Redskins’ performance under Mike Shanahan isn’t open to interpretation
By Tracee Hamilton,
You didn’t hear it. I didn’t hear it. He didn’t say it.
Mike Shanahan’s postgame remarks Sunday were completely misinterpreted, according to Mike Shanahan’s post-postgame remarks Monday.
“To suggest that the season was over with is completely ludicrous,” Shanahan said indignantly.
The trouble with the “misinterpretation” defense in the digital age is that anyone can find that news conference, watch it, and hear the coach say it was time to start evaluating which players would be with the team for years to come.
Monday, that remark was rehabilitated into, “Treat every game like a playoff game.”
If Shanahan meant his Monday remarks, then his Sunday remarks were misspoken, not misinterpreted. He had just finished a dreadful loss to a team that had managed just one previous win. He hadn’t watched the game film — his favorite line. He was frustrated, because anyone who sat through that game was frustrated. He misspoke.
But it’s much easier to go with “misinterpreted,” making every listener — not just the media, but anyone who listened to that news conference — wrong and making Shanahan right.
Sunday’s remarks didn’t rise to the desperation of “Win one for the Gipper,” but it is true the Redskins’ remote hopes for making the playoffs probably went back in the closet, along with the throwback uniforms. Maybe Shanahan was just being honest.
But do you want a coach who throws in the towel with seven games remaining, five against division opponents? Say they run the table against Dallas, Philly and the Giants. (Work with me here. Heck, the Giants won the Super Bowl last season, and the Redskins beat them not once but twice.) At the least, they mess up things in the NFC East. They’ve got the Ravens — a tall order, but they are not the Ravens of old, or even of middle age — and the 2-7 Browns, who look as vulnerable as, um, the Panthers.
Sure, these are unlikely scenarios. Still, do you give up before Week 10? Do you decide to evaluate the team three weeks before Thanksgiving — especially when, let’s face it, most of the team already has played in some capacity or another? Who is left to evaluate?
I’ll tell you who: the coaching staff. Let’s evaluate the heck out of them, despite the fact that Shanahan, when asked if there would be changes during the bye week, answered with a loquacious “No.” (No misinterpretation there!)
Anyone who thinks this season’s failures can be laid solely at the feet of the players is kidding himself. And if these players are performing so poorly, let’s ask ourselves: Where did they come from? Did the Redskins pick names out of a hat? Were they dropped off at the gates to Redskins Park in the dead of night? No? Then whoever brought these underachievers to Ashburn should also be accountable, right? Right?
Sunday’s game was more than winnable, so Shanahan’s frustration is understandable. The Redskins had more total plays and more first downs (24 to 18), had the ball for 10 minutes more than the Panthers, had a better fourth-down efficiency (three out of five), and outrushed the Panthers.
Those are the pros. The cons? Three for 15 third-down conversions, 13 penalties for 97 yards, and a 33-percent conversion rate in the red zone.
These are not new areas of concern, and the players share responsibility for all of them (especially the penalties — the time wasted in the fourth quarter, when the Redskins had to score three times to get one measly touchdown that counted is inexcusable).
But the coaches also shoulder some blame. Let’s take the red-zone conversion rate. Sunday, that was on the coaches, especially the play call on fourth and two when Robert Griffin III went wide right and got pushed out of bounds. That was a poor, poor call. And it’s hardly the first of the season. Certainly the offense has improved, thanks largely to two rookies. (And speaking of them, what the heck happens to Alfred Morris? He will blow the doors off the opposing defense for two or three quarters and then disappear. That’s not agoraphobia; that’s play-calling.)
Yet the offense is a veritable juggernaut compared to the defense. The Panthers put together two touchdown drives of more than 90 yards for the first time in franchise history. That’s not as dramatic as it would be if the opponent were, say, celebrating its 80th anniversary, but even so, it’s fairly embarrassing. The Redskins allow 397.9 yards a game, 28th in the league. They’re tied for seventh in total penalties, eighth in penalty yards. Their 27.6 points allowed per game is sixth-worst in the league.
But the coaches are untouchable, Shanahan declares. Misunderstood and misinterpreted, sure, but not mistaken.
And the fans? They’re merely miserable.
“I’ve got to do a better job,” Shanahan said during Sunday’s news conference.
That may be the most accurate remark he’s made in the past two days — unless I’ve misinterpreted him.