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Why did Shanahan say what he said?


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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Redskins injury report: Status on Norman, Reed unknown

Redskins injury report: Status on Norman, Reed unknown

At least 51 Redskins will be making the trip to London on Thursday night, including some who are pretty banged up. And there is hope that the other two will be able to make it across the pond.

“We're taking everybody, which is a good thing,” said coach Jay Gruden. “If something happens on Friday or Saturday, we can make adjustments if needed.”

He later clarified the statuses of tight end Jordan Reed and cornerback Josh Norman. Both of them are in the NFL’s concussion protocol, at least partially.

“I’m not too sure about this — Thursday they are going to the independent doctor and if they’re cleared they’ll go on the trip,” said Gruden. “If not, if we’re still having some pain and setbacks, at that point we’ll make that decision to probably leave them back.”

In other words, stay tuned on those two key players.

Two players were out of practice on Wednesday. Reserve linebacker Terrance Garvin was out with a hip injury, and starting running back Matt Jones missed with a knee problem.

The injury was as much a surprise to Gruden as it was to reporters when they saw that Jones was not participating in practice.

“He just came in, I guess, today, had some soreness laterally,” said Gruden. “Had some pain cutting, has to problem running straight ahead so we kept him out today.”

Limited in practice were wide receivers Jamison Crowder (groin) and DeSean Jackson (hamstring/shoulder); guard Brandon Scherff (shoulder), offensive tackle Trent Williams (knee), Reed, Norman, offensive lineman Spencer Long (chest), cornerback Bashaud Breeland (ankle) and tight end Vernon Davis (groin).

With six offensive starters limited and Jones out, Gruden had to alter practice somewhat.

“We had to do kind of a slower tempo on the offensive side of the ball because of the amount of injuries we had,” said Gruden.

MORE REDSKINS: Crowder explains dropped pass against Lions

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Jordan Reed, Josh Norman in for early part of Redskins practice; Matt Jones out

Jordan Reed, Josh Norman in for early part of Redskins practice; Matt Jones out

Both Josh Norman and Jordan Reed, two important players who are in the concussion protocol, were on the field for the early part of Redskins practice today,

But starting running back Matt Jones was not with the running back during individual drills. He out of uniform, doing some rehab work off to the side. The team did not announce an injury to him during or after the game.

The presence of Reed, who has missed the last two games after suffering a concussion on October 9, at practice was expected. Coach Jay Gruden announced on Monday that Reed would participate today for the first time in a week.

Norman left the Redskins game against the Lions last Sunday in the third quarter and was diagnosed with a concussion. It was a mild surprise to see him on the field so soon.

Reed and Norman practicing today is a positive sign but far from a guarantee that either will play against the Bengals on Sunday in London. Both must be cleared by an independent neurologist prior to playing and that usually doesn’t happen quickly. It’s possible that they may need to be cleared by tonight in order to go to London since there are no NFL-approved independent neurologists in England.

We will find out more about Reed and Norman and get information on Jones’ injury when Gruden addresses the media after practice.

MORE REDSKINS: Redskins used Su'a Cravens sparingly against Detroit