Until now, I would not have been in favor of firing Shanahan. I'm still quite certain it won't happen; knowing Snyder, he will only fire the coach if he has a significant replacement so that his own ego can be further boosted. Jim Zorn should have been fired the second he "felt like the worst coach in the NFL," but Snyder wouldn't fire him because of ego. Zorn, lest we forget, was 12-20 in two season. Shanahan is 3-0 in season openers, but only 11-27 the rest of the time. He still has the capacity to be a good coach, but he lacks the fire needed to compete. He has proven that he can win a championship, and he doesn't coach like he has anything else to prove.
His decision to give up on the season, while probably an accurate portrayal of the Redskins' chances, speaks volumes. He needs to go. But who would replace him?
Sean Payton would make the splash required to satisfy Snyder's ego. Snyder also has no problem overpaying in order to satisfy his ego. But Payton will probably stay in New Orleans, and if not, probably move to Dallas. (Redskins' fans, unite in hope that Jerry Jones wants to keep Jason Garrett around.)
Chip Kelly might also make a big enough splash, but I hope that Snyder has learned his lesson about hiring college coaches with gimmick offenses (see Spurrier, Steve). There is a chance, if Alabama wins another national championship, that Nick Saban could be persuaded to try again to succeed on the one level he had no success, this time with a great talent at quarterback. I'd have to be Dumb and Dumber to think there was an actual chance of this.
One thing to keep in mind: coaches typically experience success with one quarterback. Paul Brown and Otto Graham. Lombardi and Bart Starr. Shanahan and Elway, Belichick and Brady,
Zorn and Campbell. Coaches such as Joe Gibbs and Bill Parcells are the exception to the rule; they are two of three coaches to win Super Bowls with multiple quarterbacks, and the other was George Seifert, who just so happened to inherit Joe Montana as his starting quarterback and Steve Young as his backup, and won a Super Bowl with both. So, whoever replaces Shanahan (in our dreams) would need to be an up and coming coach, not someone already established in the NFL, or, possibly, a formerly hot coordinator who failed in a previous coaching position. (We can't be afraid to try; Belichick was largely a failure in Cleveland, but the results the second time around have been fairly good.)
So here are a few candidates that would never get hired because of the enormous zeppelin that is Snyder's ego (to further the comparison, it's made of lead and dragging the franchise down):
Greg Roman, offensive coordinator, San Francisco: Alex Smith. Suddenly, one of the more reliable quarterbacks in the NFL. Yes, he has talent to work with, but there is at least as much talent in Washington, and a considerably greater amount at the most important position. He has worked with Jim Harbaugh since 2009, and hopefully has learned well. I'd like to see him get a chance to work some magic with RGIII and the rest of the offensive talent.
Bruce Arians, offensive coordinator/interim head coach, Indianapolis: No chance the Colts let Arians walk, but I'd bet plenty of teams looking for a new head coach inquire after the job he has done filling in for Chuck Pagano. He's done well working with Ben Roethlisberger and Andrew Luck, and would be a good hire to work with RGIII (who, in style of play, is probably closer to Roethlisberger than many of the quarterbacks he's compared to.)
Mike Zimmer, defensive coordinator, Cincinnati: Zimmer has been waiting a long time to get his chance, and it is certainly time the Redskins hired a defensive coach. Pretty much everyone knows about the job he has done in Dallas and Cincinnati as a coordinator, and how he has coached through adversity. This would also enable the Redskins to keep much of the current offensive staff in place, which would probably help in the development of RGIII. I don't know if Kyle Shanahan would stick around if his dad got fired, but he might in return for greater control over the offense. I don't know if Zimmer would agree to that, either.
Jack Del Rio, defensive coordinator, Denver: Del Rio was certainly not bad in Jacksonville, and if he would revert to wearing a suit on the sideline, he might be able to bring some much-needed professionalism to Washington. He took the Jaguars to two playoff appearances in nine seasons, but didn't have a lot to work with. And seeing how things have gotten significantly worse in Jacksonville following his ouster, teams looking for a head coach would do well to look in his direction.
Gary Patterson, head coach, TCU: it takes a bit of a different skill set to succeed in the NFL as opposed to college, as Steve Spurrier and a few others have found out. But the success of Greg Schiano in Tampa and Pete Carroll in Seattle shows that some can do it. Patterson probably could succeed in the NFL. But the chances of him leaving a TCU job he has turned into one of the better jobs in the country are slim. He'd certainly be worth talking to, and the chances of him leaving would be better than the chances of Saban leaving, but not by much.
Jim Mora, head coach, UCLA: Mora had little success in Atlanta or Seattle, but has done well in turning around UCLA thus far. His coaching experience is far more NFL than college, and he did win a division title in his first season in Atlanta. Snyder has offered the job to Mora before, however, and Mora turned it down then, when the Redskins were coming off their second playoff appearance in three seasons. It's doubtful he'd feel differently now, with the franchise in the state it is. And his loyalty is certainly questionable. I think he is capable of doing a good job, but I wouldn't feel good about this hire.
Of course, we know that unless Shanahan resigns, he won't get the axe unless Snyder has a big name lined up. So unless Nick Saban decides to return to the NFL, or Joe Gibbs decides to come out of retirement again (these two things are equally likely) we will see Shanahan again next year. As fans, we just have to realize that we will be cursed with that huge ego until Snyder decides to sell the team. It's sad that the chances of a Lions-Browns Super Bowl in the next five years are probably higher than the Lombardi returning to old DC. But such is the life of a Redskins fan. I still wear my 'skins hat with pride, but now it is the same sort of pride that Cubs' fans must feel; I'm proud of the fact that I take everything this team throws at me and stay loyal. We are a proud fanbase, but we are proud of ourselves, not of our team. And, in thirty years (or however long it takes for this team to be relevant) our loyalty will be rewarded.