End of an era? Redskins fall again, Shanahan might, too

Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III and coach Mike Shanahan won't have as much time to strategize before Thursday's game against Dallas. Washington needs a win to stay in the NFC East hunt. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III and coach Mike Shanahan won’t have as much time to strategize before Thursday’s game against Dallas. Washington needs a win to stay in the NFC East hunt. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — A driving rain beating down on his shoulders, Mike Shanahan walked off the field and through the tunnel one last time – certainly for the season, if not his career.

The Washington Redskins‘ most miserable season in 19 years ended mercifully on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, where they lost, 20-6, to the New York Giants.

Now, the focus shifts to the status of Shanahan, his coordinators and his assistant coaches, all of whom expect a decision to be made in the coming days concerning their futures with the team.

“I thought we’ve done a lot of good things,” Shanahan said. “I thought last year we had a good run there. This year, we just turned the ball over too many times as an offense. We had some runs we couldn’t capitalize on. At the end of the day, you’ve got to win, and we weren’t able to do that for whatever reason. I’m responsible for that, and I’m disappointed we couldn’t get that done.”

The Redskins have not won since Nov. 3, an overtime victory over the San Diego Chargers, and lost their last eight games for the first time since 1960. Their 3-13 record is not only their worst since 1994, when they also won only three games, but marks the worst finish in Shanahan’s 19 years as a coach. 

A person familiar with the situation said Shanahan and team owner Dan Snyder will meet Monday at 9 a.m. At this point, it seems likely the decision on whether to part with Shanahan comes down to the money: The coach signed a five-year contract in January 2010 with an average annual value of $7 million. Shanahan won’t resign to avoid surrendering his claim to that money, while Snyder will want to exercise restraint when it comes to firing the coach to avoid paying him.

It’s difficult to envision Shanahan, now 24-40 in DC, returning to a team after such a performance, especially when the Redskins won the NFC East title and qualified for the playoffs the previous season. The disconnect between Shanahan, owner Dan Snyder and quarterback Robert Griffin III, which has boiled over in recent weeks, furthers the issue.

Shanahan’s winning pedigree — he guided the Denver Broncos to consecutive Super Bowl victories following the 1997 and 1998 seasons — hasn’t translated to Washington. The Redskins have reached double-digit losses in three of Shanahan’s four seasons, yet after last year, the question entering this season was not whether the Redskins would make the playoffs, but how far they would go.

Yet again, they’ll be home in January, but unlike last year, it won’t be to host a postseason game.

“Disappointing,” said inside linebacker Perry Riley. “I mean, I feel like that’s — you know, the only word that comes to mind that explains it. Coming into this year, I feel like everybody on this team would have put every dollar they had that we wouldn’t be 3-13, but that’s what the record says we are, so that’s the only thing that people go by.”

Fittingly, the Redskins went out with one of their worst performances of the season. Quarterback Kirk Cousins, wrapping up a three-game stint as the starting quarterback in place Griffin, went 19-for-49 for 169 yards and two interceptions, again struggling with his accuracy.

Washington gained only 251 yards, its second-worst total of the season, and turned the ball over four times, all in the second half. Kicker Kai Forbath scored the Redskins‘ only points on a pair of first-half field goals — one of 31 yards, one of 49 yards — and their defense couldn’t take advantage of an injury to Giants quarterback Eli Manning, who left the game at halftime with a sprained ankle.

As they have often over the past month, players voiced their support for Shanahan, who was repeatedly asked after the game about his job status and his expectation for the future but said he’d answer such questions on Monday.

Yet many of them seemed resigned to the fact that Shanahan would not be their coach as soon as Monday morning, leaving them to wonder exactly what will happen to the franchise in the years to come.

“When you don’t win, that’s what happens,” said strong safety Reed Doughty, who completed his eighth year with the Redskins and is in the last year of his contract. “I’ve been in this league a while, and when you don’t win, I mean, they’ve asked for [Giants coach Tom] Coughlin to be fired numerous times, and they’ve obviously won two Super Bowls. I don’t make those decisions. I have no control over that, but I do know from a players’ perspective that what he asked of us, the way he ran things – I, from my own personal experience, think he was a class act, and I enjoyed playing for him.”

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