ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins moved quickly in their pursuit of Mike Shanahan on Monday, flying in the former Denver Broncos coach on the same day the team fired Jim Zorn.
Shanahan landed at Dulles International Airport near Redskins Park in mid-afternoon and was driven away in a limousine to meet with owner Dan Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen.
Shanahan's arrival was just one dramatic movement in a fast-moving day as the Redskins sought a new direction after a 4-12 season. It started when Zorn was dismissed in the pre-dawn hours after Sunday's 23-20 loss at San Diego.
"It's real clear that we're going to be aggressive," Allen said. "What we're looking for in a head coach is somebody who can lead these men that we had in our locker room this year to levels they've haven't played through before."
Shanahan won two Super Bowls in 14 seasons with the Broncos. He was fired a year ago after Denver missed the playoffs for the third straight season.
Zorn went 12-20 over two seasons, losing 18 of 24 games after a 6-2 start in 2008. The Redskins struggled early despite a weak schedule this season and finished with their worst record since 1994.
Zorn's replacement will be Washington's seventh coach since Snyder bought the team in 1999. Taking a prominent public role in the decision is Allen, who was hired as the GM last month.
Punt, pass and Judge
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"No one in the organization is satisfied with our record over the last two years," Snyder said in a statement released by the team, "and I am sure that Jim would concur with that statement. It has been painful for him, too. I certainly accept responsibility for mistakes that I have made. I am hopeful that our fans will accept my commitment and pledge to deliver a franchise that can compete in the NFC East every season."
Neither Snyder nor Zorn was made available to reporters.
Zorn's dismissal had been expected for months. The front office stripped him of his play-calling duties in late October, and Snyder interviewed assistant coach Jerry Gray for the job weeks ago, according to the Fritz Pollard Alliance, which monitors minority hiring in the NFL.
The new coach, Snyder and Allen will have a monumental task to rebuild a team with many roster deficiencies and major questions at offensive line, quarterback and running back.
This season's team was also hurt by numerous injuries, a lack of depth and many off-the-field distractions, but also by an inability of Zorn's West Coast offense to consistently find the end zone.
The Redskins failed to score more than 17 points in any of their first eight games, prompting the front office to bring longtime NFL assistant coach Sherm Lewis out of retirement as an offensive consultant and play-caller.
"The status quo has to end," Allen said. "We have to change the way we've been doing some business. ... Last place two years in a row is not Redskins football."
Zorn, who had never previously been a head coach or coordinator in the NFL, wasn't even on Snyder's list of candidates when Joe Gibbs retired at the end of the 2007 season. Zorn become a last-minute option when other contenders either showed no interest, dropped out or were deemed unsatisfactory. Snyder initially hired Zorn to be the offensive coordinator, then promoted him to head coach two weeks later after an extensive interview.
After two years of watching Zorn go through on-the-job training, the prospect of a coach with a winning profile -- such as Shanahan -- sounded like an enticing prospect to the players.
"It's kind of hard to envision yourself trying to get somewhere when the person who's talking to you has never been there personally," cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. "That's probably the only thing that I want. I want to go to the Super Bowl."