Zac Boyer will be entering his third season covering the Washington Redskins for The Free Lance-Star this fall. Make sure to follow Zac on Twitter (@ZacBoyer) for the latest updates or e-mail him with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Shanahan will keep coaching staff, front office intact
Head coach Mike Shanahan met with reporters this afternoon for a 26-minute, season-ending interview session that covered the big- and many small-picture issues facing the organization as it transitions to the offseason. Here are the highlights:
Shanahan definitively said he will not make changes to the coaching staff.
“I’m going to keep everybody. You never know if some assistant coaches will get chances to be a head coach at the collegiate level or not…but I plan on keeping everybody.”
Shanahan said he will go outside the organization to replace tight ends coach Jon Embree, who left in December to take the University of Colorado head coaching job.
Some fans might see the Redskins’ 31st ranking on defense and wonder how defensive coordinator Jim Haslett’s job could be secure. Shanahan, however, sees encouraging indicators.
“You take nine football games this year where we gave up 17 points or less,” he said. “That’s a pretty good sign we were making strides. We made some strides relative to turnovers. Usually when you have nine games of 17 points or less, usually you win all nine of those games. The remaining games usually you can split, winning at least two or three of those games.”
Shanahan plans to keep the football personnel department intact, specifically director of player personnel Scott Campbell and pro personnel Morocco Brown. Those are two executives he inherited from the Vinny Cerrato era.
“I don’t have any plans to make any changes at this time,” Shanahan said.
This is a big one. Shanahan has the final say on all football decisions, but Campbell and Brown are two of the closest things to checks-and-balances in the front office.
Shanahan’s track record on personnel evaluation is open to question (see: the Donovan McNabb trade), and because he splits time with on-field coaching duties, he relies on reports and suggestions from Campbell, Brown and other executives and scouts when making decisions. In other words, although Shanahan has final say, Campbell and Brown will help forge the organization’s path.
Shanahan’s vow to retain his staff applies to head athletic trainer Larry Hess and head strength and conditioning coach Ray Wright.
Shanahan promoted Hess from his director of rehabilitation position upon his arrival last offseason. Several Redskins proceeded to suffer injury setbacks during the season. WR Malcolm Kelly prematurely returned from a hamstring strain at the start of training camp, suffered a setback and missed the whole season. RBs Clinton Portis and Ryan Torain each re-injured themselves in attempting to return from muscular injuries.
“It’s always an ongoing process, but I’ve got a staff working extremely hard to do the best thing for our players,” Shanahan said when asked specifically about Hess and the training staff. “I like the way they work and handle themselves, and hopefully we keep on getting better as an organization.”
DL Albert Haynesworth received his exit physical but did not meet with Shanahan.
“Last time he was in the building [before the suspension] he would not meet with me,” Shanahan said. “So it is what it is.”
Shanahan will try to balance the Redskins’ best interests with expediency in resolving the Haynesworth and QB Donovan McNabb situations.
“What we’re going to do is do what we think is in the best interest of the organization, still with the thought process in mind that we’re dealing with people at the same time,” he said. “It’s a fine line there relative to the evaluation and what direction we’re gonna go, but we understand both sides of the ledger.”
Shanahan will evaluate McNabb and all of the team’s players over the next couple of weeks before determining a course of action. He did admit to mishandling the aftermath of McNabb’s benching in Detroit.
You’ll recall he provided the public with multiple explanations for his decision, and it became quite sloppy.
“I should have been a little bit more honest than I was,” he said. “Sometimes you do things to protect players and at the same time you’re actually hurting them. I wish I would have handled it differently.”
Still no set date for Shanahan’s meeting with McNabb’s agent, Fletcher Smith III. Stay tuned.
Let Shanahan explain to you how the Redskins’ coaching staff will spend their time in the short term:
“The next few days we go back and coaches will write up their position players, and they will put them in a pecking order: Strengths, weaknesses, starters, backups, ascending player, descending player.
“Offensive coaches will look at the defensive team. For example, the defensive line coach will evaluate the offensive line. He’ll look at all 16 games as he does during the regular season looking at opposing offensive lines. He’ll write up each one of those players as he sees them without getting into personalities. He’ll grade all those players. We’ll do that at all the different positions.
“The coordinators will look at the scheme, obviously with Kyle [Shanahan] looking at the defense and Jim [Haslett] looking at the offense, different ways that they would attack. Looking at the strengths and weaknesses as they see it as coordinators. And they look at all 16 games.
“We write up every player on both sides of the ball, more of a crosscheck, and then we start to get into unrestricted free agents. We get a list there, and if we get everything finished in the first couple weeks, then we start on unrestricted free agents. After we hit that, we start going towards the draft choices.”
Shanahan is unsure whether RB Clinton Portis has a role with the organization next season.
“I don’t think you know for sure once the guy comes off the surgery,” he said. “I think time will tell. Right now, obviously going through that surgery, he’ll have a better feel than I will right now, but he looked like he was in pretty good shape when I saw him.”
Shanahan wants the Redskins to get younger, but not at the expense of talent or character.
“We’d like to have guys on the younger side. We want to have people that enjoy playing football and want to be in an organization that gives them the best chance to win. We’ll evaluate No. 1 will be character, besides playing ability and hopefully some youth.”
In past seasons under the existing CBA, teams had an exclusive opportunity to negotiate with players whose contracts are expiring. It usually runs until the new league year begins in March. Shanahan said the Redskins want to re-sign some of their players (he didn’t specify names), and they won’t wait until a new CBA is hammered out.
That means we could see contract extensions at any point after the coaching staff completes its player evaluations in the next few weeks.
“We’re planning business as usual with the CBA,” Shanahan said. “We’re hoping that it gets resolved, and my plan is the same it’s always been. If it changes it changes.”
RB Ryan Torain will be in the mix for a starting job next season, but Shanahan wouldn’t guarantee him anything.
“I think he helped himself the last few weeks, taking so many shots and staying healthy,” Shanahan said. “He’ll be right in there. He’ll be competing. Is he going to come in as the No. 1 back? No, I can’t say that. Will he have a chance to compete to be the No. 1 back? Probably.”
That’s not a strong commitment to Torain, but Torain’s injury history simply prevents that. The Redskins would make themselves vulnerable if they enter the season without a solid Plan B and C.
Shanahan is pleased with the commitment WR Malcolm Kelly showed during his stint on injured reserve.
“First of all, he’s worked out very well according to [head strength coach] Ray Wright. And he did what we asked him to do. Will he contribute next year? I’m hoping he will. We’ll get a chance to see what he can do. He has some talent. Hopefully he does help us. Right now it’s hard to say until I watch him practice and play.”
Five players will have (or already had) surgery this week:
TE Chris Cooley had his left knee scoped today.
DL Kedric Golston will have hernia repair surgery on Tuesday.
SS LaRon Landry will have his right shoulder scoped at the end of the week.
FS Kareem Moore will have his right knee scoped on Tuesday.
C Casey Rabach will have his right shoulder scoped on Thursday.