- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 8, 2013


In freezing rain, a few dozen soaked Redskins supporters clustered in the stands above the tunnel as Mike Shanahan strode off the slush-covered field.

The fans waved goodbye. The coach’s face remained blank.

Each week, you believe the Redskins have finally scraped bottom. That a dumpster fire would remain adequate to describe this lost season. Then the next embarrassment rolls in for an organization so addicted to drama that you’d swear the involvement of a Kardashian is the next logical development.

And in front of an intimate gathering Sunday afternoon at FedEx Field, these Redskins proved things can get much worse in the 45-10 loss to the Chiefs.

This is a season and an organization without a bottom, where no reason remains to say this is as bad as things will get. Even at 3-10.

Not when Shanahan emerged a few minutes after the waves for a farcical 10-minute press conference that pointed to his impending exit from Washington.

Before the game, ESPN reported that Shanahan cleaned out his office before last season’s playoff game against the Seahawks and prepared to quit over frustrations about Daniel Snyder’s relationship with Robert Griffin III.

Shanahan could have ended this. Say the incident never happened. Say he had nothing to do with the leak. But he’s not immune to the organizational soap opera that seems without end — and, really, what he didn’t say spoke loudest.

These stories don’t pop up by accident or happenstance a few hours before a game in a season where the coach and his quarterback remain engaged in a months-long tug-of-war over who actually runs the franchise.

So, Shanahan stood at the podium and spewed empty words about taking responsibility for a team that, once again, couldn’t tackle or play special teams in anything approaching a professional manner.

“I’ll put that on me,” he said. “Any questions?”

Shanahan doesn’t shy from immediately and loudly correcting stories he doesn’t believe to be accurate, but he didn’t deny this report.

He interrupted, then refused to answer, a question about if he wants to coach the Redskins next season.

“Like I said, you can keep on talking about this,” Shanahan said. “I think I made my point. Any questions about football?”

He refused to characterize his association with Snyder, hardly the answer of a coach in lockstep with his owner.

“I’m not going to get into details about my relationship with Dan or about the reports that [emerged] this morning,” Shanahan said.

He said he wanted to talk about football. About Sunday’s debacle. About the coming contest against the Falcons. About the season’s final three weeks. Given opportunity to do so, he didn’t much want to talk about those things, either, other than the vague notion of that all this is his fault.

Barely concealed frustration hung on each word. And who can blame him?

Opponents have outscored the Redskins by 128 points this season, the team’s worst point differential since 1961.

Bad weather and the promise of worse football Sunday pushed tickets on the secondary market to $4. Even those giveaway prices could not attract more than 15,000 to 20,000 hardy souls to watch the gang in burgundy jerseys who didn’t appear to have the slightest interest in being there.

In the first half, each Chiefs play call seemed to work with an ease that would furrow the brow of the greenest Pop Warner assistant coach against a defense that was an much of an impediment as those orange tackling dummies.

The season-long mistakes that have dogged Griffin continued, from staring down receivers to inaccurate passes.

These are Shanahan’s Redskins, a mismanged group he gave no indication he is interested in continuing his relationship with following this season.

Given control over the entire football operations department along with a $35 million contract in 2010, the coach has lurched to a 24-37 record. His halcyon days winning two Super Bowl titles as coach of the Broncos seem as far away as a postgame press conference not focused on picking through the carcass of the another loss.

No player in the locker room would admit as much Sunday, but the Redskins spent an afternoon looking like a team that flat-out quit in the final weeks of a crumbling regime.

Ultimately, responsibility belongs to the man who built the 53-man roster and coaching staff, whether his acceptance of such is genuine or not. Snyder, for all his impatience in cycling through coach after coach, isn’t at fault for Griffin hucking the football at the feet or a receiver or tackle attempts that wouldn’t slow a microphone-waving reporter.

Shanahan wouldn’t distance himself from the quitting story that may help to facilitate his exit. Through each petulant, combative sentence, the coach looked and sounded like a man who has had enough.

“I already told you I took full responsibility for that,” Shanahan said, voice rising. “I don’t need to go any further. If you’d like to talk more about the running game and Alfred Morris carrying the ball, we can do that. But I think I made my point. Thank you.”

Then the coach walked away without another word. The words he didn’t use had said enough.

• Nathan Fenno can be reached at nfenno@washingtontimes.com.

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