A clearly agitated Mike Shananhan gave a new spin to his remarks about the state of the Washington Redskins on Monday, insisting that he hadn't given up on the playoffs.
Shanahan admitted that he perhaps didn't give the "perfect quote" and that his words might not have been "crystal clear" when he spoke in the aftermath of Sunday's 21-13 loss to the Carolina Panthers, who entered the game with just one win on the season.
Shanahan had called the game a "must-win." It turned into the Redskins' third straight loss and dropped their record to 3-6, prompting the coach to say after the game:
"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. ... Obviously, we're not out of it statistically, but now we find out what type of character we've got and how guys keep on fighting through the rest of the season."
Such speeches are common in the NFL, but they're usually spoken in mid-December when a team is clearly out of the running. Redskins players were perplexed that Shanahan was essentially throwing in the towel on the playoff chase with seven games remaining, including five against the NFC East.
Stung by the reaction to his words, Shanahan took to the podium Monday and his postgame transcript out loud — then made a rambling attempt to explain it.
"The remaining seven games that we have, each game, is kind of like a playoff game," Shanahan said. "And what you want to do is see how your players respond. ... We will see how they play from now on for the rest of the season, and we'd better get their best shot because they'll be evaluated every game."
Shanahan added that any inference that he would play young players at the cost of attempting to win was "completely ludicrous." He said he will address the issue with his players before they break for the upcoming bye week.
"What you need to do is stop it right away and tell the team what you meant, or what you intended to say, even though it might not have crystal clear," Shanahan said. "I think everybody that knows me since I've been here, it doesn't matter what your record is, we're going to play to win every game."
The players will practice Tuesday and then get five days off. Shanahan said he will use the time to evaluate players, coaches and schemes, but that he plans no changes to his staff.
Shanahan declined to speculate whether he still has the confidence of owner Dan Snyder, who has never let a coach remain this long without making a playoff appearance.
"You'll have to ask Dan Sndyer that. ... I know I'm going in the right direction," the coach said.
Shanahan is 14-27 in Washington. He said the rebuilding project is taking time because he had to "start over again" because he inherited an older roster without sufficient draft picks. He also cited the Redskins' $18 million salary cap penalty imposed by the NFL this season as a hindrance to his personnel plans.
Either way, the Redskins are in a familiar position, seemingly again headed for the drudgery of playing out the string. Rookies and veterans will be auditioning to be a part of the future with rookie quarterback Robert Griffin III, the one player on the roster who truly matters. Washington is on pace for its fourth consecutive season with double-digit losses — and its 11th in the last 20 years.
The evidence on the field supports the notion that the Redskins aren't playoff-bound. The defense continues to give up big plays and can't get any pressure on the quarterback. The offense lacks a big-play receiver, especially with tight end Fred Davis and wideout Pierre Garcon both injured. Washington had 13 penalties for 97 yards Sunday is committing an NFL-worst 8.3 penalties per game, more than twice as many as the unbeaten Atlanta Falcons.
Even Griffin, who seemed capable of willing his team to victory in the early weeks, is tapering off from his hot start. His completion percentage has dipped, and an offense that looked a sure bet to put up some 30 points regularly has scored only one touchdown in each of the last two games. The longer he's around, the easier it is for defenses to examine the video and devise a game plan to slow him down.
Griffin vowed that "you'll see a different team" after the Redskins return from the bye. If there's not significant improvement, speculation will inevitably turn to whether there will be a different coach after the season.
"I see some tremendous strides," Shanahan said. "Hopefully it's not only me (who sees it), hopefully it's Dan as well."
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