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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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Jay Gruden disappointed by firing of Scot McCloughan, yet optimistic for 2017

Jay Gruden disappointed by firing of Scot McCloughan, yet optimistic for 2017

It's never easy to say goodbye to a well-liked coworker, especially when that employee has been fired. In the NFL, that's no different. Redskins head coach Jay Gruden opened up about the departure of former GM Scot McCloughan while speaking with reporters at the NFL Owners Meetings in Phoenix.

"I was disappointed. I liked Scot. I liked working with Scot. He’s a good person, and a great talent evaluator," Gruden said.

The highly publicized demise of McCloughan as Redskins general manager made plenty of headlines, but as far the organization goes, Gruden believes the team is still in good shape.

"Any time you lose somebody that you become close with, whether it’s a coach or a GM or a player it's disappointing but at the end of the day in pro football, anybody that’s been around it long enough understands, change is going to happen and you have to react and adjust to it and move forward with a positive outlook," Gruden said.

Part of that positive outlook stems from moves the team has made this offseason.

Offensively the franchise brought in a big new weapon in receiver Terrelle Pryor. Paired with 2016 first-round pick Josh Doctson, assuming he's healthy, the Redskins could have two dynamic pass catchers to offset the loss of DeSean Jackson and Pierre Garçon. On the defensive line, Gruden thinks new players Terrell McClain and Stacy McGee can emerge as solid players with high upside. Further, Gruden made clear he thinks new defensive line coach Jim Tomsula will make the players on the 'Skins roster into better defensive linemen.

For many fans it's hard to remain optimistic after the controversy that surrounded McCloughan's ouster, but on the field, there's little reason to expect the 'Skins to slide.

In 2016, the team finished one game out of a playoff berth, losing a disappointing final game to the Giants to seal that fate. In 2017, Gruden expects to be right back in the playoff hunt.

"I think everybody in this organization has a positive outlook," Gruden said. "We are going to miss Scot, obviously, but we’re also positive that we can get things we need to get done to be successful."

<<<LOOKING AT REDSKINS DRAFT PROSPECTS>>>

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Peter King, Ian Rapoport say Redskins can't afford to let Kirk Cousins get away

Peter King, Ian Rapoport say Redskins can't afford to let Kirk Cousins get away

After he signed the franchise tag a couple of weeks ago, the speculation, rumors and, for some fans, panic around Kirk Cousins has largely quieted down.

The Redskins can ink their quarterback to a long-term deal any time between now and July 15, but talks may not pick up until summer rolls around. A trade can also occur, but no recent reports have indicated that one is in the works.

Therefore, it currently looks like Cousins and the franchise that drafted him back in 2012 will be together for at least one more season. And according to Sports Illustrated's Peter King, that's a wise choice by the Burgundy and Gold.

"I think they did the absolute right thing in making sure Kirk Cousins is gonna be their quarterback this year," King told CSN Redskins Insider JP Finlay at the NFL owner's meetings in Phoenix. "I absolutely, unequivocally would not trade him. That's a white flag." 

As for why King wouldn't move on from No. 8, his explanation was very simple.

"You don't get rid of a guy who's got the second-most passing yards in football over the last two years," he said.

MORE REDSKINS: WILL JAY GRUDEN'S ROLE IN DECISION-MAKING EXPAND THIS YEAR?

Finlay also gathered input on the Redskins' and Cousins' relationship from the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, who's another major voice in the league's media. Rapoport first stated that he would be "beyond stunned" if the 28-year-old was not in D.C. for the 2017 campaign and then laid out how he envisions the year unfolding.

"I do not believe he will sign the extension before the season," he said. "So, he's going to go out there, play on another one-year deal, bet on himself like he did last year. You hope it's the same thing. And then we'll see, because I know there's some talk about him not signing an extension — I'm not so sure about that. Everyone has a price, right?"

"If they offer him $25 [million] a year, Andrew Luck's deal, I would imagine plans would change pretty quickly, right?" Rapoport continued. "So you get to the end of the season, assess where you are, assess the value and see if you can make a business deal. It's terrible to have to pay so much money to your quarterback. The only worse thing is not being able to pay so much money to your quarterback." 

King and Rapoport are clearly both in agreement that losing their rising signal caller would be a huge blow to the Redskins. But while King says Washington should keep Cousins because of his production, Rapoport took a different route when concluding how the negotiations will end up.

"Really good quarterbacks never leave their team. It just never happens," he said. "So I would think there's a way to work this out."

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