Mike Shanahan only wants to talk Atlanta, reporters don’t care

ASHBURN - DECEMBER 9:Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan answers questions from the media during a press conference at Redskins Park on Monday, December 9, 2013. The Washington Redskins have a record of 3-10 with three games remaining in the season. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Shanahan at today’s news conference. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

Mike Shanahan held his much-anticipated regular news conference on Monday, following a day of speculation over the embattled coach’s standing with the team and his relationship with Daniel Snyder.

As he approached the podium, the knowing look on Shanahan’s face revealed that he could predict the upcoming line of questioning. The AP’s Joe White opened with a football question about whether Robert Griffin III would start on Sunday. Mike Jones seconded with another RGIII question and the conference was off to an easy start. And then the tough questions started coming. Shanahan said repeatedly that he only wanted to talk about “football” and “Atlanta.” Reporters had other ideas. Let’s see how many ways reporters can use “Atlanta” and “football” to ask about Shanahan’s job security:

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Grant Paulsen: Speaking of thinking about things, you’ve had a lot of time since yesterday. Any more comment – we didn’t get any thoughts from you on the report that came out before the game.

Shanahan: No, no. No more comment. Same thing I talked about yesterday, there’s always a lot of noise when you’re 3-10. I understand that. Every organization has it. There’s gonna be a lot more noise over the next three weeks, I understand that. But I’ve got one mindset right now and it’s focusing on Atlanta.

Grant Paulsen: Did you consider quitting at the end of last season?

Shanahan: Like I said, I’m not gonna speculate through all those different things, as we talked about before. But if you’d like to talk about Atlanta, I’d be more than happy to talk about Atlanta.

Grant: Have you talked to Dan about, come Atlanta, you’re going to be able to do everything you’re …

Shanahan: I can tell you that I’ve talked to Dan, if that’s what you’re asking. Obviously our conversations stay between us.

Reporter: Mike, are you confident that you’ll last the rest of the season as a coach?

Shanahan: Anyway, I’m gonna stay with the same thing. If you’d like to talk about the football game coming up, I’d be more than happy to focus on that.

Mike Jones: Mike, do you want to come back next year?

Shanahan: Okay, anybody have anything to do with football?

Mike Jones: Would you like to coach this football team next year?

Shanahan: Like I said, we’re going to talk about…um…

Reporter: In regards to the game this weekend, knowing that there are so many distractions, how are you handling this with your players?

Shanahan: What I did today is, I talked about Atlanta and them being in a very similar situation as us. They’re 3-10, we’re 3-10. They were 13-3 last year and we were 10-6. They’re going through a tough time too. [goes on to talk about Atlanta]

Reporter: How would you characterize the relationship with [Dan Snyder] at this point?

Shanahan: I have a good relationship with Dan.

Reporter: Has it changed in recent days, weeks, months?

Shanahan: I’m not going to get into relationships. We talked about Robert. You asked me my relationship with Robert and I said I was his coach, his head football coach, and not necessarily his best friend. Don’t need to be his best friend. I want to make him the best quarterback possible. We can get through relationships and those types of things, but at the end of the day, my job is to get this football team ready to play Atlanta. I know we played very poorly against Kansas City. I did a poor job getting them ready. Hopefully a much better job this week.

Reporter: The story that came out yesterday certainly questioned the relationship between you, owner, quarterback, and when you don’t squash those things – and you elected not to yesterday – you leave the suspicion sort of out there that it exists. How does a team get on a plane, go to Atlanta, when there’s still that suspicion that it might exist or that the head coach did not squash it?

Shanahan: Well, if I answer that question, which I did a couple the previous week, then what happens is you do it every day for the next three weeks. And so that’s why I focus on the job at hand. There’s always gonna be rumors, there’s gonna be partial truths and everything that comes out there. In fact, when I read it, it talked about me cleaning out my office. It’d take me two minutes to clean out my office. I’ve got two notebooks and I’ve got an iPad. That would get me out of my office, so when I hear different things like that I just shake my head. So that’s as far as I’m gonna go with that.

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That is exactly why, when a coach says they’ll only talk about certain things, good reporters persist. Eventually, Shanahan talked more and more about things other than “Atlanta” and “football.” The Insider will have details of the actual answers that were finally given on the state of the team, Griffin’s health and this week’s starters.

And in the end, after deflecting the first several questions about his job, the coach stated without question that he’d like to come back next year. Sure, it’s annoying to hear the same question asked ten different ways, but eventually you just might get an actual answer.

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