It’s hard to judge too much by Mike Shanahan’s answers at his postgame or mid-week press conferences.
No offense to the Redskins coach, but he often isn’t terribly elucidating, whether his team is 7-3 or 3-7. That’s his right, of course, but he manages to stay bland and medium, almost no matter the circumstances — the team is just worrying about the next game, everyone is working hard, something something something in the National Football League.
The questions he faces, though, seem to have shifted as the Redskins’ record has remained stuck below .500. There are no lighthearted queries about breakfast cereal, for example, and not just because I lost the directions to Redskins Park. If you want to judge how things are going, just listen to what the reporters are asking about.
Thus, here are the eight most aggressive questions asked of Shanahan at his regular press gathering on Monday afternoon, along with a pictorial display of his reaction. They’re listed in order of toughness, not in chronological order.
Some people will see this as an unfriendly, Redskins-hating media corps finally free to do what it does best. Others will see it as a sign of media market softness: that it took this long, that many of the questions were still couched, that someone actually said “the organization as a whole is much better than when you took it over” while sort of asking a question.
1. “Mike, do you feel like over the next six weeks you’re coaching for your coaching future here? Or have you been given assurances by Dan that the fifth year will definitely be honored?”
2. “The blame game, whose fault it is. Robert went up there and he usually does this, where he takes some blame. Do you take any blame for yesterday? Is there anything that you thought that you could have done better?”
3. “Robert said that he felt the Eagles were anticipating the plays you guys were running. He said that was disheartening to him. Are you worried about losing the trust of your quarterback?”
4. “It’s very easy for people on the outside to sort of parse words or glean meaning from words. Can you tell us, when you hear that your quarterback says that they knew exactly what we were doing, how do you take that? How do you read that?”
5. “Mike, did you consider making a change at quarterback for the rest of the game after that tough first half from Robert? And if not, what did you see in that first half that made you not think that way?”
6. “Mike, Josh Morgan said after the game, ‘Coach said I can’t play football and I can’t talk.’ Do you have a reaction to that?”
7. “Mike, when you look at the bigger picture, now 3-7 in the fourth year of the program, do you still feel that there’s a foundation for success here? That the overall direction is positive?”
8. “Mike, a lot of fans and some media, I guess, local and national, are kind of saying it’s year four, not making progress, this, that and the other thing. How do you balance, you guys are defending division champions, obviously this year is not going the way you wanted to, but the organization as a whole is much better than when you took it over. How do you kind of sell that message to not only fans and media but your players, to keep them on board, on the same page, believing in what you’re trying to do here?”