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Mike Shanahan: Turnaround Has Taken ‘A Lot Longer Than I Had Anticipated’

By ZAC BOYER | zboyer@freelancestar.com | @ZacBoyer

ASHBURN – With the Washington Redskins set to finish either 6-10 or 5-11 this season, depending on the outcome of Sunday’s game at Philadelphia, the team will have made either no progress or taken a step backward from last year’s 6-10 record.

Shanahan

That caused second-year head coach Mike Shanahan to admit yesterday the process of turning the team around has taken “a lot longer than I first anticipated.”

“We had less depth than I thought [before last season] and we’re a little bit older at a few different positions and I thought we might keep those players a little bit longer than we did,” Shanahan said. “But that’s not a negative. You’ve just got to evaluate your squad on a day-to-day basis, a year-to-year basis and put the best football team together. I think that’s what we’re doing.”

Only 19 players who are still on the Redskins were on the team before Shanahan was hired, and of their 26 opening-day starters – the offense and defense, plus the specialists – nine are in their first year on the team. Four others who started against Minnesota on Saturday are in their first season and three more have also started at least once this season.

Shanahan enters Sunday’s game with an 11-19 record in Washington, giving him a .367 winning percentage. A two-time Super Bowl winner whose overall career record was .599 before signing a five-year, $35 million contract to be the head coach and executive vice president in January 2010, Shanahan’s 6-10 finish a year ago was his worst in his 16 full seasons as an NFL head coach.

Washington already has 10 losses after Saturday’s 33-26 stumble against three-win Minnesota in the final game of the season at FedEx Field. The leading culprit, Shanahan said, is the turnovers; the Redskins have turned the ball over in 29 consecutive games and have a minus-15 turnover margin, putting them last in the league.

Much of that falls on quarterback Rex Grossman, who has thrown 19 interceptions – one in every game this season but the first. He has also lost five fumbles and had one of each type of turnover in the loss to the Vikings.

“The thing that we’ll be stressing next year – like we continue to try to do, anyhow – is to not turn the football over, because if you turn the football over like we did this year, regardless of what type of football team you have, you’re not going to win,” Shanahan said.

When asked for a critique on Grossman, independent of a discussion on turnovers, Shanahan only said the coaches “constantly evaluate everybody’s progress and their success and we’ll give them a chance to compete for a position next year or they’re not with the football team.” Kyle Shanahan, the offensive coordinator, said last week he still sees the potential for Grossman, in his ninth season, to continue to develop to a point where he doesn’t turn the ball over.

Because of the uncertainty surrounding the final week of games, the Redskins could have anywhere between the fourth and 11th selection in April’s NFL Draft. They figure to select a quarterback with one of their early-round picks, if not certainly the first; last year, the Redskins drafted 12 players, all of whom are still in the organization.

“I think I see a big difference than two years ago,” Shanahan said. “We have a much younger football team. We have a lot more depth at a lot of different positions. I feel good about the type of players that we do have. We still need a good draft, good free agency. We still need to improve from where we’re at right now. Our record, obviously, dictates that. But I feel good about our football team and the direction we’re headed.”

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