Some Thoughts and Observations on Mike Shanahan's Press Conference:
On the formula for a successful rookie quarterback being a strong running game and great defense:
“I told you the quarterbacks that have eight wins or more, I went into detail explaining how hard it is for a young quarterback to have success in the National Football League. That’s what I was talking about that the teams – that the five quarterbacks – that have had eight wins or more over the last 45 years, all five of those teams are in the top five in rushing offense, which we are. I said three out of the five were in the top two in total defense. So I said they go hand in hand. You don’t want to put too much pressure on that quarterback. If you do, then he’s vulnerable to some of those shots that we just talked about. You’re going to put him in situations that he’s not ready for. But the thing I loved about Robert [Griffin III] – he’s not afraid of anything. He wants to go out there and compete. You tell him to pitch the ball, hand the ball off and don’t take it up the field. Pitch it to the tailback. He’s going to compete. He’s going to do what he needs to do to win. And that’s what you like in a competitor. But as mentioned, you don’t want to put a quarterback through that situation too many times.”
-My Take: This is absolutely the right approach for the Redskins to take with a rookie quarterback, and it is refreshing to see that they are so committed to it. So far this season the Redskins have run the ball 63% of the time in the first game, and 50% of the time in games 2 and 3. Compared to throwing roughly 60% of the time each of the last two seasons. In fact there were only two games last season where the Redskins ran as much or more than they threw, so the Redskins have already done that in more games this season. The fact that despite being down 17 points at one time and 14 points late in the game the Redskins were able to maintain that run-pass ratio shows how committed they are to Robert Grifffin's development. Obviously Griffin is responsible for much of the additional running duties, which comes with it's own pitfalls but it is good to see the Redskins taking pressure off Griffin. Unfortunately the defense hasn't done it's part in helping out a rookie quarterback, and there has been too much pressure on Griffin from a scoreboard standpoint these last two weeks. This will have to be an issue that is addressed during the offseason.
On how well-prepared the Bengals’ defense was and making offensive adjustments moving forward:
“What you do is you take a look at the scenario that we had in the first half. What you try to do is keep yourself out of third-and-long situations. If you’re in third-and-long too many times, usually good things aren’t going to happen. We’ve talked about that before. You know, you can’t get off-schedule. We were off-schedule – we were 1-for-6 with third downs; most of those third downs were long-yardage situations. If you do that, you can’t move the ball. And, I think the first couple drives of the third quarter, it was just the opposite. I think we had one third-and-5 and one third-and-7; we didn’t make mistakes, we managed the clock, we managed the down-and-distance and we were able to continue those drives. The third, fourth and fifth series in the second half, we did just the opposite. We put ourselves behind the eight-ball a little bit and got in those third-and-longs, and then we decided not to go for it in that one fourth-and-1. But, yeah, that’s usually what dictates having a successful offense for a half or an unsuccessful offense is not putting yourself in those long-yardage situations on third downs, especially for a young quarterback.”
-My Take: Shanahan is right and pretty honest here. These drives are stalling out because the Redskins are ineffective on first and second downs, leading to 3rd and longs, which put the Washington Redskins offense in a bad position. Obviously, they aren't a high percentage play and the fact that it basically eliminates the running option, makes the Redskins one dimensional, and gives an advantage to pass rushers. We've even seen a couple times between the Rams and Bengals games where they were content to let Robert Griffin scramble as long as they stopped him before the first down. That is exactly what happened right before that 4th and 1 call when the Redskins decided to punt.
On the process of making the decision to challenge a play:
”What you have is you’ve got a couple people checking on the replays upstairs, and I’ve got my flag. And, obviously I get a chance to see it, but normally they get a chance to see it a little better than I do. So I’m ready there until the last second, and they usually tell me if we should throw the flag or not. And, right after I threw the flag, that’s when they said, ‘Oh my God, we just saw another [angle].’ So that’s when you know that you’re not going to get it; then it came up on the scoreboard about 15, 20 seconds later. But you don’t have the luxury to wait for all those camera angles, but we’ve got people upstairs that look at it, and we kind of wait until the last second, and that it was a little bit too late.”
My Take: It's an interesting look by Mike Shanahan into the process of deciding to challenge a play. Being at the game without a doubt the first replay they showed in the stadium did make it seem that there was some reason to overturn the call. My problem with it though is that given that it was your final timeout, and you had a tied game, you had to be 1000% sure that you would have the call overturned. It wasn't worth the risk, given that the only positive replay you saw was from a horrible angle (which was completely evident). It was a costly mistake, that did end up hurting the Redskins.
On clock management at the end of the third quarter:
“That doesn’t happen very often, but when it does happen, you have to make a decision. Is it worth the timeout? Anytime you get the ball in that red zone or close to it, looking at down and distance, that’s where I’m looking at the clock all the time. Sometimes, the play will get in late. It’ll be the long formation will come up – combination of a lot of those things. I use those timeouts from the sidelines. I call them all the time.”
My Take: Really wish there was some follow up here, because it was a pretty inexcusable situation that proved very costly. Shanahan here is extremely vague and never really fully answers the question, or talks about how situations like that will be corrected/avoided in the future.
On giving up touchdowns in Cover 0 looks:
“There’s only one play, one time it occurred the whole game, and that was a quick out on a six-yard rollout to the sideline and we just missed the tackle. And so, schematically, it was what they call a quick out and Josh [Wilson] stumbled on it. His toe got caught in the turf and what normally would be an eight-, nine-yard gain turned into a touchdown and that’s all it takes. But if he didn’t throw it out right away, it would have been a sack or a fumble. That’s what you do to keep an offense off-balance. You’ve got to have different things and you never know when it’s going to be the perfect call. But regardless of what the call is – if it’s two-deep, three-deep, all-out blitz… The other one I think you’re referring to is a two-deep blitz that was thrown a little bit inside for about a 15-yard gain. It wasn’t a blitz, it was a fake blitz. But those are the things you have to work through and you’ve got to make sure you’re coordinated and put some pressure on that offense.”
My Take: Honestly I'm not really against the Cover 0 because I think it creates more big plays than it gives up. Pretty much regardless on the coverage, Wilson slipping on the play was going to lead to a big gain (and likely a first down). Of course it's a killer for that touchdown to occur, but Redskins fans wanted the Skins to play a more aggressive defense and that is what they got. While I understand that some of the DB's don't like the Cover 0 because they have to play it perfectly, the same is true for the offense. The QB and receiver need to be on the same page and know that the ball is coming out quickly. At the same time the line and any blockers have to know that at least one guy will be coming free, so you need to be perfect to ensure it's not two or three guys. Also, you have to try to close gaps to slow down the free rusher. The problem here is that Wilson fell and Dalton was perfect, definitely not a reason to scrap the play.
On the role of the players’ comfort level with certain schemes:
“You’re always trying to take a look at what your players do best, and at the same time, you want to keep an offense off-balance. I had a guy like Champ Bailey. He wanted to run zero blitz every play. He wanted an opportunity to make a play. But the thing you’ve got to make sure of is you’ve got to put some pressure on that quarterback. The zero blitz is not very good unless you can put pressure on that quarterback and a guy is free. So, a lot depends on the confidence of your corners. A lot depends on how well you disguise things to keep an offense off-balance. We know what bothers a team like us, keeps us off-balance, and we’ll continue to do that to different offenses, hopefully, over the years to come.”
My Take: You had to bring up Champ Bailey…that trade still gives me nightmares. Seriously though, I don't think this helps Shanahan's case. Champ Bailey is an elite corner and a future Hall of Famer, the things he is capable of doing only a select few around the NFL can do, and unfortunately none of those guys are wearing Burgundy and Gold. Though you might be paying DeAngelo Hall like Champ Bailey he's not even close to him in terms of talent and ability. Josh Wilson is a good solid corner, but he too doesn't come close to what Bailey can do. The Redskins don't have the coverage to rely on their defensive backs on an island too much. Especially when those defenders aren't comfortable with that style of play. Now that is not to say the Washington Redskins should abandon packages like the Cover 0 look, but they can't overuse it either. Again on that particular play I don't mind the call, or in general, but it does worry me that Mike Shanahan is applying the mentality that he's got the star talent he did when he was with the Broncos.
On tackle Jordan Black:
“I thought Jordan did a pretty good job. Like all guys coming in, you’re a little bit rusty. I liked his quickness. He played hard. I thought he did a fine job coming in and doing the things that we were hoping he would do.”
My Take: Look it was a tough task for any back-up tackle to replace a guy like Trent Williams, and I understand Mike Shanahan wants to be positive, but he's also got to be realistic. Jordan Black didn't have a good game, and he was a big part of the reason why Robert Griffin was under heavy pressure on most of his pass attempts. This is one issue that I've always had with Coach Shanahan, in that he never seems to really concede how poorly the line has played. In the 35 games of the Mike Shanahan era the line play as a whole has been awful. Sure there are a few good games mixed in there, where at least the majority of the line played well, but that is not the case most weeks, and definitely wasn't the case on Sunday. If you are going to take the secondary to task (as you should) maybe it's time you admit that you don't have Gary Zimmerman, Tom Nalen and Mark Scherleth out there.