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Why did Shanahan say what he said?

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Why did Shanahan say what he said?

I’m not sure how to find out what is trending on Twitter with any reliability but I would guess that words like “evaluate” and “disappointing” are appearing in a lot of tweets, at least among Redskins fans.

Here is what Mike Shanahan said after the game when asked about where the Redskins are after losing what he called a “must-win game”:

“[It’s] obviously very disappointing. A must-win game is a game that gives you a chance to play for a playoff spot. At the midway point when you’re 3-5, it’s going to be must-win to get in the hunt. When you lose a game like that, now you’re playing to see who obviously is going to be on your football team for years to come. Now, we have a chance to evaluate players and see where we’re at. Obviously, we’re not out of it statistically. Now we find out what kind of character we have and how guys keep on fighting throughout the rest of the season.”

So, what we have is the head coach and the guy who chooses the talent that the Redskins are turning the last seven games into a cold-weather version of the preseason.

It appears that some of the players aren’t ready for this. Trent Williams and Darrel Young both said that they are not going to give up hope that they can make a run and make the playoffs. Other players said privately to reporters that they were bothered by what Shanahan said.

Lorenzo Alexander said as much to reporters. “I’m not thinkin’ about next year. That’s an offseason thing for me,” the veteran linebacker and special teams captain said. “But you know it’s hard when you see yourself in that type of position and your head coach is saying those types of things. It’s disappointing.” 

“Disappointing” was the word of the day. Mike Shanahan used it or “disappointed” seven times in his postgame remarks, which lasted about seven minutes.

Has Mike Shanahan lost the locker room? Prior to yesterday there has been no evidence of that but this may be a first step down that road or, after two and a half years with a .341 winning percentage, further momentum down that road. At some point, chronic losing will make a team question a coach’s ability to turn things around regardless of the resume he brought to the job.

Shanahan rarely says things without thinking them through first. That makes what he said even more of a head-scratcher. What could possibly be gained by announcing that the meaningful part of the season has concluded?

The thing is, as Shanahan himself pointed out, the Redskins are still mathematically alive for a playoff spot. Sure, it’s unlikely but every few years a surprise team goes on a tear and steals a playoff spot.

The Redskins, in fact, could emerge from this weekend with nearly as good a chance to make the playoffs as they did going into it. The Cowboys and Giants both lost last yesterday and the reeling Eagles are facing a Monday night game in the Superdome. If the Saints win, the Redskins are in exactly the same position in the division that they were on Sunday morning, albeit with one less game to make up ground.

OK, cue the Mora “Playoffs?! Playoffs?!” rant. Still, there are plenty of benefits to winning more games including, well, learning how to win games, a skill this team has yet to acquire.

It’s also hard to justify this “evaluation” frame of mind to the fans, especially those who spend hundreds and in some cases thousands of dollars on tickets to FedEx Field. The slate of home games is only half over. Fans have already paid for tickets to two “evaluation” games in August. Now they find out that they are paying for four more games that really don’t mean anything. That can generate the kind of angry outlooks that don’t tend to evolve into warm and fuzzy feelings when the invoices for season ticket renewals arrive in the spring.

The best defense of what Shanahan said is that he was being honest. He has admitted on a few occasions that he is frequently less than candid when speaking to the media and he has drawn fire for it. Here, he’s speaking truthfully about how he views the team right now and is taking a ton of heat for it. Damned if he does, damned if he doesn’t.

He set himself a trap on Monday when he called it a “must-win” game. During the week, the players didn’t seem to buy into that line of thinking completely with many saying that they didn’t think that the season was over if they lost on Sunday. But Shanahan had already painted himself into a corner and he was stuck.

We will see how this plays out. Shanahan will have his press conference this afternoon and the media will have access to the players tomorrow. A lot is likely to be said to rewrite what was said. But what is done over the coming seven games and how the team plays will tell the tale of what long-term impact Shanahan’s words will have. 

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Kirk Cousins had his eye on Kyle Shanahan's offense, but is there more to it?

Kirk Cousins had his eye on Kyle Shanahan's offense, but is there more to it?

Of course, Kirk Cousins is disappointed the Redskins didn’t make the playoffs, but among the various things he’s done in the offseason, one of them is a little curious.

Sunday, Cousins wasn’t just watching the Falcons dominate the Packers, 44-21, in the NFC Championship Game. He sent out a picture on Instagram from the stands of the Georgia Dome.

“Watching two of the best in the world do what they do & taking notes to make it to this game next year -score a lot of points!” Cousins wrote.

But — especially with rumors that Atlanta offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan will be offered the head coaching position with the 49ers — is there more to this post than the Redskins’ quarterback simply watching the game?

Shanahan was the Redskins’ offensive coordinator from 2010-2013 and was reportedly “integral” in the team selecting Cousins in the 2012 NFL Draft.

So if Shanahan makes the move out to San Francisco and if the Redskins don’t put a franchise tag on Cousins, could the pair be reunited?

It’s possible, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport, who said, “don’t be surprised if the 49ers make a run at Kirk Cousins if the Redskins do not make him their exclusive franchise player.”

There’s a lot of if’s involved for that to happen, but it’s possible. It’s also possible Cousins was just enjoying the NFC Championship Game and decided to Instagram about it. 

MORE REDSKINS: Why Matt Cavanaugh makes sense for Washington

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3 reasons why Redskins promoting Matt Cavanaugh to offensive coordinator makes sense

3 reasons why Redskins promoting Matt Cavanaugh to offensive coordinator makes sense

Championship Sunday produced a flurry of Redskins news. A pair of internal promotions erased the team's vacant coordinator positions, as Greg Manusky landed the defensive coordinator spot and Matt Cavanaugh will take over as offensive coordinator. When Sean McVay left to coach the Rams, many expected Cavanaugh to take over his spot. Here are three reasons why:

  1. If it ain't broke, don't fix it - There was plenty to criticize from the Redskins the last two seasons, but not much of it came on offense. Cavanaugh joined the organization in 2015 as quarterback coach, and the offense has consistently improved in those two seasons. Though the team struggled to score TDs in the Red Zone, the 2016 version of the Redskins moved the ball at a team-record clip and ranked among the top offensive teams in NFL yardage. When something is working as well as the 'Skins offense, it's not wise to change it dramatically.
  2. Impressive work - Cavanaugh began coaching QBs for the Redskins in 2015. Kirk Cousins took over as Redskins starting quarterback in 2015. In two years working together, Cousins twice broke the Redskins franchise passing record and is now poised to get a mega-contract in free agency. Talking after the 'Skins loss to the Giants earlier this month, Jay Gruden said, "I think [Cousins'] really improved his game a lot in the last couple years. And a lot of it has to do with Matt Cavanaugh and Sean McVay."
  3. Make the call - The biggest question remaining for the Redskins - outside of the HUGE unknown surrounding Cousins - will be about play calling. All indications are that Jay Gruden will return to calling the plays from the Washington sideline, and obviously, that's a situation Cavanaugh understands. For two seasons now, Cavanaugh along with McVay, Gruden and offensive line coach Bill Callahan have had input on play calling. With McVay gone, Cavanaugh and Callahan will likely contribute even more in support of Gruden. 

RELATED: 2017 NFL MOCK DRAFT 1.0

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