When the Redskins lost to the winless Cowboys in October of 2001 to fall to 0-5, Marty Schottenheimer didn’t change his brand of coach-speak.
“The goal is to win one game,” he said. “And after that, to win a second game. And at the end you add it all up.”
Internally, though, he was apparently talking to players about going on a playoff run.
“I can remember exactly what happened,” former Redskins linebacker Antonio Pierce told the Scott Van Pelt Show on ESPN Radio this week. “He came in that meeting room, he told Stephen Davis, stand up. He said Stephen, I’m gonna wear you out the rest of the season. He told Bruce Smith, Darrell Green, I’m gonna rely on you guys for leadership in the locker room.
“He said we WILL turn this around. It wasn’t Okay young guys, get ready, it’s your turn. It was this next meeting, this next practice, we’re gonna get better. We’re gonna make the playoffs this year.
“And I was shocked. I was going We’re 0-5, we’re horrible, everybody’s talking trash about us. But what did we do? We were one game away from making the playoffs that year.”
“I know a lot of times we say things when we’re upset,” Pierce said Tuesday. “But never have I heard a coach talk about next year when there’s still seven games left. To me, that just blew my mind….
“This is what I would do in that locker room, and guys I played with, I know what they would do,” the ex-linebacker continued. “They’ll go in that locker room, gather up the 53 guys and say look, I don’t know what coach’s game plan is for next year, but we’re gonna try to win this year, because our jobs are on the line. We want to be here, we want to build this, we want to turn this around. We know that the NFL is a day-to-day operation.
“You can never put that message out there to the masses, to the media,” Pierce concluded. “And NEVER let your players hear that. Don’t go and try to cover it up on Mondays and Tuesdays. It’s too late. Because I think you’ve already lost this team.”
Now, comments from players on Tuesday sure didn’t suggest that was the case. But at a minimum, Pierce seemed to confirm that the reaction to Shanahan’s postgame comments wasn’t just media members taking a quote out of context. The message was surprising, to fans and ex-players alike.
(Pierce also talked about the Spurrier days, and while I think this story is old, it remains awesome.
“Just wasn’t a good environment,” Pierce said. “It was a coach who didn’t really take practice serious, didn’t even know anybody on the defensive side of the ball or special teams, didn’t know what we were doing. I wasn’t A.P.; I was some other guy. It was Ifeanyi, I don’t even remember the guy’s name, but we were two light-skinned bald-headed kids. He totally messed our names up.”)