Snyder’s pursuit of Shanahan began long before Shanahan was hired


As Mike Shanahan commences his second season with the Redskins amid speculation that owner Daniel Snyder could, after another subpar season, do to Shanahan what Snyder has done to other coaches, Mike Wise of the Washington Post provides chapter-and-verse details regarding the courtship of Shanahan, which began long before Shanahan actually was hired.

It’s no surprise that Snyder coveted Shanahan.  Jay Glazer of FOX reported in late 2009 that Snyder had offered Shanahan the position in March.  And at multiple points during the 2009 season, there was rumor and speculation that Snyder wanted Shanahan to take the reins during the 2009 season, but that Shanahan wanted to wait.

Wise’s article, based on thorough details provided anonymously by 11 persons “in and around the franchise,” starts at the end of the 2008 season, when a practice incident between Zorn and former Redskins running back Clinton Portis boiled into a demand by Portis for an apology, even though the situation arose after Zorn told Portis to take his hands out of his pockets during a drill.

Wise reports that, within a week after the end of the 2008 season, Snyder sent a plane to pick up Shanahan and his son, Kyle, where the family was vacationing in Cabo San Lucas and to bring them to L.A., where Snyder was attending the Golden Globe Awards.  Snyder, Cerrato, and the Shanahans reportedly met for six hours.  (Kyle’s involvement raises eyebrows, given that he was under contract with the Texans at the time.)

No offer was made to Mike Shanahan at that time, and Mike Shanahan reportedly wasn’t interested in entertaining an offer until Snyder decided whether to keep Zorn for a second season.  Wise explains that, in the end, the Redskins opted to keep Zorn due to the potential P.R. debacle arising from firing Zorn after only one year on the job.

But Snyder, according to Wise, became willing to fire Zorn during his second season on the job, after the Redskins lost to the lowly Lions, a franchise that hadn’t won a game since 2007.  Snyder’s despair eventually resulted that evening in a call to Shanahan and, eventually, a flight to Denver for a sleepover at Shanahan’s 35,000-square-foot home.

When the tail of the Redskins plane was spotted in Denver, the folks involved lied to anyone and everyone, claiming that the plane was on loan to a private company.  “Everybody bought it,” one of the unnamed sources told Wise. “I still remember Peter King calling Vinny on his cellphone, telling Vinny he knows we’re in Denver.  Vinny says, ‘Peter, we’re not in Denver.  We’re at Redskins Park right now.  Go look in the parking lot.  All our cars are there.’ And I hear Peter on the other end say, ‘Oh yeah, I didn’t think you guys would be so [expletive] obvious.’  And he hung up.”

But they were being so [expletive] obvious, and like many teams do they lied through their teeth.  (And, yes, that makes me wonder about the Saints’ insistence that Randy Moss wasn’t at the team’s facility on Saturday.)  Though Shanahan declined to take the job during the 2009 season, the foundation was laid for the eventual arrival, which along the way included one or two sham, in-house Rooney Rule interviews that were conducted before Zorn was even fired.

So why are unnamed sources now talking about the situation for a story that was published on the eve of the launch of Shanahan’s second season with the team?  Though it’s possible that folks like Cerrato and former Snyder confidants Karl Swanson and Dave Donovan have opted to tell tales because they’re disgruntled former employees, it’s also possible that Snyder and/or P.R. guru Tony Wyllie wanted this story to be told in order to temper rumors and speculation that Shanahan could be in trouble.  Permeating Wise’s story is the notion that Snyder wanted Shanahan not for days or weeks but months.

The unspoken message is that, after putting so much into getting Shanahan, Snyder likely won’t dump him so soon.

But there’s another message.  Unless Snyder has changed dramatically and fundamentally since early 2009, when he hits another point of despair with his team, he’ll possibly do whatever he has to do to identify and then to recruit a new head coach, regardless of the fact that he already has a head coach.  At some point, Shanahan could be the head coach behind whose back Snyder would be wooing the next head coach.

UPDATE 4:50 p.m. ET:  In a prior version of this article, I incorrectly wrote that Shanahan was fired in late January of 2009.  I was incorrect.  He was fired in late December 2008.

32 responses to “Snyder’s pursuit of Shanahan began long before Shanahan was hired

  1. Shanahan was actually fired just a day or two after a a loss to the Chargers in the final game of the season… An update to correct this is probably in order, as there would’ve been no suspicious behavior

  2. Dan Snyder wouldn’t do to Mike Shanahan what he did to Jim Zorn in a million years, he worked too hard to get him and their relationship goes past the football field and the FO. Plus, speculation has pointed towards Shanahan having a few years to turn the team around, which makes sense considering the combination of Jim Zorn, Dan Snyder and Vinny Cerrato completely wrecked the roster before Allen and Shanahan came in.

    Either way it doesn’t matter, because I have a gut feeling that the Redskins won’t perform bad enough in 2011 to even make Snyder want to consider firing Shanahan. He knows the Rex Grossman/John Beck “QB Battle” is a stopgap solution until 2012/2013 when he can find his true QB.

    Everybody told Redskins fans we were impatient and needed to “give our coaches time”, yet when the fanbase as a whole finally does this, and our incompetent owner steps aside for a REAL Head Coach/GM (which he hasn’t done since Gibbs came back) to run the team, now all of a sudden Shanahan isn’t fixing things fast enough. Smh, i dont care if we go 10-6, 7-9, or even 0-16, we ain’t gona fire Mike Shanahan or Bruce Allen yet.

  3. Marty and Joe Gibbs are the only coaches to have the authority to make change like Shanahan has today. Marty was fired after 1 year, Joe was over the hill. I think after 12 years of being an owner, Mr. Snyder knows that he actually has to build a team the right way. That means letting your coach and GM handle their biz while he writes the checks. He gets it now. The Redskins will continue to improve and he will be their for the long haul.

  4. “Snyder’s pursuit of Shanahan began long before Shanahan was hired”

    Kind of a strange title. I mean kind of need to pursue someone before you hire them. Can anyone explain how Snyder could have hired him without pursuing him?

  5. Skins will never be successful as long as Snyder owns the team, I don’t care who’s coach. This piece made me sick.

  6. Shanahan ain’t going anywhere. All you have to do is look at how they conducted their offseason (trading down in the draft to get 12 draft picks, spending on good foundation players not big names) to see how much control Shanahan has. Snyder knows they may finish below .500 this year. They are building for next season. Now, finish 6-10 in 2012………………

  7. This isn’t a new story MF. Why write it? Oh yeah, so you can take another jab at Snyder. I’m looking forward to your next article about the Redskins. I’m sure it will be called, “Skins beat injured G-men, but only because G-men were injured”. Pft = Pfffffft.

  8. Shanny may very well have wanted out in Denver.

    It became painfully obvious that without Elway, the MasterMind… just wasn’t.

    Griese, Plummer, Cutler – nothing clicked or smelled even remotely like a Championship team… and the Defense started getting worse.

    Mike needed a change of scenery, and so did Denver. I agreed on both. Sadly, Denver got the worst of it after a hefty swig of the McDaniels cool-aid.

    Fast forward to today. Shanahan had some great years… but this is as much about setting up Shanny Jr., than anything else., and Washington is any better than the days of Zorn.
    12-20 Jim Zorn
    6-10 Mike Shanahan… and after 18 months in control, Rex Grossman is his starting QB…Ouch.

  9. Now in his fifth season, John Beck is the starter/is not the starter/is the future/was the future, and it’ll be a game time decision that will be revealed a week before the game.

  10. It’s all a moot point because the Redskins will be competitive this year like they haven’t been since Norv was coach…

  11. Mike Wise is a grade a douche bag and works for a radio station and a newspaper that have axes to grind with the Redskins, specifically Dan Snyder. Anything he can do to distract the team/organization just before the start of the season he will do.

    Luckily, Shanahan is jot on the proverbial hot seat and neither is Bruce Allen. Shanahan specifically took the Skins job with an understanding that it would be 5year minimum.

    Eat sh1t Mike Wise.

  12. Everyone is going to find out what I already know. As a Broncos fan, I know this. Shanahan was only as good as Elway made him look. After Elway retired, until well, now, the Broncos haven’t been very much above a .500 team. Elway, T. Davis, S. Sharpe, McCaffery, Rod Smith, Atwater, made Shanny look good for a few yrs.

  13. 11 un-named sources? That sounds about right for a Mike Wise column. It sure is nice of you to help Mike Wise rehabilitate his career.

    But why not take it a step further MF? Why not give Wise a job working for you? It is obvious you are a fan of his work. Not only would you be doing Wise and yourself a favor, but you would be doing all of us Skins fans a favor by getting Wise out of the DC market. Please consider it.

  14. 35,000 sq ft home for Shanarat? Who does he think he is, Al Gore?? Between the two of them, those knuckles have a carbon footprint the size of Cleveland.

  15. While I would never put anything past Snyder, the article was written by Mike Wise so it should be judged with a grain of salt. 11 unnamed sources to me raises all kinds of red flags. It’s bad when you have a reputation like Snyder’s, that a guy, even with the reputation of Wise, can still make you look bad. Snyder has no on to blame but himself.

  16. This article demonstrates why the Skins will never win anything of significance while Danny is the owner. All this sneaking around, meddling in coach-player affairs, and drunkenly making decisions like he’s playing fantasy football has compromised this team’s chances for on-field success. He obviously didn’t do due diligence in deciding on Shanahan, zeroing in on someone who’s won NOTHING without John Elway, while not even bothering to look at better-qualified assistants who could give the team just what it needs to get back on its feet. Dan Snyder is a fraud and a clown, and has destroyed a once-great football franchise.

  17. As somebody posted earlier Shanahan wasn’t fired in late January, he was fired in late December, I remember going to going to the Broncos website to see if Bob Slowick had been fired yet (as he richly deserved!) and reading the news that Shanahan was out. For some reason I thought it was on Black Monday but if it wasn’t it was definitely on the Tuesday following their embarrassing loss against the Dolts.

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