Coach: Jobs On the Line
Ashburn, Va. — Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan says jobs are on the line — and his own is on the list.
“I think the players are smart enough to understand that if you are 3-8, everybody is playing for their jobs,” Shanahan said Tuesday. “That’s the nature of our business. I don’t care if it’s players, coaches, support staff. The nature of this game is to find a way to win and if you don’t win, everybody is accountable.”
With no hope for a winning season, the Redskins’ focus is starting to shift to 2014, with the coach implying how the team could be better — assuming he’s back for the final year of his five-year contract. But instead of the usual “Wait’ll next year,” Shanahan’s theme is more like “Wait’ll next offseason.”
Start with Robert Griffin III, who could use a full, healthy offseason to learn how to develop into an NFL-caliber passer. He didn’t get such tutoring this year because he was recovering from major knee surgery, and his play has regressed because defenses have learned how to thwart the zone-read that made him so effective as a rookie in 2012.
“We had a dual threat. Now that threat is not quite there as strong as it was a year ago,” Shanahan said. “But now we go to a different direction. We run play-action, we still run some of the zone-reads. ... It doesn’t happen overnight, but he’s got all the ability in the world to make that big jump and you just have to be patient.”
Griffin had growing pains aplenty in Monday night’s 27-6 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, when he threw for only 127 yards and was sacked four times. Shanahan dismissed the idea of giving backup Kirk Cousins a start during the final weeks of the season, saying that Griffin needs as much game experience as possible.
Another prominent player in the Redskins QB dynamic was conspicuous Monday night. Griffin’s father, who has been vocal about his son’s role in the offense, was in the locker room postgame for an RG2-RG3 chat. Shanahan did not address the matter directly, saying through a team spokesman that father thought his son was injured, but it was an unusual sight that only raises more questions about the perceived power struggle between the two Griffins and the two Shanahans — Mike and his son, offensive coordinator Kyle.
Regardless, Mike Shanahan was clear about one thing: His quarterback has much to learn.
“The drop-back passing game takes some time ... It’s not only reading coverages, it’s looking at personnel,” the head coach said. “It’s stepping up in the pocket, getting rid of the football, going against blitzes, different coverages, all the things that go with the maturation of being a quarterback, and that’s something he’s going through right now.”
Shanahan is also eager to get to the offseason to address the team’s depth, which has been hurt by a two-year, $36 million salary cap penalty imposed by the NFL for previous contract maneuverings. The Redskins will finally have money to spend in 2014.
“I’m talking about winning Super Bowls,” Shanahan said. “I’m not just talking about getting to the playoffs, and that’s when you talk about depth.”
Such comments could be taken as subtle lobbying by Shanahan to make his case to return next year, presumably with a contract extension. First, however, there’s the 2013 season to complete, and a respectable finish over the next five weeks will make the decision easier for owner Dan Snyder.
“I’ve been in situations before as an assistant or as a head coach where players just don’t play hard,” Shanahan said. “I haven’t seen any of that, and I don’t expect to see it with the type of players we have on our football team. ... We’re not going to experiment with guys and think, ‘Hey, this season’s over. We’re going to play young players.’ That means you’ve given up. We’re going to play the best players every day.”