Do Mike Shanahan's recent comments foretell more trouble ahead?
Mike Shanahan told ESPN.com's Dan Graziano that he felt it "completely ridiculous" that people took his comments following a loss Sunday to Carolina as evidence that he's given up on the 2012 season.
But, well ... you be the judge:
"When you lose a game like that, now you're playing to see who obviously is going to be on your football team for years to come," Shanahan said in his postgame news conference Sunday. "Now, we have a chance to evaluate players and see where we're at. Obviously, we're not out of it statistically. Now we find out what kind of character we have and how guys keep on fighting throughout the rest of the season."
Shanahan's statement might be a realistic take on things -- just three 3-6 teams have made the playoffs in the last 22 years. It also implies, though, that Shanahan feels totally secure that he'll have his job come 2013 and beyond.
Given how things have gone in Shanahan's first three years in D.C., are the Redskins as willing to wait for this rebuilding project to move forward?
Shanahan has a 14-27 record as the Redskins' head coach. The arrival of Robert Griffin III and, at least early on, positive returns from Washington's 2012 offense seemed to buy Shanahan some time. Trading up (and spending big) to land RGIII marked a major commitment by the organization, both to its new QB and its head coach.
Less than a full season later, patience may be running out.
Already Redskins fans are starting to call for the head of defensive coordinator Jim Haslett, whose defense ranks among the league's worst. Can an increase in public pressure on Shanahan, especially if the Redskins' offense continues to slump, be far behind?
Shanahan and Allen have done a solid job uncovering talent in the draft (sixth-round rookie Alfred Morris is a prime example), but the obstacles standing between them and a better team in 2013 are numerous. Specifically, the Redskins are without a first-round pick in next year's draft because of the RGIII deal, and they face a second straight season with an NFL-mandated $18 million salary cap penalty.
With the cap unlikely to move up much, if at all, from 2012 to '13, it's a stretch to find ways that the Redskins can vastly improve their talent level.
So, a lot of the progress will rely on Shanahan and his staff to coach up the current roster. Which makes Shanahan's Sunday comments all the more difficult to rationalize. Take linebacker Lorenzo Alexander's reaction, for example, via the Washington Post:
I’m not thinkin’ about next year. That’s an offseason thing for me. But you know it’s hard when you see yourself in that type of position and your head coach is saying those types of things. It’s disappointing.”
Even if the playoffs are a pipe dream now for 2012, Shanahan still needs all hands on deck to keep pushing forward. The Redskins entered this season with a ton of positive momentum, thanks to Griffin's arrival. Seeing it all go by the wayside before we even reach the midpoint of November would be troubling. While Shanahan may spend the next few weeks evaluating players on his roster, don't be surprised if the Redskins' front office uses that time to take a closer look at its coaching staff. Shanahan may be safe, for now, but maybe not as safe as he thinks.