Shanahan, and sticking with the run

December 3, 2013

(Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

I don’t know a lot about calling NFL plays, but I do know how to copy and paste quotes from past seasons to try to reinforce current questions about playcalling philosophies.

Thus, via an e-mailer to ESPN 980, here’s a passage from a Post story about Mike Shanahan’s offensive philosophy in 2010:

“You may get two or three yards [on a running play],” Shanahan said last month after practice at the Redskins’ Ashburn training complex. “That’s fine with me, because the next play may go for 50. Our goal is to make the defense run, and if they run enough, over the course of a game, you’re going to get a big play against them.”

When Shanahan met with his team on July 29, the first day of training camp, he put it in plain language: The Redskins will run the football. They will run it in the first quarter, and if they appear to struggle with it, they will continue to run it anyway.

“Defensive coaches can say, ‘We held them to 60-something yards except for those two plays,’” Shanahan said. “Fine with me. What did we get on those two plays? Maybe 40 yards on one of them and 50 on another? It all fits together.”

And here’s Shanahan on Sunday night, explaining why Alfred Morris only had three carries in the second half against the Giants (one was negated due to penalty).

“Well, he had 11 carries there at the end of the first half and you’re averaging about a yard and a half a carry. That’s one of the reasons why you probably go away from it a little bit more.”

Here’s a different Post story from 2010, also about Shanahan’s philosophy.

The other aspect of Shanahan’s running attack that remained consistent, regardless of who served as the back, was his ability to set teams up early in a game for something he wanted to do later. Because the Broncos were so committed to the run, play-action passes worked splendidly. But early in games, as [Herm] Edwards said, “He’s taking a look at you.”

“He understands the value of the two-yard running play,” Mark Schlereth said. “It wasn’t so much about getting those one- or two- or three-yard gains as it was about being physical, about setting up things off that play, and eventually you’re going to get a 32- or 42-yard gain. So many coaches, when they get a couple of two-yard gains, they say, ‘We can’t run the ball.’ That wasn’t Mike.”

And here’s Shanahan on Monday, when asked again about going away from Morris in the second half:

“I thought that field was a little bit slick for us. Alfred’s footing wasn’t that good — he went down on a number of plays — so that was a couple of the reasons that we probably didn’t go as much to him as we normally would. And then I think the rest is history. Any time you have three penalties on offense and you have five sacks, you get put in some down and distance situations that’s not real favorable to run the football….

“You get put in situations, especially against a front that’s playing an eight man front to take away the run, that you throw the football. And once you look at those defenses, you don’t even think about trying to attempt a running play — when it’s got that type of down and distance — if you want a chance to win.”

Dan Steinberg writes about all things DC sports at the DC Sports Bog.
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