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Playing For Mike Shanahan Was Main Draw For Pierre Garcon To Redskins

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

There were numerous reasons why Pierre Garcon was interested in leaving Indianapolis after four seasons to play for the Washington Redskins, but one stood out to him amongst all others.

Garcon

“Playing for coach [Mike] Shanahan was the decision factor,” Garcon told The Free Lance-Star on Monday, nearly two weeks after making the decision to do just that. “He’s a very successful coach in the league, and I know that he’s done a great job. Playing for him is a once-in-a-lifetime chance for me. He’s a great coach, a football genius, and he’s been doing this for a very, very long time.”

Garcon, 25, agreed to a five-year, $42.5 million contract on March 13, the first day of free agency, and signed it the next day. The deal includes $20.5 million guaranteed and an $11 million signing bonus, setting him up to be the Redskins’ top receiver beginning this fall.

His transition to Washington began on Monday when, after a brief appearance at Redskins Park in Ashburn to sign his contract, he started searching for a home in northern Virginia. His hope is to be settled by the time the Redskins’ offseason program begins April 16, at which point he can begin to learn the playbook and settle in as the team’s primary split end.

“Just with the offense, I knew that they needed a receiver, and I wanted to be that guy for them,” Garcon said. “It just seemed to be the draw there.”

The 6-foot, 210-pound Garcon had the most productive season of his four-year career in 2011 – a surprise, given the Colts played the entire year without Peyton Manning. Starting all 16 games, he caught 70 passes for 947 yards and a team-high six touchdowns, all of which were career highs.

Indianapolis continued with the rebuilding process when the season ended, jettisoning several veterans, including Manning and running back Joseph Addai, and choosing not to bring back several others. Garcon rejected a five-year, $35 million offer from the team in early February, according to reports, and said the decision to leave the Colts was difficult.

“I wanted to go back,” Garcon said. “I wanted to be back in Indianapolis. You always want to play for one team the rest of your career, and now, with the business side of football being more a part of the game, it’s tough to do that. Teams have to make decisions. As a player, you always want to play for one team. The team, they gave you the opportunity to play in the NFL – why wouldn’t you want to stay in the NFL and help them out?

“But this is a business, and you’ve got to make decisions. Both decisions sometimes don’t go well with each other. … I wanted to be there. I wanted to play there the rest of my career. It’s Indianapolis. They treat you very well, and they gave me the opportunity.”

Garcon originally pinpointed a number of teams he was interested in playing for when free agency began, with the Redskins at the top of the list. His agent also fielded calls and proposals from Cleveland, Minnesota, San Diego, but the offer from Washington was the one Garcon found most appealing.

“It’s a good opportunity,” Garcon said. “Playing in a big football town, you know you have support throughout the season no matter what. … The team wasn’t doing so good last year, but they still had the support of the people around them, and that’s nice to have as a player – have the support of the fans when times get hard, because you want to keep playing hard for them.”

Garcon was wanted by the Redskins for his ability to be a playmaker on the field. The team struggled to find anyone to fill that role last season, with neither Jabar Gaffney nor Santana Moss showing any type of breakaway speed.

When asked by reporters Wednesday morning at the NFL owners’ meetings in West Palm Beach, Fla. why Garcon was the team’s top target at receiver – it also signed Joshua Morgan, formerly of San Francisco – Shanahan was direct.

“His ability to run after the catch,” Shanahan said. “His ability to come out of a break at full speed. He’s one of the few guys I’ve been around that can explode on the field, come out of a break with speed. Once he catches the ball, his ability to go to the distance.”

Garcon, who played at Mount Union, a Division III school in Ohio, won national championships in 2005 and 2006. He also played in Super Bowl XLIV in 2010, which the Colts lost. Winning, obviously, remains his primary objective now in Washington.

“That’s ultimately what the goal is – to win games and play well on Sundays,” Garcon said. “Win the division games, get home-field advantage and then in the playoffs, every game matters. Every game counts, and anything can happen on those Sundays.”

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