December 10, 2013 in Redskins Personnel
Here is a sampling of Mike Shanahan's responses and my thoughts from yesterday's press conference.
Q: On if quarterback Robert Griffin III will remain the starter:
“Well the reason why I kind of left it up in the air, talking about that after the game, anytime you have 24 sacks in the last five games and you go against a team that’s had two sacks in five games and you give up six, you always are taking a look at what is in the best interest of your organization. So the reason why I was hesitant, I always take a look at you’ve got your franchise quarterback, you want to make sure going into the offseason that he’s healthy and that he goes through a full offseason program, and that’s why I didn’t say he was the starter. That’s just something in the back of my mind I’m thinking about right now, and I’ll let you know in the next couple of days exactly what I think.”
– Yeah I don't believe this for a second. The idea that he's doing this basically to preserve Griffin's health is absurd. Is that a real benefit? Absolutely, but it is at the cost of Griffin getting three more games worth of work. Given how much Griffin has struggled this year, it's clear that he needs the extra work if he's going to become the elite quarterback the Redskins expect. While Shanahan is right that it's key that Griffin has a full offseason program as well, you don't pull the guy with 3 weeks to go. You don't see other teams who are either out of the playoffs or already locked into the playoffs pulling starters coming off injuries (whether they are in season or from a year ago).
It would be one thing if Griffin was a 7 year veteran playing at the top of his game and you maybe want to protect him, but completely different with a 2nd year quarterback who you already admit is behind because of missed time. The only way this would make any sense is if Griffin had some sort of minor injury (not necessarily knee related) that could get worse by playing on it.
Q: On if he wants to come back next season:
“Anybody have anything to do with football?”
-This was after a series of questions on the report that broke on Sunday that he didn't want to come back last year before the playoff game. My take is pretty simple: Yo Mike guess what, that does have to deal with football. You are the football coach of the Washington Redskins football organization. In fact you are more than that as you make personnel decisions for this football team as well. To think that these questions aren't relevant is ridiculous, and a response like this is immature. Whether it is you directly or someone close to you, reports like this continue to leak out, so you shouldn't be surprised that these questions exist.
Q: On if this team is capable of a turnaround next season like the one Kansas City has experienced this season:
“I think you answered your question. Anytime a team is 2-14 and all of a sudden they turn it around, every team has that ability. I think it was a little unusual that they were 2-14 with six Pro Bowl players. That doesn’t happen very often.”
-Perhaps you shouldn't mention the fact that the Chiefs had six Pro Bowl players and struggled to get wins. While six could be a stretch, it's not impossible the Redskins have 6 Pro Bowl players this year. Trent Williams, Alfred Morris and Pierre Garcon are probably locks. Brian Orakpo has a real good shot of making it as well, so that's four guys. On top of that we could see a D-Hall or Barry Cofield sneak in there, especially to replace say someone in the Super Bowl. Even if the Redskins have just 3 or 4 guys, it is clear that this team had some star power and you failed to capitalize on it. Also, let's not forget that the Chiefs went with a new head coach to get them to where they are this year.
Q: On if it is fair to say he may have a similar thought process with other positions:
“The one thing about the quarterback position, or at least our quarterback position, he’s never had an offseason. He’s coming off an ACL/LCL surgery. We’ve got three games left and we’ve had 24 sacks in five games. That’s a little bit unusual. That’s a lot of wear and tear on the body. So that was just some of my thoughts, especially going against a team that’s had two sacks in five games and we have six sacks. I want to make sure that he is healthy, and it doesn’t mean that he’s not going to go that direction, but if he did get injured I think I might be very disappointed going into the offseason that he’s not there for whole offseason. It’s very important for him to be there.”
-I have got a bridge in Brooklyn for sale if you are interested. I mean come on. Complaining that Griffin hasn't had a full offseason, Really? His rookie year he had rookie camp and all the OTA's, and while he missed the stuff before hand, let's not forget you were sending coaches down to work with him even before the draft. This idea of protecting him for next year (a season you won't be a part of) is a bit of a joke.
Q: On if he still feels things are going in the right direction:
“I think you have to look at every segment. You take a look at the quarterback position, you’re talking about some growing pains. There’s going to be growing pains when you do things a little differently. I was hoping to be a lot better on special teams than we have been. We don’t have quite the depth that we did have a year ago. I think our kickers are struggling, relative to our punter and our place kicker, with distance. That doesn’t help your special teams as well. We’re going to have to make some improvement in a couple of areas and hopefully we can get there.”
-Umm this could be why so many people think there is a rift. You get asked an extremely broad question about the issues for this season and the first thing you bring up is your 2nd year "franchise" quarterback who is going through growing pains. Is it part of the reason why there is some question about the direction of the team? Yes absolutely, but you could have mentioned any other aspect first and try to minimize Griffin's struggles this year. Also, here you didn't make any mention that he's coming off an injury (not that it should be fully blamed), which right or wrong would have at least given you cover. The other issues apparently are just the special teams, specifically the kicker and punter. So if one wanted to know why there is concern about the direction this team is going in, it's pretty simple in Shanahan's eyes, it's Robert Griffin, Sav Rocca and Kai Forbath who are holding this team back!
Q: On if he is surprised by tight end/returner Niles Paul questioning effort on special teams:
“I’m surprised Niles Paul would say that, to start with. Once you start playing a perfect game you can start critiquing other players. So, yeah, that does disappoint me that he would say something like that.”
-Nice advice Mike, perhaps you should take it. When you coach a perfect game, then you can start critiquing the officials, the players, the reporters, the fans etc. I don't think what Niles Paul said was inaccurate or unfair, but it's good that you can blame probably the one guy who actually made a play or two on Special Teams.
Q: On if he considered kicking away from the Chiefs’ returners:
“Well, that was our game plan going in, to kick the ball out of bounds or hang it high enough where he had to fair catch it. Obviously it didn’t work out that way but our game plan was never to kick it to him, either to kick it high enough where he had to fair catch it or kick it out of bounds. Then when you do take a look at kickoffs, you take a look at the hang time on kickoffs and that last one that he did score a touchdown on, that was a squib kick, and it never did hit the ground. It’s a little tough on your coverage when those things happen, and collectively we didn’t get the job done. And I’m not blaming it on our kickers because we’re all in this thing together, but when you give a guy like [Kansas City Chiefs punt returner Dexter] McCluster, in those kind of conditions, a chance to return a ball or not kick it high enough, you’re going to be in for a long day just like we were.”
-This is what I love about Mike Shanahan's press conference responses. He and his coaches apparently did nothing wrong, because they never planned to kick to McCluster and company, so it's all the players fault. If that is true (and it very well could be) there are two things to consider: One, the coaches should still have the players ready to make a play if the kick is short and they don't call a fair catch, so that is still on the coaches somewhat. Two, as the head of personnel decisions, Mike Shanahan is the one responsible for having Sav Rocca and Kai Forbath on the team. Hey Mike Graham Gano is looking pretty good in Carolina, and the Panthers lead the NFL in touchback percentage (74.6%) the Redskins are sitting at 31% 3rd worst in the NFL. And if you were going to roll with Forbath, why not get a punter who does kickoffs instead of re-signing Rocca? This is completely on you Mike so perhaps it's time to take some blame.
Q: On Griffin III’s decision making and how it contributes to the number of sacks:
“When you take a look at offense and you have sacks, it’s always somebody. Is it the decision making by the quarterback? Is it the offensive line? Is it a receiver? Is it a hot receiver? Did a receiver run the wrong route? And we don’t go through who is responsible for what.”
-So you don't go into responsibility on sacks, but you did go into who was responsible for the big returns in the special teams game. Makes perfect sense. This response is really just comical. The non-answer here is pretty telling that they feel Griffin is more responsible than they think he should be. But you know what really kills me with his response? The fact that coaching never came in to play for the responsibility. Guess what coach, you drafted a quarterback who played his career in a spread offense and who has spent his life being able to run away from sacks. Historically two types of quarterbacks take more sacks than you'd like to see: Mobile QB's and Young QB's. Of course Griffin is going to take sacks that a veteran guy isn't going to take. As a coach you should know that and have a game plan to protect (perhaps not asking him to throw 40 times a game). Also, you see Griffin up close in practice and know that he's struggling to read blitzes and feel pressure, so you have even more insight, and as a coach/GM you should have invested in offensive linemen to protect him better.
Q: On his relationship with Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith and their similar situations right now:
“We probably should talk to each other, but you don’t get a chance with your preparation. I know Mike, he’s a great guy. I’ll get a chance to talk to him before and after the game. But I think you’ve got empathy for everybody, because there’s only one person that’s happy and that’s the person that wins. At the end of the season, there’s only one true winner. I’ve been to the Super Bowl three times and lost and it doesn’t matter – if you’re at the Super Bowl and you lose or you win five or six games, there’s only one champion at the end of the year, only one person that’s happy.”
-Similar situations is a bit of a stretch. Mike Smith is in his 6 season in Atlanta, and while he's 3-10 right now, he's got 5 winning seasons under his belt and 4 playoff appearances. Smith's winning percentage in Atlanta over these 6 seasons sits at .634. Mike Shanahan is at the end of his 4th season and only has 1 winning season and playoff appearance, and his Redskins winning percentage sits at .393. Also Smith is responsible for 1/3 of all the winning seasons and playoff appearances in Falcons history. That builds you some pretty good will. Mike Shanahan is now responsible for many of the worst Redskins performances in the last three decades.
I also commented on this one, because Mike Shanahan used his classic response talking about how only one team is happy at the end of the year. He's said this multiple times every season, and its from an old Vince Lombardi quote. I hate this quote to no end because it equates the misery of the Redskins season to that of the misery of the 11 playoff teams who lose in the postseason. Do you really think Seahawks fans are going to be as upset if they lose in the playoffs as the Redskins fans? They might be disappointed, but they will be proud of their team and have hope for next year. And it's not just the playoff teams that are in a better position. Teams that look to be on the rise are going to feel better than we do. Do you think Cardinals fans are going to be upset if they go 9-7 and miss the playoffs?