Shanahan and wife Peggy landed at Dulles International Airport near Redskins Park in mid-afternoon and were driven away in a limousine to meet with owner Dan Snyder and general manager Bruce Allen. Snyder planned for Shanahan to stay overnight at the owner's house in Maryland, and a formal hiring announcement could come as early as Tuesday.
Shanahan's arrival was the highlight of a long, eventful day as the Redskins sought a new direction after a 4-12 season. The first move came in the pre-dawn hours, when Zorn was dismissed during a meeting in his office with Allen after the team's cross-country flight following a 23-20 loss to the San Diego Chargers on Sunday.
"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."
League sources told NFL Network's Jason La Canfora to expect an organizational overhaul by Thursday but maybe sooner. Shanahan would take over as coach/team president and quickly bring in assistant coaches and front-office personnel.
"Obviously it looks like Mike's coming right back in the business here real quick, and I know it's something he's always wanted, to work with his son," Kubiak said. "I'd be the same way."
Out of work is Zorn, who went 12-20 over two seasons and lost 18 of his last 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.
"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'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.
"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 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.
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 Redskins players.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.