Faced with the ever-increasing reality that he may not be back as the Washington Redskins' coach next season, Mike Shanahan insisted Monday afternoon that he would indeed like to remain with the team.
"You always want to come back," Shanahan said, midway through his regularly scheduled day-after press conference. "I love these guys."
Shanahan's tenure as Redskins coach has come under scrutiny in recent weeks as the team, expected to be in the playoff picture after qualifying for the postseason last year, has sputtered to a dismal 3-10 record.
His status seemed further in doubt after ESPN reported Sunday, hours before the Redskins' 45-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs at FedEx Field, that Shanahan was prepared to leave the team in January before its first playoff game in five years because he was upset about the impact owner Dan Snyder's relationship with quarterback Robert Griffin III had on the franchise.
Like he did Sunday, Shanahan on Monday refused to address the specifics of the report, insisting only that he and Snyder have "a good relationship" and that the two had talked earlier in the day.
"All I'm saying to you is I get along with Dan quite well," Shanahan said. "He's been a very supportive owner, and hopefully, I can win for him."
When asked why such a report would come out at this time of the season, with the Redskins playing four meaningless games and tied for the second-worst record in the league, Shanahan gave a direct response.
"We're 3-10," he said. "That's what happens when you're 3-10. We can't talk about the playoffs. We can't talk about our draft choice — we don't have a first-round draft choice. We've got to talk about something."
In fact, Shanahan said, he apologized to his players during a Monday morning team meeting, telling them that such "distractions" come with the dismal record.
The Redskins were humiliated on Sunday and suffered their most lopsided loss during Shanahan's three-plus seasons with the team. Afterward, players insisted that they hadn't quit on Shanahan or the rest of the team — an assertion that Shanahan also made after the game.
Several people at Redskins Park on Monday morning said that the approach taken by players and coaches was business as usual, even with the specter of the loss and the report hanging around the facility.
As is typically the case on Mondays, players filtered out of the facility shortly before 2 p.m., done for the day. Nose tackle Barry Cofield, one of the team's captains, said "everything was normal" and that he tried to focus on his mistakes against the Chiefs and preparing for the next game, which is on the road against the Atlanta Falcons on Sunday.
"I didn't take too much time to think about [the report]," Cofield said. "I don't think anybody really is. It definitely is not a topic in our locker room. Our focus is on the game. We're focused on meetings and the practice field, and that what we need to be focused on. We're obviously struggling right now."
Shanahan was asked three times about his desire to remain with the Redskins before, roughly 16 minutes into a 24-minute press conference, professing his desire to do so. He is under contract through the 2014 for a reported annual average of $7 million a year, which would be the third-largest for any NFL coach. Part of the problem with any potential departure would be paying out the remainder of Shanahan's salary, plus whatever would be handed to a potential successor.
That fact, though, was among several Shanahan did not want to address. His preferred talking point was the Falcons, who are also 3-10 a season after a division title yet, somehow, don't appear to be in such disarray.
And, Shanahan vowed, he's not giving up on his players.
"As I shared with our football team, they know that they're going to get my best shot over the next three games and I'm hoping I get their best shot over the next three games," Shanahan said. "Our goal is to win the next three, starting with Atlanta, and we get a chance at two NFC East foes here — Dallas and on the road against the Giants — and hopefully, we can end the season on a positive note."
NOTES: Shanahan confirmed running back Evan Royster will be placed on injured reserve after sustaining a high left ankle sprain early in the second quarter on Sunday. Royster had played in 10 games this season, but only in the last three games had he assumed any role on offense. He had two carries for zero yards and one catch for four yards.
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