury and ended this season benched. Any hopes that the team would get to the playoffs were over by Dec. 2.
Native American groups successfully re-energized calls to get the team to change its name, saying it was a racial slur; protesters dogged the team at away games and even President Barack Obama said he would “think about changing” the name.
Then, at the end of the season, the off-field battles between the team’s coach, owner and Griffin exploded publicly, bursting into press conferences and lengthy newspaper articles.
Among the stunners: ESPN reported that Shanahan, tired of the special treatment Snyder gave Griffin, wanted to quit after last season but decided the timing was wrong after Griffin injured his knee in a playoff game against Seattle.
Some believe Shanahan leaked that story because he wanted Snyder to fire him. And some suspect Shanahan wanted out because the team wanted to get rid of his son, Kyle Shanahan, as offensive coordinator.
But fans and reporters have speculated all season about tension between the coach on one side and Snyder and Griffin on the other. Griffin returned from his ACL and MCL injuries in time for the season opener after being held out of the preseason but did not perform as well as he did in his Rookie of the Year 2012 season. With the Skins out of contention, Shanahan shut Griffin down for the final three games of this season to protect his long-term health.
That came amid reports that Snyder’s close relationship with the quarterback was threatening to Shanahan. The coach and his quarterback found themselves with a relationship the Washington Post described as poisoned.
And the franchise was left with a season record that was the worst in decades.
Following the 24-23 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 16, Shanahan's ouster was almost a done deal, but then the focus was on beating the New York Giants in the final game of the season, and keeping Shanahan for that was what management felt gave them the best chance for a victory.
"We wanted Mike to have the ability to right the ship," Allen said. "We wanted to end that losing streak."
Sunday's 20-6 loss sealed Shanahan's departure.
Shanahan was a hired as a proven coach with a good record, Allen said, and the team agreed to the same control and staffing he had as head coach of the Denver Broncos.
“Unfortunately today, our results aren’t what we had hoped on that day,” Allen said.
The next head coach will not have all the control Shanahan had. Player personnel decisions going forward will be Allen’s, and he will work with the current personnel department, though he did not rule out additions to that staff. They will redefine the characteristics they want in players, the general manager said.
Shanahan's overall record with the team is 24-40. Despite winning the NFC East with a 10-6 record last year, the Redskins failed to make the playoffs or even reach .500 in Shanahan’s other three seasons with the team.
Since Snyder bought the team, the Redskins have gone 106-140 (including 2-4 in the playoffs) and missed the playoffs in 11 of 15 seasons.
Before Washington, Shanahan had a 146-98 record in 16 seasons as a head coach in the NFL -- the first two with the Los Angeles Raiders. He was 8-5 in the playoffs, including Super Bowl wins with the Broncos in 1997 and 1998. He made the playoffs in half of his seasons in Denver and had only two losing seasons -- 6-10 in 1999 and 7-9 in 2007. Prior to his success with the Broncos, Shanahan was a well-respected offensive coordinator for Denver and the San Francisco 49ers.
Before Shanahan, Washington went 12-20 in two seasons under Jim Zorn, a former quarterbacks coach initially hired as an offensive coordinator but quickly promoted. Zorn followed Hall of Famer Joe Gibbs’ second stint as head coach of the Skins, in which he took the team to the playoffs twice in four seasons.