Mike Shanahan says his players now ‘believe in each other’ (John McDonnell/The Washington Post)

Even when the Redskins were 3-6 last month, more than halfway into his third season as the team’s coach, Mike Shanahan was saying the club was making progress.

Now that the team is 8-6, tied for first place in the NFC East and poised to make the playoffs, Shanahan says that progress has become evident.

“Like I told you the first couple years, I understood we were going to struggle the first couple years,” said Shanahan, who had an 11-21 record in his first two seasons as the Redskins’ coach. “I mean, we didn’t have the football team. And it was getting the right guys on the football team where we felt like we could make a run. And one of the reasons why I told our football team at the beginning of the year that, ‘You guys don’t know it. But you guys are a lot better than you think you are.’ And they’re obviously proving that now.

“We lost a number of games that we should have won early, three that I can see specifically,” Shanahan said. “And all of a sudden, we started playing our best football in the second half of the season. We’ve got a lot of character. We’ve got a lot of guys going in the right direction, guys competing every play. And when you do have that, then you start to turn. I think that’s what our football team has done. They believe in each other. Every game we go into now, we believe that we’ll win. That’s got to be your mindset. Once you start winning those close games, you expect it.”