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Skins Quotes 12/11


The Commissioner
Staff member
BGO Ownership Group
Apr 11, 2009
Reaction score
Greensboro, NC

Marine Corps Virginia

December 11, 2013
Redskins Park

Executive Vice President/Head Coach Mike Shanahan

On the decision to start Kirk Cousins at quarterback instead of Robert Griffin III:

“Well, the first thing I did is I talked to Dan Snyder about a week ago, talking about the amount of hits Robert has had. Anytime you’re hit as many times as he’s been hit, I thought it was in his best interest, the organization’s, to talk about if we should continue playing Robert if he’s hit as many times as he’s been hit. Dan thought about it and talked to [Executive Vice President/General Manager] Bruce [Allen] about it, and at the end of the day we felt that the best thing to do for Robert was to not play him – give Kirk an opportunity to play – so he could go into an offseason healthy. Any time you miss an offseason in the National Football League it does set you back quite a bit, and we thought going into this offseason [after] missing last year, that this was the best way to do it.”

On if he had a change in thinking that led to this decision:

“No, to be honest with you, as I’ve stated before, I wanted to give Robert as many reps as he possibly could have, and that’s always the nature of guys getting better by repetition. Sometimes you have to evaluate, when you’re getting hit repeatedly, you’ve got to take a look at the risk and reward, and with Robert I thought that his hits were piling up on him, giving him his toll, and I was afraid that we would set him back. And the only way you realize you’re going to get set back is if he gets hurt, and I said it’s not worth it right now. I said, 'Hey, the best thing to do is give him an opportunity to go into that third year injury-free, to get a chance to get better throughout the offseason.” And I thought we put a lot of pressure on him this year going through the ACL and the LCL, we put him in a situation, and I think he’s got a lot of experience that has helped him, but I think this next offseason will be his key to making that jump.”

On if he would do things different going into this season regarding Griffin III now that he can reflect:

“I think you can always go back and always question yourself on what’s the best situation, but at the time that we decided to go with Robert, the doctors said he was 100 percent. So you go with the doctors. Robert felt that he was 100 percent. You take a look at a quarterback that has missed an offseason. Even though he has done a lot of good things, you take a look at it from top to bottom, it’s a pretty good year statistically — probably one that he’s not happy with because he’s got some high goals and high aspirations — but what we have to do, or at least as an organization, what is in the best interest of Robert? What is the best thing going forward for him? To have those next three games, the experience of going through those reps or having him healthy in the offseason? That’s why Dan told me, I said, 'Hey, Dan, we’re not going to go this direction unless you fully support it. Same thing with Bruce. You’ve got to tell me that you’re behind this and you’re in favor of it, but I don’t want anybody coming back in a game or two and saying, hey, we should have talked about this, Robert’s been getting a lot of hits.’ Because I know that will be the difference in him, when he starts the offseason, being 100 percent healthy, him going into the offseason being the leader, I think we would set him back so much if he went out the next three games and set himself back and missed another offseason, which could happen. I didn’t think the risk or reward was worth it.”

On how the move doesn’t say he is giving up on the season:

“I think it’s 100 percent different when you take a look at the quarterback position. A quarterback needs an offseason program. It’s important to him. When you take a look at a quarterback who is your franchise quarterback, he’s your future. If you miss two offseasons in a row, it’d be the hardest thing to do is recover from that. I take a look at the next three games, I’d like him to have that experience, but at the risk of setting him back where he doesn’t go into the offseason [healthy], I think that would be devastating to him. I think it was tough enough as it was to go through what he went through coming off an ACL, coming off of an LCL, and still put him in a situation like we did. You always look back at yourself, which was the question over here, should you have played him after the fifth game or the eighth game? I go through those questions all the time, and saying, 'Hey, would it have been better off doing this or doing that?’ At the end of the day, he had 13 games of great experience with somewhat of a different type system. Even though some of the things we did were very similar to the first year, there was a lot of things that were different. So he did gain that experience. But at the end of the day, what would be devastating to him – which he doesn’t realize at this time – that if you did get hurt in the next three weeks and you miss the whole offseason again with some type of knee injury, the chances of coming back, to me, would be very, very tough, and I did not want to put him in that situation.”

On what message this sends to the rest of the locker room:

“Well, the locker room is if you’re a franchise quarterback and you miss the second season, it’s, 'We’re going to protect you.’ I do believe that Kirk Cousins will come in and play well. He is a proven quarterback I believe, at least from what we’ve seen when he’s played. I don’t think it’s worth the risk for the future of this organization to put him in there. You can take any position and you say, 'Hey, that position doesn’t need an offseason like a quarterback.’ I don’t care if you’re talking about outside linebacker, inside linebacker, corner, offensive lineman. What’s critical to the development of the quarterback is, at least in my opinion, that second- and third-year offseason. He didn’t have the second, I don’t want to take the chance on the third.”

On if how the decision was made between Snyder, Allen and him:

“Well, just put it this way, I said if either one wasn’t 100 percent behind my reasoning that I’m giving you, I said we won’t go there. Nothing needs to be said. We’ll just keep it status quo.”

On if there was discussion about not playing Griffin III against Kansas City:

“Yeah, there was talk. I brought it up. I brought it up. It was in the back of my mind. Really, anytime you’re out of the playoffs, I look at all the different positions. The one thing I thought was most important to this organization, and that’s one of the reasons why I talked about it with Dan because I thought it was very important to include him that, 'Hey, this is your guy of the future, what do you want to do? What’s important for us making the right decision?’ It’s easy to say after somebody gets hurt, 'You should have took him out,’ and I didn’t want to put our organization in that type of situation.”

On if there is any thought that Cousins was better suited to lead this team right now:

“I understand what direction you’re trying to take this, but I’m honestly trying to tell you, man-to-man, we made a decision that I think is the best for Robert. We’re dealing with somebody that’s young, wants to be in there — I would be disappointed if Robert did not want to be in there with his teammates. I mean, I’d be the most disappointed guy. I’d be the most disappointed guy in myself if he played in the last three weeks and had an ACL or an LCL and it set him off for his second year in a row with no offseason program. That would be devastating to him, as well as the organization.”

On the division of responsibility for the hits Griffin III has taken:

“That’s the key. That’s what you would like to know. It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, when you’re taking hits, it doesn’t matter who’s at fault. What matters is do you protect your quarterback or don’t you protect your quarterback? If it’s his fault, if it’s the offensive line, if it’s the receivers, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter who’s fault it is, what matters is he’s getting hit. Are you going to take that chance to keep him up, keep him down, and that’s one that we have to live with, and after it happens it’s too late, just like the Seattle game at halftime. I could have kicked myself in the rear end because my gut was — even though the doctor said, 'Hey, he was fine, it was all stable. Hey, you don’t have to worry.’ Robert said it was fine — I knew in my gut, I watched him, I said 'Hey, that’s what I should have done,’ because I did see it, but you have to go with your gut sometimes and say, 'Hey, this is what you do for a living, you’ve been around it, you’ve got to make sure you take care of your best players in a situation like this.’”

On if he has to run his decisions by Snyder:

“In theory, I don’t, but would you ever make a decision like that with your future quarterback that you gave up two number ones and a number two without having the courtesy to talk to the owner and say, 'Hey, would you make this move? If not, this is your football team. I’m the head football coach, I would not make it unless I’ve got your blessing,’ because I don’t want to do that to him if he feels it’s not the right thing to do. So that’s what you do I think when you have at least the communication and respect level with owner and head coach.”

On if it is abnormal for him to check with the owner before making a decision:

“That’s exactly right. Well, that’s what you do about a quarterback. He’s your franchise. That’s why you ask those questions. You don’t do it about the other positions. Dan could care less about the other positions.** 'Hey, that’s why you coach, that’s why I own.’ I understand that. That’s not a problem, but I do ask it about a quarterback because we’re going to have a circus atmosphere any time you make a decision like that.”

**On clarifying his comments (from his conference call with Atlanta media):

“What I was saying ... that if I'm starting somebody like a wide receiver or offensive guard or offensive tackle, Dan would never ask me going into a game about any position – corner, linebacker, defensive lineman – who I was starting for a game. He could, he's gonna let me do all the football decisions. But, I would think any owner, when you talk about the quarterback position, wants to be informed what's going on. That was what I meant by that… I appreciate you bringing it up because if you felt that way probably a number of other people felt that way.”

On what his and Snyder’s talks about the quarterback position are like:

“First of all, we could go through the Donovan [McNabb], we could go through Robert, at the end of the day we make decisions as an organization. We don’t go who was feeling what at what time. At the end of the day when somebody’s here, they’re here. You’re all on the same page. So we don’t talk about everybody’s opinion, because what do you give up for a draft choice? Is it two ones? Is it two twos? All that stuff is talked about every day with every draft choice. At the end of the day we move forward, and whoever our players are, they’re our players, and we obviously have a group collectively.”

On if there are concerns on how this will affect Griffin III’s psyche:

“Well, let me ask you this – his psyche, if he goes down next game on the fourth play and all of a sudden we’re talking about that, what is going to be his psyche missing the [second] offseason in a row? We’ve got three games left. We’re going to play those games hard. Do I take a risk of putting him in there to gain some more experience — he just had 13 games — and have a chance of setting him [back] that third year? I didn’t think it was worth the risk. I didn’t think it was.”

On if he is worried about how a competitor like Griffin III will come back from this:

“That’s what you love. You love guys that want to play. If he would have said to me, 'Hey, Mike, I think that’s a good decision,’ I’ve got the wrong guy. I don’t want a guy that wants to be benched. Nobody thinks they’re going to get injured, I can promise you that. Everybody thinks they’re superhuman and they’re going to go out there, but we all know that those things occur. The reason why I had mentioned it is because he was getting hit more than normal and I said the same thing we’ve talked about why you make decisions like that which you think are in the best interest of the organization. And that’s why you do talk to the owner before you make those decisions, because it’s a big decision to make.”

On if he is confident that he’ll return next season:

“That’s Dan’s decision at the end of this year. My job is to do the right thing for the organization. I don’t care if it’s the first year I came here, the second, the third or the fourth. It started with bringing the right guys in, making sure that we deal within the cap, deal with everything the right way. That’s my job is to build this organization the right way, and I think we’ve been able to do that. Now you have to make a decision what’s in the best interest of the organization for the next 10 years. I think that’s what we did. I know it’s tough when you’ve got a competitive guy like Robert, and I know he won’t understand. He won’t. I understand it. At the end I’m hoping maybe in two years or maybe in a year, 'You know what, God am I glad I went through that offseason. We had three games left and Kirk got a chance to play. Wow.’”

On if he and Snyder have discussed the future of Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan:

“First of all, we are just talking about the season. I haven’t talked to Dan about any assistant coach. All we’re trying to do is fight for our lives and get a couple of wins here.”

On if he wants to come back and finish his contract next season:

“Yeah, you always want to finish something you’ve started. You always want to. Dan and I will sit down at the end of the season and I will give him the things that I believe it takes to get to the next level, and I’m sure he’ll give me his viewpoint. So at the end of the year we’ll get a chance to sit down, chat with one another, feel if we’re on the same page — all the things coaches do going into the last year of their contract.”

On how he feels that one question hasn’t been asked about facing Atlanta on Sunday:

“I understand that anytime you make a quarterback change we’re going to talk about that. You’ve got to understand what I’m thinking. Some people will agree with it, other people won’t, and I understand what happens with these type of situations, but at the end of the day you’ve got to feel like, you know what, your football team believes you did the right thing. At the end of the day it’s those guys in the locker room. I know it’s tough and sometimes hard questions to answer, but they have to believe that you’re doing the right thing for the organization.”

On if the Seattle game played into this decision and if he has mentioned his feelings on it to Griffin III:

“Oh no, I’ve talked to Robert not only about the Seattle game, that 'Hey, I’ve had people just like you fool me at halftime. I’ve got the experience to watch in that second quarter that you weren’t playing normal. I don’t blame it on you at all. I blame it on me.’ Because even the doctors, they can take a look at a knee and see if it’s all right — it might have been alright from a structural standpoint — but I can see and I can go with my gut, and I should have went with my gut, but I thought he had earned a right to play because he convinced me he was OK. I think in the long term, because we’re talking about honesty right here, it cost us the game because the guy that goes in can play at a certain level. So not only did it hurt Robert, but it hurt us from winning the game. As a coach, you’ve got to look at all of those scenarios, and that’s why you have to make some tough decisions.”

On how to quiet distractions and how it affects the locker room:

“I think anytime that you have a year left on your contract and you have three wins, that’s going to be out there. That’s what happens. That’s the nature of our business. If you had three years on your contract, there probably wouldn’t be any noise. I think we all understand what goes on with the length of a contract, but that’s the nature of the National Football League. You’ve got to perform every year, you’ve got to perform at a very high level, and you’ve got to do what you think is in the best interest of your organization.”

On his reasoning for benching Griffin III:

“I mean, it’s sacks — and I use that as a reference — it’s hits. It could be a sack, sometimes sacks aren’t really bad hits. Other times it’s running to the sideline. It’s scrambling. Whatever it may be, it’s the contact and you think, is it worth the risk for three games to play Robert or is it smarter just saying, 'Hey, you know what, Kirk you take over, OK? We’re going to make sure Robert, that this offseason you’re going to be there. Kirk, you had an offseason last year. You had a chance to get all these reps. You get a chance to play the last three games, and if anything else, if he does well it helps the Redskin organization as a whole.’”

On if he thinks the offensive line is where it needs to be in terms of protecting the quarterbacks:

“It doesn’t matter. It doesn’t matter where it’s at. You’ll see as time goes on — is it the offensive line? Is it the quarterback? Is it the receivers? There’s a combination of different things and I don’t get into detail, but at the end of the day you’re always trying to improve your football team. I think when you take a look at the year before, when we’re the No. 1 offense in the National Football League — for every time the ball’s snapped we had more yards rushing and more yards passing — that’s pretty good with a bad offensive line, isn’t it? I mean, how many teams with a bad offensive line, a horrible offensive line, are No. 1 in passing and rushing per attempt? I haven’t been around any. So, there are some good things about our offensive line.”

On if it has been a while since he has been this worked up:

“Well, it’s not really worked up because you hear things and it affects our football team. What I’m trying to do is be as honest as I can, and I don’t normally do that because I don’t really think it’s anybody’s business except the guys in our locker room. And I don’t get into a lot of detail, but here I think it’s a must for people to understand what I’m thinking relative to Robert, what I’m thinking relative to Kirk, this organization, and what direction we’re trying to go in moving forward.”

On if questions about his motivation behind this decision add to the aggravation:

“Somebody said, 'Hey, the reason why you’re going with Kirk is you’re trying to get fired and you’ve got a year left on your contract.’ If I’m trying to get fired, I’m not going to call up Dan Snyder and ask his opinion on a player. I don’t have to. If he says no, I’m not going to go that direction. So that’s the reason why I share some of those stories with you.”

On if he consulted any players about the decision:

“I really don’t talk to players about it because it’s a decision I have to make. I know there are a lot of people with a lot of different ideas, so I really don’t get into that. But normally, after you make a decision, you talk to the captains and you say, 'Hey, it’s your job to keep these guys together.’ I know there’s a lot of noise. It goes with the territory when you’ve got three weeks – I mean when you’ve got three games left and you’re in the last year of your contract, you and the quarterback supposedly don’t get along – all those things go on, so that’s part of the noise.”

On if the decision is a course correction from last season’s playoff game against Seattle:

“You make decisions all the time with being a head football coach. I could talk about timeouts. I could talk about third-and-twos or fourth-and-ones. It’s a constant learning experience. You’re trying to grow all the time. You reflect on mistakes that you make during the season with different injuries. That’s part of the process. If you’ve got to make decisions, you are going to make mistakes, but I share that with you, relative to Robert at halftime, because we really haven’t talked in much detail. I share a story like that with Robert. I said, 'Hey, Robert, I don’t blame you. I blame me. I’ve been through this before. I’ve got a guy just like you that pretended like he’s all right and you’re not all right. I’ve got to be able to see through it with the play on the field and sometimes, for some reason, you don’t let it happen, you get mad at yourself. In other situations like we’re going through right now, why are you going to take him out with three games left? I think the risk is too great. I don’t want him to go into his third year on IR. I think it would devastate him, not having the ability to practice every day throwing the ball with his teammates. Then, it’s good for Kirk. He gets some playing time. He is practicing and playing and, I believe, will play at a high level. That’s good for the organization, but I’m not going to take just somebody out of the game like Rak [linebacker Brian Orakpo] or [linebacker] Perry Riley. We’re in here to win games, but I’m going to do the right thing.”

On if he expects to return next season:

“You know what, I can’t say that. I don’t know until I’ve sat down with Dan. Then we’ll find out what I think, I’ll give him my opinions and he’ll give me his opinions. Maybe we just hit it off and everything goes – I get that 12-15-year contract [laughter]. Well, maybe three-year. Anyway, whatever it is, but that’s where grown men talk at the end of the year. You find out, 'Hey, what’s the best way to go?’ We may have big differences and we said, 'Hey, I believe in this, you believe in that,’ and you go. Or you say, 'Hey, we’re on the same page and let’s go forward.’ I can’t tell you that until I talk with him.”

On if Griffin III will be deactivated and quarterback Rex Grossman will be the backup:

“That’s correct.”

On if there is anything else he would like to share:

“No, I’ve talked more right now than I have in the last six months [laughter].”

On if quarterbacks today are more difficult to manage than in previous years because of all of the outside factors including media scrutiny and endorsements:

“I think Robert – anytime you deal with a person as a head coach, it’s always different. When you’re in college, it’s much different than pro football. My job is not always to be somebody’s friend. My job is to coach them. My job is to get the best out of somebody. I’m not looking to Robert to be liked. I’m hoping that the respect level is there and that he does like me through time. Why? I thought we did a heck of a job together last year, both of us getting everything done. This year’s been a little bit more difficult, but that’s part of personalities and that’s part of relationships. What you’ve got to do is you’ve got to find a way to come together and make sure you find a way to win.”

On if he considered quitting last season, as claimed by a media report:

“What I said is there’s always bits and pieces of an article that are true. I’m not going to go into detail what was true about the article. I don’t think it’s fair to the organization and I would speak to that person first before I would speak to anybody else. But when you get partial truths – and I’m not one to say somebody is lying or this isn’t reported correctly – but I’ve heard that my whole life. I think everybody in this room knows that I don’t talk to anybody off the record. I don’t, and if you do, you say, 'Hey, what’s wrong with him?’ We’ve all had lunches together back in camp and you guys know that I’m not going to tell you anything. It’s not my job, because once you tell it to somebody, he tells it to somebody and it spreads. That’s me. I got that from coaching. I can’t get the respect from Grant over here if I’m talking to Joe and vice [versa] – 'Oh, he’s talking to me and he’s not talking to me.’ I can’t go down that road.”

On why he did not sit Griffin III last week against Kansas City if health is truly the primary issue:

“I think I gave you an idea a little bit last time. I said, 'Hey, Kansas City had two sacks in five games,’ and we had six. When he got hit a couple, I said, 'Hey, this is what I believe.’ So it doesn’t matter – if it was sacks – whose fault it was. He’s getting hit too many times. I brought it up a week ago, because you go back and look at all the hits and you’re saying, 'Hey, eventually, it’s going to take its toll.’ That’s the reason I did it. Now, if he would’ve gotten hurt in the last game, I would’ve been sick to death because I was thinking about it. But that’s why sometimes you don’t make the right decisions.”

On how his offensive philosophy would change next year to preserve Griffin III’s health:

“One thing I think we’ve gotten better at – or Robert has gotten much better at – is sliding. Now, he’s not perfect at it, but he’s made some drastic strides in that area. And throwing the ball away, that helps. The one thing that the option did, at least the threat of it and it still does, if you will slide, it does slow down the pass rush and that’s one of the reasons we had so much success a year ago. We’re just not the same team right now, but in a year, you can decide on whatever direction that an offense may go because there’s so many different ways you can go. You can go with the high-tempo, you can go with the turbo, you can go with the no-huddle, you can go with the standard offense – a lot of different directions if you’ve got that talent at quarterback and a lot of different ways to skin a cat.”

Quarterback Kirk Cousins

On his reaction to being named starter:

“I just need to get ready to go, need to have a good week of preparation, and need to just continue doing what I’ve been doing and let things take care of themselves.”

On how things played out with this decision:

“Yeah, it wasn’t anything dramatic. I was just told by the coaches that I’d be going this week, and if that changes anything then there’s something wrong with me because all of these weeks my preparation should be as if I’m the starter. Certainly in human nature you’re going to have a heightened sense of urgency now that you know, but it shouldn’t change anything that I’m doing this week to get ready.”

On who told him he would be named starter:

“[Offensive Coordinator] Kyle [Shanahan] was the first one to tell me, but that was more just because of convenience and who I bumped into when I got here.”

On his feelings about the decision to name him as the starter:

“It is what it is. I’m going to submit to the authorities above me and do what I’m coached to do and try to help this team win, whether as a starter or a backup or whatever role I’m asked to take on. My role this week is to be the starting quarterback and I’m going to prepare as hard as I can to have success in that role.”

On how tough it is for him to step into a starting role in this situation:

“Certainly different circumstances then when I got my first start last year against Cleveland and these are not the circumstances you necessarily want to be in when you start the season, but – good or bad – I’ve got to be ready to go. I can’t control a lot of things going on but I can control my preparation and I can control how I lead this team this weekend, so I’m going to do that.”

On how quarterback Robert Griffin III took the news and what their relationship is like:

“Robert is a competitor and I think it is tough for him to have to sit down because what makes him great is that he wants to be out there. That’s one of the things that I admire about Robert and I’ve learned a lot from him in my role as a backup is that he doesn’t back down to a challenge. He never flinched as a rookie, which I was amazed at that going into the Superdome against New Orleans Week1, he didn’t seem nervous. He didn’t seem like he was afraid in any way, and it showed in his play, and I have admired that and taken that from him and tried to apply it to my game, that I shouldn’t flinch either. He wants to be out there but I think he’s handling it with a lot of maturity and he’s still out there throwing right now because he wants to get better.”

On his mindset for Sunday:

“Well, this is not my first time facing adversity. To get to this point – my second year in the NFL – has not been an easy path. It’s been the complete opposite. It’s been a difficult road, a lot of setbacks, a lot of difficult situations, a lot of challenges, a lot of things that haven’t gone my way. So, to start this game in Atlanta on Sunday is not the first time that I’ve had to face something that is a little unique. It’s just one more time where you’ve got to dig deep, you’ve got to work hard, you’ve got to be tough, you’ve got to be mentally and physically tough and get the job done and help lead others to hopefully do the same.”

On the importance of being on the same page with his coaches:

“I want to be on the same page with the coaches. I want to be able to communicate openly with them, from myself to them and then, likewise, from them to me, and try to be on the same page as much as possible. The better I can communicate with them this week, I think the better I’ll be able to play on Sunday.”

On if he thinks of this as his chance to show what he can do as a starting quarterback:

“I think it is a great opportunity to show what I’m capable of, but football is a team game, and I’m only as good as the guys around me. I know these guys are going to give everything they have to help me, and I’m going to do the same for them, but this is about the Washington Redskins and doing the best I can this Sunday to get a win against the Falcons.”

On if he feels he is auditioning for a job here or elsewhere:

“I feel like every time I get a rep in practice I’m auditioning. I’ve never felt safe. I’ve never felt comfortable, even after a good OTA and mini-camp my rookie year, after a good training camp, a good first season. I’ve never felt comfortable so I feel I’m always trying to prove myself and I’ve felt that way for a long time in my football career, going back to college and high school. Whether it’s here or somewhere else where I’m auditioning, that feeling of challenging yourself, being tough on yourself and putting pressure on yourself, I don’t think that ever goes away regardless of the circumstances you’re under.”

On the circumstances that have led to him being named starter:

“I can’t control those circumstances so I’m not going to waste time or energy worrying about them or wishing they were different. It’s wasted energy, and I’ve got to devote all the energy I can to beating the Falcons. I need to rise to the occasion, rise to the challenge, dig deep, and hopefully have a good performance on Sunday no matter what the circumstances are.”

On if he has spoken with Griffin III about the opportunity:

“His demeanor today has been positive, in the sense that he’s taking the high road. I think that at the same time it’s tough for him, so I don’t want to come across like he doesn’t care that he’s sitting. It matters to him, but he’s also going to take the high road and stay positive too, so he’s been positive in meetings and affirming of me and my opportunity. I feel like our relationship has always been strong and I think it’s gotten stronger since we’ve gotten to know each other more over the last couple of years.”

On if he thinks he was named starter because he is the best quarterback for the team at this point:

“I don’t know. I think that, and I’ve said it since I’ve been here and I’ll say it again, I do believe that Robert is the franchise quarterback here in Washington. He was drafted No. 2 overall. A lot of picks were traded to get him. Common sense would say that this is his team, and I’ve never wanted to take that away from him or do anything to undermine his role. And I’ll say it again even as I start this week, I believe that, at the end of the day, this is Robert’s team going forward into next season. The reason they are resting Robert is because this is Robert’s team and he is the franchise quarterback. You wouldn’t rest him if that wasn’t the case. My job is to help this team get a win against Atlanta and then the last two weeks after that, but again, I’m going to continue to try to excel in my role as the backup quarterback to Robert.”

On if he feels the need as the leader of the offense to tell the team to avoid distractions and focus on Atlanta:

“The concept of ignoring the noise and focusing on the task at hand is not new to NFL football players. What that noise is may change from week to week or from year to year, but to get to this level, to play at the high level of college football we’ve all played in, you’ve dealt with this before. So to tell the team, 'Hey, we need to focus in,’ that’s just preaching to the choir. We all know we have to do that. Sure enough, we have to do that this week. We’ve got to dig deep, we’ve got to get the job done, and there’s no excuses being made for the current circumstances.”

On if he was told he will start the next three weeks or if it is game to game:

“Their literal wording was not 'game to game,’ it wasn’t 'three weeks.’ They told me I’m going to be starting against Atlanta, and honestly that’s enough for me to be worrying about right now. When the plane touches down back from Atlanta, I’ll start thinking about the following week.”

Quarterback Robert Griffin III

On how he’s processing the news:

“I’m sure everybody knows by now that Coach decided to shut me down for the rest of the season. We talked – I talked to Coach, he talked to me – about it and I expressed my desire to play. Of course I want to be out there and finish the season with my guys, see it through. He explained to me his reasoning and at the end of the day Coach’s decision is what we go with. That’s what it’s always been, so I have to do that. I have to sit here and do whatever I can do help [quarterback] Kirk [Cousins], do whatever I can to help this team win and that’s what we have got to do for the next three weeks and going into the offseason.”

On if he thinks he’s being benched to protect him for the offseason:

“At this point I just have got to leave it up to Coach, like it always is. In times like these you just have to lean on what you’ve been taught in life and my parents, being two military parents, have taught me to respect authority and I have to respect what Coach says. I can’t do anything about it. All I can do is try to help this team win games and that’s what I’m going to do. So anything aside from that I can’t bother myself with thinking about those kinds of things.”

On if he knew he might not play before Executive Vice President/Head Coach Mike Shanahan said it was a possibility on Monday:

“I hadn’t talked to him about that, but I didn’t know what had happened after the game either. So that’s why I thought it was just another normal week and it turns out that it’s not that way. Now we have to deal with it as a team, and I think we’ll be able to deal with it.”

On if he feels that Shanahan is thinking ahead to the future:

“Like I said guys, I can’t bother myself with thinking about those kinds of things because it’s not productive for our team. I’m just going to continue to focus on getting better, focus on helping our defense out – get prepared for Atlanta and the games that we have left. That’s all I can do.”

On what Shanahan’s reasoning was for shutting him down:

“Just wanted to make sure that I got to the offseason free of injury so that I can have a really good offseason this year, this upcoming offseason. And that’s it.”

On why he doesn’t if he is being used:

“Because you just can’t think about it that way, at the end of the day we have three games left and my teammates don’t need me to think about it that way. They don’t need me to bring that kind of environment into the locker room so I’m not going to. I’m going to take what Coach has decided and roll with it and just try to find ways to help this team win during this process.”

On how difficult it is to keep a positive mindset and still want to help the team:

“Everybody wants to play. Every player wants to play. I’m sure Matt Ryan wants to play and any quarterback wants to finish out a season with his team when you’re healthy enough to do so. But, like I said, it’s Coach’s decision and you have to respect that authority, just like I always have. As a quarterback, you run the plays that are called, you do what your coaches tell you to do and in this instance he’s telling me that it’s time to shut it down. I can’t fight that.”

On if he thinks sitting the rest of the season will be a setback in his development:

“I think that’s just a state of mind and that’s why I’ll do everything I can after practice to continue to get reps, continue to work on technique, work on everything that goes into being a quarterback. Part of being a quarterback is helping your team and that’s what I have to do in this instance. Anyway that I can I have to try to help this team win and I will.”

On if his injury last year was discussed and if that played into the decision:

“Like I said guys, I don’t know. I just know Coach decided to shut me down and that’s that.”

On what it’s like to be himright now:

“[Laughs]. I’ll tell you what, man, although it’s a tough time, there’s tests going on right now – God’s testing me – but at the end of the day I still feel blessed to be in the NFL, be with the guys in that locker room, have the family that I have and you just have to look at life in a different way in times like these and try to find a way to make it better. That’s what I have to do. Even though I can’t go out there and play on Sunday, I still have to come out every day for the rest of these weeks to make sure I get better, make sure this team gets better in the midst of all this.”

On if he has or if he will talk to Redskins Owner Daniel M. Snyder about this decision:

“No, I haven’t and that’s a whole other deal but I haven’t talked to him – never talk to him about that kind of stuff. It’s Mike’s decision. He’s the head coach.”

On if he has thought about his performance on the field and if that factored into the decision:

“No, I haven’t and I don’t think the players have either. But you guys talk to the players and see how they feel, but we’re just trying to focus on Atlanta, focus on these last three games because all the other guys still have to go out there and play. They have to do their part, I have to do my part and most of that will be on the practice field and on game day helping out, but I’ll do all I can.”

On if he’s had a conversation with Cousins about the decision:

“Me and Kirk have talked, but the biggest thing for him is he just can’t let all this distraction affect what goes on on the football field and he knows that. Kirk’s a smart kid – he’s older than me – so he’ll do a good job. And I promise you I’ll be there for him every step of the way.”

On if his spirit has been broken:

“I think if I allowed it to break my spirit then I wouldn’t be the person that I think my parents raised me to be or God’s had me to be on this Earth. So although this time – it’s a down time for us as a team and as an organization – we’ll rise out of this. I believe that, and I hope everybody else does too. I understand the history and all that other stuff, but the future is right now. For me, I have to continue to try and get better, try to help this team any way I can and move forward towards next year because that’s the hand that I’ve been dealt.”

On if any of his teammates have given him advice:

“I try to keep it out of the locker room because, like I said, we still have got three games. It’s not like these games just are going to go away. Guys have to play. And the advice from a lot of the veterans is you got to keep it rolling – you have to keep it rolling, you have to keep doing things, continue to do what you’ve done. And that’s why I said I’ll make sure I’m there for Kirk, make sure I’m there for this team on game day, on the practice field, any way that I can to help us win.”

On if the players still have his back and believe he will lead this franchise:

“Just talking to the guys I do believe I have that sentiment from the guys and that’s big for me. As a player, as a quarterback you want to make sure that the guys in that locker room have your back and I think they do.”

On if he still wants to play for this coaching staff next year:

“I think that’s the general misconception that players in our locker room want people gone. You know, we care about people. When it comes to stuff like that, when people get fired, it’s not just a head coach or a defensive coordinator or anything like that that gets fired, there’s a lot of people that are involved in that. In this organization, guys have been around for a while and you want to see those familiar faces when you come into the building. So this is a tough time for everybody and who knows what way it’ll go, but at the end of the day we have got to keep it rolling.”

Atlanta Falcons Head Coach Mike Smith

On keeping things positive and avoiding negativity during a difficult season:

“Well, I’m a very positive person and I think that you have to be transparent with your team in terms of when things are going well and when things are not going well. We have collectively contributed to the success that we’ve had and we’ve collectively contributed to the season that we’re having this year. We’re all responsible for it and we’re all accountable for it. I think when you have that type of communication between the different parts of the organization and everybody takes accountability for it, it makes it a lot easier. We are extremely – and let me make one thing perfectly clear – we are extremely disappointed in the way that our season has gone, but we want to continue to work to get better and figure it out together.”

On keeping the locker room unified and avoiding media leaks:

“Guys, we’ve got a great locker room and we have for six years. I think everyone respects everyone’s role on the team and they know that the role can change very quickly. They’re well-defined, but they also change quickly in the NFL for a lot of reasons – it could be injuries, it could be play. I think you have to respect one another and I think that when you respect one another and you have the team’s interests first, you’re going to have the messaging that you want as a team and as an organization.”

On quarterback Kirk Cousins being named the starter and how that impacts his team’s preparation:

“Well, we had an opportunity to play against Kirk in our game last season up there in Washington, when [quarterback] Robert [Griffin III] left the game with an injury. He did some good things. He’s got a little different skillset. I think that we’ll see that the running game will be very similar. [Executive Vice President/Head] Coach Mike Shanahan and his staff’s running game has been very similar for many years and hasn’t changed a whole lot. We still have to be prepared for the read option, but that’s not probably Kirk’s strong suit. But he is a guy that we’re familiar with and he can throw the football. He hit us for some big plays there in the second half when we played him last year.”

On how tackle Jeremy Trueblood, who was with the Redskins during training camp this summer, has helped the Falcons:

“Well, Jeremey came here in a really tough situation. We had injuries to the tackle position and he has been able to come in here and get caught up to speed very quickly. He has played a lot of snaps for us this season. He’s a consummate professional. He understands where we’re at as a football team and what his role was when he came in. We had to get him up to speed. It took a couple weeks and once we got him going, he’s come out and done what you anticipate a pro to do – go out and do his job. He’s been a good addition. He’s a good man.”

On the main problems leading to Atlanta’s 3-10 record:

“Well, there’s some markers that I believe are very important for the success of a football team. The first one is the turnover ratio. We have not done a good job of taking the ball away. We’re at the bottom of the league in terms of turnovers and we’ve had some games where we’ve turned the ball over. We’re on the minus side. When you are on the minus side of the turnover ratio – minus one – you’re going to lose about 80 percent of the time. If you get to be minus two in a game, you’re going to lose over 90 percent of the time. We are not taking care of the ball, nor are we taking it away. We did a very good job last year of taking the ball away and we have only taken the ball away 12 times through the first 13 games [this season]. We’ve given it away 23 times, so that marker is one that stands out. The other [marker] is we’re giving up way too many explosive plays. What we consider explosive plays is 20 yards or more. When you give up explosive plays, you’re going to give up a score on that drive. That’s one of the markers that we look at very closely and we have not done a good job of eliminating those explosives throughout the season. The third thing is third downs. Defensively, we’re last in the league in third-down efficiency. When you do that, you expose yourself to more snaps. We, like every team in the NFL, have had to deal with injuries this season. You can’t use them as an excuse and we don’t use them as an excuse. We’ve got guys that we’ve had on our roster since April of last year. All the new guys that came in, we’ve had an opportunity to work with those guys and get them ready to know that in some point in time, many of them were going to be called to play. That said, we have not, in all four phases, played up to the level that we’re capable of. When I mean four phases, I mean offense, defense, special teams and coaching. We collectively take responsibility.”

On how he, Falcons Owner and Chairman Arthur Blank and General Manager Thomas Dimitroff stay unified and on the same page:

“Well, Arthur is a very good leader. He’s got a lot of experience not only in football, but in business as well. He knows how to handle things when times are great and knows how to deal with things when times are bad. I think it starts at the top with him. Thomas and I… Again, I think collaboration is very important, and communication, so that you have a collaborative atmosphere where you can have discussions and make decisions to try to get things first. That’s what we’re trying to do at this point in time and we will get it done.”

On the difficulty of preparing for an opponent whose starting quarterback is not named until Wednesday:

“It’s a little different. We spent the weekend and late part of last week with our coaching staff starting early preparation, so we’re going to have to change gears somewhat. I still believe the running game is going to be the same. I think Kirk Cousins has a little different skillset than Robert in terms of his ability to extend plays, but he did a very good job in the second half of the game last year when Robert went out with the injury down there in the red zone. Coach Shanahan and his staff, they have some tendencies that they truly believe in and what they want to do offensively. I don’t think that it’s changed over the years, so there’s some things that I think stay true week in and week out. But it is a little bit difficult that on Wednesday you’re changing gears a little bit in terms of who you’re going to face at the quarterback position. They’ve still got a great running back in Alfred Morris. He’s rushed for over 1,000 yards. They’ve got the 1,000-yard receiver in [Pierre] Garçon. They’re a much better team than their record, just like I think we’re a much better team than our record. It’s a fine line in the National Football League week in and week out.”

On being in Mike Shanahan’s position and deciding how to balance getting a young quarterback experience with protecting him from injury:

“Guys, I don’t want to talk about somebody else’s situation. Our situation here, I’d be more than happy to talk about, but I don’t want to talk about anybody else’s situation. I hope you respect that and understand it.”

On if he has ever sat a player during the regular season with the offseason in mind:

“Well, we’ve never been in the situation where we’re not playing for something. Since I’ve been here, this is our first losing season. We’ve always been in the playoffs, so this is the first situation where I would ever have had to do it and it hasn’t been something that I’ve ever had to consider.”

Atlanta Falcons Quarterback Matt Ryan

On his thoughts about the situation with quarterback Robert Griffin III:

“It’s tough for me to say. I’m not in that situation. Certainly there’s growing pains as a player, and I’ve had them. I think everyone has, and so there’s ups and downs and you’ve got to weather them. I can’t speak specifically. I’m not really there.”

On what has allowed their team to stay together and avoid drama despite a losing season:

“I think we’ve got a really good locker room of some veteran guys that have displayed really good leadership. Certainly, it’s a tough time. I think [Head] Coach [Mike] Smith has done a great job of handling the different situations. Obviously, we’re disappointed. There’s no doubt about that… disappointed and frustrated with where we’re at. But at the same time, it comes down to as a player you’ve got to look in the mirror and you’ve got to understand that what you’ve done up until this point is not good enough and pointing the finger at other people is not going to help. I think guys have been really good about that.”

On if they have made a conscious effort to avoid negativity or if it has happened naturally:

“It’s certainly something that you do have to make a conscious effort at because it’s human nature when things go wrong. You want to point fingers, that’s just the way it is, but it does you no good. I think guys have realized that – that blaming other people and trying to throw guys under the bus, it’s not going to help us. Certainly that’s one of the things, when you look at a tough season, that’s one of the things that is a positive.”

On how cognizant they are of what is taking place at Redskins Park this week:

“It’s not something we’re worried about. We’ve got to focus on their schemes and what we’re trying to do against their schemes and the players that are going to be out there, and all of the rest of the stuff. In this league, you find out there’s a lot that goes along with it, a lot of distractions that are out there. You have to try and minimize those. I think guys have done a good job of that so far this season, and we’ll try to do the same with that this week.”

On former Redskin and current Falcons offensive lineman Jeremy Trueblood:

“’True’s doing good. He’s my old pal, too. We were college teammates, so it’s good to have Jeremy back. He’s a good teammate and fun to have. There are no [other] Boston College guys around here.”

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