Shortcomings in Denver made NFC East title special for Mike Shanahan

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan returns to the playoffs for the first time since 2005. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

The Washington Redskins on Sunday will participate in their first playoff game since 2007. But for Mike Shanahan, the game will mark his first of the postseason since 2005.

After falling to beat Pittsburgh in the 2005 AFC Conference Championship, Shanahan and the Denver Broncos suffered a series of narrow misses in their attempts to reach the playoffs.

Shanahan admitted on Monday that those disappointments made Sunday’s NFC East Division win and playoff berth that much more special.

“I think any time you go back as a coach, you go back through your experiences. Like when I was in Denver in 2006, 2007 and 2008 people would always say, ‘Your last win as a coach was in 2005.’ We lost to Pittsburgh at home for the AFC championship, a chance to go to the Super Bowl,” Shanahan recalled. “Then 2006, we lost our last game that would have put us in the playoffs at 10-6. In 2008, it was our last game, which if we beat San Diego we would have been division champs of the AFC West. So, you understand as a coach, unless you get it done, people forget very quickly what you’ve done. That’s why I think winning the NFC East and you get a game like that, you want to find a way to win it because once you do that momentum starts again. There are a lot of games that you play, and unless you take advantage of the opportunity people forget very quickly.”

Shanahan said that he allowed himself a couple hours to celebrate the victory, and that his biggest sense of enjoyment that night came from his coaching and front office assistants see their hard work pay off.

“It’s so rewarding to come in and try to put something together, seeing the guys so excited, the coaching staff so excited,” Shanahan said. “It’s what you work for. To see guys working for the last three years, 18 hours a day, in the draft room, looking at pro players, evaluating these guys, signing these guys, seeing a lot of guys making different steps learning the offense [and] defense and actually stepping up and accomplishing something, you feel really good about it. But saying that, it’s the first step. Hopefully, we can take advantage of the opportunity and play our best football here next week.”

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