ASHBURN, Va. --- At the podium stood Mike Shanahan, who has a $35 million, five-year contract that gives him final authority over football decisions as head coach and executive vice president of the Washington Redskins.
Seated at a nearby table was Bruce Allen, the first general manager Dan Snyder has hired in 11 years of owning the team.
And nowhere on the stage was Snyder, who sat next to his wife Tanya as a member of the audience in the Redskins Park auditorium. It was the first time he hasn't introduced a new coach, a powerful symbol of how the balance of power has shifted within a proud franchise.
"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."
Shanahan made his formal debut Wednesday, one day after signing his contract and just two days after Jim Zorn was fired following a 4-12 season. The winner of two Super Bowls in the 1990s with the Denver Broncos spoke mainly in generalities with polish and confidence, far from the nervous and ragged performance given by rookie coach Zorn 23 months ago.
"It doesn't happen overnight," Shanahan said, "but we're going to give it the best shot we have."
For most of his time as owner, Snyder has been a hands-on manager yielding a strong influence on roster decisions.
But the Redskins are 82-99 on his watch, missing the playoffs in eight of 11 seasons, so three weeks ago he hired Allen and ousted longtime front office confidant Vinny Cerrato.
Therefore, in less than a month, the Redskins have gone from an organization that revolved primarily around Snyder and his yes-man to one that includes two established decision-makers firmly in charge.
Shanahan, who had a similar arrangement with the Broncos, downplayed the power he's been given.
"I do have final say," Shanahan said, "but I never used it in Denver."
Snyder tried this once before with 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.
Shanahan made the playoffs in half of his seasons in Denver, and had only two losing seasons -- 6-10 in 1999 and 7-9 in 2007. His greatest successes came early, winning consecutive Super Bowls after the 1997 and '98 seasons with a team led by quarterback John Elway.