ASHBURN, Va. — The Washington Redskins have fired coach Mike Shanahan after a 3-13 season, the third coach to be fired following the 2013 season.
Shanahan was dismissed Monday after meeting with team owner Dan Snyder.
The Detroit Lions also fired Jim Schwartz, and earlier Monday, the Minnesota Vikings fired Leslie Frazier, and on Sunday night, Rob Chudzynski was dismissed as Cleveland Browns coach.
Shanahan’s plan to restore order, professionalism and consistent success to the Redskins disintegrated quickly in 2013, costing him his job.
Shanahan was fired after a morning meeting with owner Dan Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen at Redskins Park, a formality expected for several weeks as the losses mounted and tension rose among Shanahan, Snyder and franchise player Robert Griffin III.
Shanahan went 24-40 in four seasons in Washington and had one year remaining on his five-year, $35 million contract.
Snyder will now be seeking his eighth head coach for his 16th season as an NFL owner — a span that includes just four winning seasons, two playoff victories and seven last-place finishes in the NFC East.
“Redskins fans deserve a better result,” Snyder said in a statement. “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.”
Shanahan captured Super Bowls titles with quarterback John Elway and the Denver Broncos after the 1997 and 1998 seasons, but he won only one playoff game over his final 10 years with the club and was fired after the 2008 season.
Shanahan’s career regular-season record is 170-138 over 20 seasons with the Los Angeles Raiders, Broncos and Redskins, but his two worst years have come in Washington — 5-11 in 2011 and this year’s 3-13. The 2013 record was also the worst for the Redskins since 1994, and their season-ending eight-game losing streak is their longest in more than 50 years.
Shortly after his meeting with Snyder, Shanahan made a five-minute statement thanking fans, players, reporters and Snyder but did not take questions. He defended his efforts in rebuilding the Redskins while repeating his assertion that an NFL-levied salary cap penalty hindered his ability to improve the roster even more.
“We’re better off today than we were four years ago,” Shanahan said.
Shanahan’s first two years with the Redskins were mostly spent trying to settle on a quarterback and cleaning up the mess left behind after the dysfunctional reign of front office chief Vinny Cerrato and coach Jim Zorn.
The selection of Heisman Trophy winner Griffin with the No. 2 overall draft pick and a season-ending seven-game winning streak propelled the Redskins to 10-6 record in 2012, their first division title in 13 years.
But Griffin was injured in the playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks and required major knee surgery days later, setting the stage for a year of conflict as the quarterback vowed to return in record time and felt empowered enough to openly challenge some of his Shanahan’s decisions.
Griffin returned for Week 1 of the regular season — just as he said he would — but he wasn’t the same dynamic player who won the NFL’s Offensive Rookie of the Year award in 2012.
The Redskins also struggled on defense and special teams, with Shanahan repeatedly citing the handicap of the two-year, $36 million salary cap penalty imposed by the league for the way Washington restructured contracts during the uncapped year of 2010.
Shanahan eventually benched Griffin for the final three games of the season. Even though Griffin was medically cleared to play, the coach said the move was best for the organization because it was important for the quarterback’s development that he be healthy for the upcoming offseason. Griffin was clearly unhappy with the decision.
Snyder’s search for a new coach presents plenty of intrigue. He’s tried nearly every angle: the hot college coach with no NFL experience (Steve Spurrier), the franchise icon (Joe Gibbs), the promising youngish coordinator (Jim Zorn) and the established demand-control-over-everything big names (Marty Schottenheimer and Shanahan).
Snyder’s hands-on reputation and history of developing close relationships with star players have made candidates wary of the job, and his ties with Griffin did nothing to help matters this year.
“We are going to take a smart, step-by-step approach to finding the right coach to return the Redskins to where we believe we should be,” Allen said. “We will analyze accurately and honestly all of the decisions that were made over the past year.”
Shanahan demanded — and received — contractual control over all football matters when he joined the Redskins, and he repeatedly emphasized the need to run a disciplined organization with a sense of decorum.
He weeded out the disgruntled players — most notably Albert Haynesworth — but ultimately was unable to stymie what he called the “circus atmosphere” that has permeated the Redskins under Snyder.
Leaks, rumors and power struggles were just as bad as before. He leaves with the same regular-season winning percentage (.375) in Washington as Spurrier and Zorn.
The Lions made the move Monday, one day after they ended their late-season slide with a loss at Minnesota.
Detroit flopped to a 7-9 record this year after a 6-3 record start put the franchise in a position to win a division title for the first time since 1993.
Schwartz was 29-51 over five seasons, including a 10-6 mark in 2011 that lifted the Lions to their only postseason appearance this century. The former Tennessee Titans defensive coordinator was hired in 2009 when Detroit was coming off the NFL’s first 0-16 season. Schwartz had the team going in the right direction during his first three seasons before it took a step back the next two years.
The Vikings fired Frazier, one year after they made the playoffs and one day after they finished a 5-10-1 season.
After going 10-6 in 2012, the Vikings regressed this year, done in by a leaky defense and an ongoing inability to find stability at quarterback. Frazier finished 21-33-1 in three-plus seasons.
The 54-year-old Frazier had one season remaining on his contract.
“We have tremendous respect and appreciation for Leslie and what he has done for the Minnesota Vikings,” owner Zygi Wilf said in a statement distributed by the team. “He stepped in and established a strong positive culture here, and he has been the consummate professional as our head coach and in this community. Making this change is difficult but what we determined is best for the organization.”
The Vikings planned an afternoon news conference at Winter Park.
Quarterback Christian Ponder sputtered and produced three straight turnover-plagued performances to start the season. The Vikings lost all three, on last-minute touchdowns to Chicago and Cleveland.
They lost two other games and tied one in similar fashion, squandering leads inside the 52-second mark in all five of those. Though veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield was cut before the season to save space under the salary cap, the defense that has been Frazier’s expertise faltered badly. Drafting Ponder 12th overall in 2011 was the primary responsibility of general manager Rick Spielman, but the shaky quarterback situation was far from the only problem for this team.
Hired by Brad Childress to be the defensive coordinator in 2007, Frazier interviewed for seven head coach openings over a three-year span: Atlanta and Miami in 2008, Denver, Detroit and St. Louis in 2009, and Buffalo and Seattle in 2010.
Finally, his opportunity came with the Vikings when Childress was fired in the middle of a messy 2010 season.
Credited with keeping the team on an even keel while attention swirled around Brett Favre and the Metrodome roof collapsed the night before a scheduled game, Frazier went 3-3 as the interim, including an improbable win at playoff-bound Philadelphia after the NFL postponed that contest by two days because of a forecast snowstorm.
Frazier got the job for good in 2011, but after a lockout-shortened offseason, the Vikings went 3-13 behind an ineffective Donovan McNabb and then rookie Ponder at quarterback. In 2012, they staged a remarkable turnaround, riding Adrian Peterson to a spot in the playoffs.
Childress had his contract extended in 2009 while the Vikings were on their way to the NFC championship game, but the team came unglued the following fall. Wary of a similarly expensive over-commitment, Wilf and the front office merely picked up a fourth-year option on Frazier’s deal last January, putting him in a prove-it situation for 2013.
Right away, his future here turned grim.
And as widely liked as Frazier has been throughout the organization, the ultra-competitive landscape of the NFL rarely allows coaches with two double-digit-defeat records in three years to keep their jobs.
His playing career as a cornerback for Chicago cut short by a knee injury in the Super Bowl, Frazier soon ventured into coaching, building the program at Trinity College from scratch in 1988.
Fifteen years later, he became the defensive coordinator for Cincinnati. With two years as an assistant in Indianapolis, Frazier came from the Tony Dungy mold of coaches, a soft-spoken man of deep Christian faith who has excelled at creating a culture of harmony and respect around the locker room.
After the Vikings beat Detroit on Sunday to wrap up the season, Frazier stumped to stay. He said he was proud of the job he has done here.
“I just have a lot of belief in my abilities as a coach and have a lot of belief in the guys on our team, a lot of belief in our staff, and for that reason you don’t have to walk in fear,” Frazier said at the Metrodome. “You just know that things are going to work out.”