EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. -- Mike Shanahan looked like a tired coach once again, drained from a 3-13 season, drained from the speculation of the last several weeks. It's not a spot the two-time Super Bowl-winning coach is accustomed to finding himself.
Yes, he was fired before. This time is different, assuming, as has been widely reported, that he will indeed be fired Monday morning. The Redskins were headed in the right direction a year ago at this time. Now they're only facing questions, starting with Shanahan's job security. He'll know the official answer shortly after 9 a.m. Monday when he's scheduled to meet with owner Dan Snyder. At that time, it's expected that Snyder will make official what has been reported for days and weeks. Only a Hail Mary pass could save him now -- and it might need to come from his own 25-yard line.
It's the reality of the business. At this point the support his players say they have for him doesn't matter. After four years, you look at W's and L's. And the right side of the ledger far outweighed the left.
“You've got to win,” Shanahan said after the Redskins' eighth straight loss, a 20-6 defeat at the New York Giants. “We weren't able to do that. I'm responsible for that.”
Yes, he is and that's why a change will be made. One player after another stood up for Shanahan, as often happens in these situations. What they didn't do was win enough for him to keep his job. After four years, the Redskins were 24-40 under him. Earlier in the season he pointed to a number of areas that had improved in his regime. They changed over the roster and the entire offensive starting lineup.
By season's end they pointed less to the improvements that had been made and more to issues that held them back, such as the $36 million salary-cap penalty that limited their ability to make many replacements the past two years.
If this was the end for Shanahan, he wasn't ready to address it, saying several times, “I'll talk to you about that tomorrow,” to any question regarding the future. Or on his legacy in Washington.
But when it came to the 3-13 season, the Redskins' worst mark since 1994, Shanahan said a little more.
“We've done a lot of good things,” he said. “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.”
The 3-13 mark also was a personal low for Shanahan, who coached 20 games in Oakland and 14 years in Denver. He won two Super Bowls with the Broncos. But in his past seven seasons, three with Denver and four in Washington, he compiled a 48-64 record.
He wouldn't call this his most disappointing season. It's also not far off.
“I've had a few, this is right up there with them,” Shanahan said. “Anytime you are responsible for a football team that comes away with three wins, it's always disappointing.”
It has been an odd couple of weeks for a coach who could have turned his Redskins tenure into an eventual Hall of Fame bid. Now? It's uncertain what the future will hold for Shanahan. He spent the past several weeks answering questions about his job, whether he would quit, if he wanted to be fired, if he thought he would be fired. There were questions about the relationship between he and quarterback Robert Griffin III, which once was an issue but the more the Redskins lost the more it became clear a change would be made regardless.
If the end was here for Shanahan, it came on a dreary day in a stadium not half-filled. There was no sense of relief on his behalf that he'll finally know his fate. Instead, he looked wiped from a rough season and even tougher final month.
“You always want to compete and you are disappointed when you lose,” Shanahan said. “It's not a fun profession when you lose. To be in this situation, is something I haven't experienced, so very disappointed.”