ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Mike Shanahan did his best to downplay a contract that gives him full authority over football matters with the Washington Redskins.
“I do have final say,” Shanahan said, “but I never used it in Denver.”
Whether he has to invoke such a power with the Redskins depends on whether owner Dan Snyder can truly live with a diminished role, and whether Shanahan and new general manager Bruce Allen can truly work as give-and-take partners the way Shanahan envisions.
“I know Bruce will not agree with me on a lot of things,” Shanahan said, “and that’s what I’m looking for.”
The coach who took the Denver Broncos to two Super Bowl titles in the 1990s was introduced Wednesday as Washington’s coach and executive vice president. He has a five-year deal that will pay him $35 million, with the Broncos footing the bill for $7 million over the first two years. Denver fired him a year ago with three years left on his contract.
For that kind of money, Shanahan had better produce.
The Redskins just completed a 4-12 season that cost coach Jim Zorn his job and was marred by discipline issues and public player bickering. Snyder had little choice but to bring in strong, established voices to run the team, hiring Shanahan on the heels of Allen, who was brought in three weeks ago as his first general manger in 11 years as owner.
The transition was apparent from the beginning of the news conference. Snyder, for the first time since buying the team in 1999, was not onstage to introduce a new coach. Instead he sat next to his wife Tanya in the audience as Allen did the honors in the Redskins Park auditorium.
“Dan Snyder has directed us to please get this team back to the levels where it’s been in the past,” Allen said. “And I believe he’s going to be our most supportive fan.”
Snyder tried this once before, giving final roster control to coach Marty Schottenheimer in 2001 — before the two butted heads and Schottenheimer was fired after an 8-8 season. Snyder also deferred to Joe Gibbs when the Hall of Fame coach came out of retirement, but this is the first time the owner has taken this much of a back seat.
The Redskins are 82-99 under Snyder, missing the playoffs in eight of 11 seasons. He left the news conference without speaking to reporters.
It was no secret that Snyder had been planning to replace Zorn with Shanahan for months, and Shanahan’s comments did nothing to dispel that notion. He said he and Snyder talked “throughout the year like we have over the last 10 years,” and he all but lobbied Snyder on Allen’s behalf for the GM job last offseason.
“I said, ‘Hey, this guy, I can’t believe, is on the street,'” Shanahan said. “And so, when you get a guy like that, you say, ‘Hey, let’s gobble him up.'”
Things will surely be different for the Redskins under Shanahan. He said he’d prefer to move training camp away from the area, something the team hasn’t done since 2003. He said he won’t tolerate the kind of negative comments that surfaced in recent weeks from players such as Albert Haynesworth and Clinton Portis. The roster includes major questions at offensive line, quarterback, running back and defensive back.
Another symbol of change: Absent from the news conference were the team’s three Super Bowl trophies from the 1980s and early ’90s, the prized possessions Snyder used to always display whenever the team made major news.
Shanahan will spend his first days evaluating the roster and deciding on a coaching staff. One move already made: His son, Houston Texans offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, is taking the same job with the Redskins to fulfill his dream of working with father.
“I’ve got very high standards, just like everybody in this organization,” Mike Shanahan said. “I can’t tell you how long it’s going to take. But I can guarantee you: We’ll get better every day and hopefully it won’t take long to get back to where this organization has been.”
AP Sports Writer Howard Fendrich contributed to this report.