Do the Redskins Fire Shanahan now or in 3 weeks?

By
Updated: December 9, 2013
Shanahan closeup

According to Mark Maske, the Washington Redskins are debating not whether or not to fire their head coach, but when and how to do it:

The Washington Redskins were sorting through their options Monday regarding Coach Mike Shanahan and one of the possibilities is firing Shanahan for cause and attempting to withhold the money due to him for the remainder of his contract, according to multiple people familiar with the situation.

Shanahan is owed whatever he’s got left coming to him this year plus another $7 million next season. Coaches contracts are guaranteed, unlike player contracts.

Presumably, the Redskins would cite the ESPN report from yesterday — almost surely leaked by Shanahan himself or someone at his direction — that the coach came close to quitting last season and that he is disgusted by the close relationship between QB Robert Griffin III and team owner Dan Snyder. The Redskins could argue that Shanahan has poisoned the team atmosphere and his persistent and damaging leaks against the owner and the quarterback amounts to insubordination and/or fraud and/or breach of contract. The Redskins would then argue they need not pay Shanahan his full contract since he breached it.

That won’t be an easy argument to win, but it wouldn’t be unprecedented for an NFL team to try and we know Dan Snyder is rather fond of litigation.

However, it would help the Redskins case enormously if they fire Shanahan today. If the team wants to argue that it was Shanahans insolent and dishonest media scheming that was the cause of his firing for cause, then firing him now — while the media reports are fresh — would make sense. On the other hand, waiting three weeks would allow Shanahan to argue, quite reasonably, that he was fired because the team performed poorly, not because of something that happened nearly a month before. Coaches who are fired for performance on the field get paid their full contract.

So if the Redskins want to avoid paying Shanahan his full contract the best thing they could do is fire him today. As soon as possible.