The support of Mike Shanahan by his players has been fairly universal, and the news of his firing hit a few of them pretty hard. There was no official internal announcement at Redskins Park prior to the news breaking, so most of the players found out through outside channels, some on television, others by teammates’ texts. A few found out only when asked by the media to respond to the firing.
“Players have flights back home, exit meetings and stuff like that,” said Kedric Golston, who found out on Twitter. “That’s just the way the world works these days. Even if they wanted to tell us, when news breaks, someone tweets it and it’s everywhere. It’s just how it is these days.”
Each player I talked to was sorry to see Shanahan go, and a some shared their favorite memories of their former coach with me.
Chris Baker: “Him talking smack about me in front of the whole team, saying I didn’t have any basketball skills because I hurt my quad trying to dunk a basketball. He joked that I should never play basketball ever again. I haven’t since. I’m scared to even play horse.”
Tyler Polumbus: “I’m about as loyal a Shanahan supporter as they come. He brought me on as an undrafted rookie and gave me a shot and I made the team in Denver. So coming in and knowing that you’re not really supposed to make the team and then making it just doesn’t happen very often. I’ll forever be grateful to him for giving me a shot in this league. If he hadn’t given me a shot then, who knows if I’d be here now.”
Kirk Cousins: “Doing the Shanahan skits were really fun because, on top of everything, he took it well. He wasn’t too sensitive. And the fact that he drafted me. I’ll never forget what he told me on the phone when he drafted me, that I was just too good to pass up. I remember how inspired that made me, because from Day 1 he told me how good of a player I was and how good of a player I could be one day. All I wanted to do was prove him right.
“I just always enjoyed his demeanor. Always in control and always classy. And he always empowered the players to make choices for ourselves and treated us like men. I really appreciated that.”
Darrel Young: “My favorite moment was when they moved me to fullback – well, it’s my favorite memory now. But then, I walked into his office and I was sweating. I thought I was getting cut. [He said,] ‘Hey, I forgot to tell you I’m making you a fullback.’ I looked at him and he just laughed at me. Four years later, I’m still here.
“I just talked to him just now, actually. He said, ‘I wish there was a lot more players like you.’ I said, ‘ I appreciate that. It means a lot.’ I’m not saying that I’m doing anything better than anyone else. But just knowing that he knows how hard I worked to get where I am.”
Logan Paulsen: “There’s a lot. Just him in general, he’s an awesome dude. We have a party every year when we have the 53-man roster to bring everybody together. One day during OTAs he sets up a little carnival outside where we can bring our kids and our wives and there’s a barbecue for everyone. That’s something he doesn’t have to do, but he does it to kind of build a family atmosphere. It’s something I really appreciated. Just stuff like that. We did a bowling event my rookie year, things like that. It wasn’t one big thing in particular I’ll remember. It’s just all the little things.”
Kedric Golston: “You know, coach was a players’ coach. He listened to his players, he took care of his players. He didn’t have many rules, except to come to work and be professional, and I can respect that. And when it was time to have fun, he knew how to have fun. We had an end-of-camp party his first year here and it was 70s themed. He was in full 70s gear to the point where you couldn’t even recognize him. I just remember walking downstairs and someone says, ‘There goes coach.’ And I was like, ‘Where?’ And I’m staring at him but I don’t see him. He had on some wig, straight hair with bangs and a mustache.
“I think he brought great balance and a perspective to this game in that, when you’re here, you’re here and you’re all here. And then when you’re away, enjoy yourself. And that balance, I think, allows you to focus better. You always need to have balance in your life.”