“I couldn’t have handled it earlier in my career,” Shanahan said Friday, not long after the Redskins practiced for the final time this season. “You don’t know the big picture. You’re just trying to survive. Unless you’ve been with different programs or organizations that have been down or have been up, you can’t really relate to where you’re at now. I can relate to this.”
Shanahan opened his Redskins tenure by going 6-10 in 2010. Win Sunday, and he only matches that record. Lose, and he has his worst record as a head coach. Jim Zorn — whose tenure running the Redskins was mocked from near and far — won 12 games in his two seasons with Washington. The Redskins must win Sunday for Shanahan to match that.
Yet ask Shanahan to take stock as he winds down the second of two difficult seasons, and he is unwavering.
“I feel very good about this football team and the direction we’re headed,” he said, “because we’ve got the right people.”
‘We’re doing it right’
Regardless of Sunday’s outcome, the Redskins will finish in last place in the NFC East for the fourth consecutive year. Yet Shanahan can sit behind his desk — tape of a practice session frozen on a television screen over one shoulder, the Redskins’ entire depth chart on the wall he faces — and emphatically restate his belief that the franchise he oversees will win, and soon. He does so, he said, because he can draw on all those experiences, good and bad. What others see? How others evaluate his team? It doesn’t matter to him.
“He doesn’t let perception become reality,” said his son Kyle, the Redskins’ offensive coordinator. “He knows what he’s doing. All of us know what we’re doing, but the difference with him is, he’s so strong in his personality and he’s had so much success his whole career, he’s seen it all. He knows when things are done right, when things are done wrong. And he knows we’re doing it right.”
There are, Mike Shanahan believes, several aspects to “doing it right,” many of which occur far from the practice field. For the past several weeks, he has begun many mornings by watching a half-hour of film on college quarterbacks, a different one each day, maybe 70 or 80 plays. It is a window into his world. The Redskins clearly are searching for a quarterback to eventually replace current starter Rex Grossman. And Shanahan will have the most significant role in selecting that player, be it through free agency or the college draft, this year or the next or the year after that.