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Marine Corps Virginia


December 26, 2013
Redskins Park

Executive Vice President/Head Coach Mike Shanahan

On linebacker Brian Orakpo:
“Rak did not practice today. It [groin] was sore and we’ll see how he does tomorrow.”

On if Orakpo will sit out Sunday in order to prevent further injury:
“Well, if we feel he can’t go, he won’t go. But 'Rak, like the rest of our players, if he can play, he wants to play. But we’re not going to jeopardize his leg to play for obvious reasons. It’s a little sore right now, but there’s still a chance.”

On running back Alfred Morris and his first two years:
“He’s done a great job. Here a guy comes in with very few expectations, and he just kind of keeps his nose to the grindstone and just works. That’s what you love to see – a guy have the type of success that he’s had. He’s got all the things that you look for in a person. He’s a hard worker, he sets some good standards for himself and hopefully he has a great future here.”

On the message he’ll give the team before the game on Sunday:
“You know, what I do is I talk to the team sometimes when you’re not playing for a playoff spot, at least from my perspective being a head coach and looking at different games as you evaluate them at the end of the season, you always like to see how guys play when they have nothing to play for. Guys that are out of the playoff hunt, you go back as a head coach or as a GM and you take a look at a lot of the games that players are playing when they’re not playing for a playoff spot to see which guys play at a certain standard. I know when I came here I took a look not only at the last games – the three last games of the season – I looked at how they practice, the practice squad players over the last three weeks. I think you can tell a lot about somebody when they’re not necessarily playing for a playoff spot.”

On his family dealing with speculation about his job security in the media:
“I mean that’s part of the job. We understand what goes with our job. Our job is to win and if you don’t win, good things don’t happen. We understand that. We’ve been in it for a while. I think when you’re a little bit younger and it’s your first experience, you see how it affects everybody – not that it doesn’t affect you when you’re older, but you’ve been through it before. You understand the highs and lows of the profession and you deal with it. If you deal with it too much then you’re not in the profession very long. But it comes with the territory.”

On what type of shape he would leave the team in if this is his last season:
“I could answer that question, but this is not the time to answer it. The time to answer that is at the end of the season if things don’t work out. But I’ll get into that detail and that would be easy for me to do. If you talked about offense, talked about defense, special teams, talked about what our goals were, the people we had here, the people that are gone, talked about the first two years – we’ll talk about it in detail if you want to and over the third year when you do kind of adjust your squad. I’d be more than happy to talk about it but now is not the time.”

On what he’s learned about offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan after working with him over the past four years:
“I think anytime you have somebody run an offense, defense or special teams, you get a chance to see them do it in game situations. And you see them run the meetings in front of everybody, not just the wide receivers or the quarterbacks but it’s the offensive line, it’s the tight ends. Very quickly players let you know what coaches do during the season. You can tell the way the players respond to them if they’re getting the job done or not. And I think since I’ve been in the National Football League players tell you very quickly if somebody’s helping them get better and stay in the game.”

Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan

On what he is looking to see from quarterback Kirk Cousins this week:
“I just want to see him play the best he can. He’s competed hard these last two weeks. He’s done some real good things. I hope he continues to improve. Mainly, do whatever it takes to get us a win.”

On if Cousins has surprised him in any way:
“Not really. We’ve been around him a lot. I got a lot of work with him last year and in the game he started, that week. Got a lot of work with him this offseason since he was our starter throughout OTAs and training camp. He’s played like we expected him to, so nothing really surprising.”

On the uncertainty facing the coaching staff this offseason:
“It’s different. I’ve never been in this situation before — a lot of us coaches haven’t. It’s different, but it’s been the situation for a while. As soon as you’re eliminated from the playoffs at an early time like we have been, really we’ve had to deal with it every week. You always have a bunch of games to go forward so you can’t think about it too much, but with this being the last one and nothing after it for sure, it is a little bit different but we’re getting through it.”

On answering questions about players’ futures when he isn’t guaranteed to return:
“You can’t guarantee anything but it’s not hard for me to answer those questions because in my mind I will be, and if I’m not then I’ll deal with it.”

On how Cousins has avoided being sacked:
“Every game is different. [Quarterback] Robert [Griffin III] had 13 games and all those games were different. Kirk’s played in two games so far and he’s done a good job getting rid of the ball. I think we’ve only given up one sack, but that’s just how it’s been in these two games. He’s definitely done a good job but it’s not all him. I think the guys around him have done well and hopefully that will continue this week.”

On the experience of working for his father:
“It’s been a great experience to be with him. It’s something I’m definitely glad that I had, or I’ve had. I’ve told you guys before it’s something that, if I never would have gotten a chance to work with him, it’s something I think I would have really regretted in my life. So I’m glad that it’s something that I did and something that I’ve been able to do. What I’ve learned from him the most, you know, I think he’s a great coach. He’s one of the best coaches I’ve been around. I’ve always thought that, but you don’t really know until you get to work with someone. Everything else is just asking questions at the dinner table and annoying my mom and stuff with those, but it’s been nice to work with him and see what he’s actually like in the office. I think the thing that I respect about him the most and have learned about him the most is no matter how tough things are, no matter how hard of a decision you have to make, whether it’s popular or not, to always do what you think is right. And if you have good intentions and you do what you believe is right no matter how hard it is and not always taking the easier way out, then you can live with yourself. I think he does that as much as anyone I’ve been around. Even at times I’ve been like, ’Hmm, I don’t know if that’s the easiest way to go,’ but he does what he thinks is right and I respect the hell out of him for that.”

On if it is difficult to approach his father when he disagrees with a decision:
“That’s always been the challenge since I’ve started coaching. I think as I get older I’m a little more laid back with it. When I was younger from when I was a GA or a quality control, I was a lot more hard-headed like I think a lot of young people are. You think you’ve got more answers. If you disagree with stuff, you want to challenge things. As you get older, you’re a little more peaceful with your decisions, with other people’s decisions, and you realize there’s a chain of command and you deal with it and go with it. It’s gotten easier as I’ve gotten older because I’ve gotten used to it, learned how to deal with it better, but just like having him as a head coach, I always feel comfortable I can go to him and tell him when I do disagree with something, but I think if you ask the other head coaches I’ve worked for like [Gary] Kubiak and [Jon] Gruden and Coach [Karl] Dorrell at UCLA, I think they would tell you the same thing. I think I’ve never been a guy who... If I disagree with something, I’m not going to keep it to myself. I feel it’s my job to let my boss know and they get to decide if they agree with that and whether it helps or if they don’t, then you move on. The thing I always felt bad about as a coach is if you have an opinion that’s going against something, if you don’t tell that person. If you don’t tell that person then they realize that you’re there to be an asset and just not someone who’s second guessing people.”

On his expectation for how the next few weeks:
“I really try not to have an expectation. When you try to assume what’s going to happen with stuff that’s completely out of your control, I feel like that’s just an anxiety attack waiting to happen. I kind of try to block that out as much as I can. Obviously your wife wants to know — family and stuff — because you really don’t know what’s going to be this situation. But it’s out of your control. When you worry about that stuff too much it’s impossible to focus on the job at hand. It’s not an easy thing putting a game plan together, coaching these guys. I think our players have had some distractions too, but what I’ve been proud of the guys is that we have a pretty smart group of guys who really try not to get caught up in stuff they can’t control. This isn’t something we can control so we go about it day-by-day and really try to, every week, just put together the best thing we can to give us a chance to win on Sunday.”

On if he feels decisions will be made quickly:
“Yeah, I would think so. I don’t think any of those things drag out too long. I don’t see why it would. Again, my guess is just as good as yours but I’d be surprised if we didn’t know pretty soon.”

On the difficulty a new coaching staff with a new system could pose for Griffin III’s development:
“I don’t know. Robert’s a smart guy. Robert’s going to be able to learn any system that someone gives him. I think systems are a little bit overrated. This isn’t physics or anything. It is football and it can be tough if you don’t work at it, but Robert works at it. He’ll give it his full effort and if you do that you’re going to pick stuff up. So I don’t think it matters from that standpoint. I think it’s just about improving yourself from technique standpoints, seeing the game, reps, and just getting more comfortable with whatever it is that’s asked of him.”

On how public conversation about his job status affects his family:
“I think it’s something that, as I tell my wife all the time, it’s very important that you learn how to deal with it. I grew up a coach’s son. I was as sensitive as could be anytime I heard negative stuff about my dad growing up. I think everybody who has a dad, growing up you don’t think your dad can do wrong so you stick up for him in anything. Then, when that stuff is discussed out in the news and you’ve got to deal with that at school, it’s always a big deal. Fortunately my kids are young so they really could care less about football yet, so I haven’t experienced that with my kids yet, but what I always tell my wife is that it’s not about trying to get in a situation to me where you try to control all that. If you’re going to coach in this league, especially as the media gets bigger — I think the media is 100 percent different now than it was for my dad when I was growing up; to have five minutes dedicated to sports at the end of the news is a lot different than 24-hour service and the tweets and everything. It definitely has changed, and if you’re going to be in this profession, you better be in it because you love it and enjoy what you do. I’ve always said the most important thing for myself and how I feel and to help my family out is that you’re proud of what you do. It doesn’t matter whether you’re good or bad, you’re going to get attacked, and that’s part of the profession. You can’t control always your win-loss record. You can certainly have an effect and that’s why you’ve got to try your hardest to be the best you can, not take shortcuts, study the tape, not try to just network to get jobs. It’s all about studying stuff and being as good as you can, and that gives you a chance to be successful, but you’ve got to realize that. It’s only a matter of time in this profession. Every good coach, great coach has been through it — you’re not going to have a good year. When they do, whether it’s right or wrong, you’re going to get attacked and if you get too caught up in that, it’s going to be tough. I always make a rule for my wife whether she follows it or not, she’s not allowed to listen to the radio, even when it’s good. The worst thing you can do is listen when it’s good because they’re going to start loving you and you’re going to feel pretty good about yourself and you’ve got to put it in perspective. When it’s bad, it’s going to flip the exact other way. You coach because it’s what you enjoy doing. You like the camaraderie, you like the sport. I love what it did for my family growing up. I hope I can provide the same for my immediate family now as they get older. That’s why we do it, not for someone to tell you that you’re awesome last year or someone to tell you that you suck this year. That’s not what does it, and if you keep that in perspective, then I think it will help you enjoy your life a lot more as your career goes.”

On if it is a problem wide receiver Pierre Garçon has almost as many catches as the next three guys behind him combined:
“Not really, and, you know, we don’t plan it out going into games either. Pierre got targeted 18 times last week. I had no clue until the end of the game. It’s not like we’re saying, 'Throw to Pierre here.’ You try to put your best player in positions moving him around to get the ball, but the coverage is going to always dictate that. They played a lot of man-to-man coverage, Pierre happened to be the number one read in the majority of those, and he won on most of them. That’s the reason he got the ball. Everywhere I’ve been usually the number one receiver, whether it was [Texans wide receiver] Andre [Johnson] in Houston, 'Tana [wide receiver Santana Moss] here the first year, I think the second year 'Tana got hurt some and it ended up being [wide receiver] Jabar [Gaffney] who had his best career year. If you’re the number one guy in this offense, to me you’re going to get your numbers without it being forced. When you have more guys, you don’t make everyone the number one read versus man-to-man coverage. I think if [tight end] Jordan Reed would have stayed healthy I think he would have taken some of those numbers away, just like in Houston Andre always had 100 catches but [tight end] Owen Daniels had a lot of catches too. I think [tight end] Fred [Davis] before he got suspended his second year was on pace to break the record here for the most receptions for a tight end. I think that could have happened with Jordan this year if he stayed healthy. I think Pierre would have had a lot of catches last year but he didn’t stay healthy. So the only thing that changed was this year he was healthy and when you throw the ball and he’s your best player and he usually beats coverage that’s how it works out.”

On where he believes he stands as a play-caller:
“I’m pretty confident in myself. I don’t want to sit up here and tell you guys how good I think I am, but I’ve been a coordinator six years, I’ve called plays I believe for seven different quarterbacks. Obviously some games are better than others. I think I still have a lot of room to improve, but over these six years I feel we’ve had a top 10 offense four out of those six years, a top five offense three out of those six years. I’ve done it with seven different quarterbacks and done it really doing a different type of scheme every single year. So I do feel good about myself as far as I think I’m good at what I do. I’m really trying hard not to brag on myself or anything, I’m just trying to answer your question honestly that I’m confident in what I’ve done and I’m confident in my future, and I look forward to, whether it’s here or anywhere, getting an opportunity, and I hope that I do if it isn’t here and I feel confident that I’ll continue to do a good job. You don’t have a good record and that starts with myself just as much as anybody else. The ultimate goal is wins. I could tell you we didn’t win enough this year, which is obvious, and I’m going to feel pretty bad at the end of the year because of that, but I can also tell you guys how crappy I felt last year at the end of that year. Losing that playoff game was as hard as any loss I’ve been around and I’m still not quite over that. Pretty much every year I’m going to be pretty miserable at the end of the year until some year I win a Super Bowl, and hopefully I get a chance to do that and we have a great offense in it and that feels a lot better, but if we win a Super Bowl someday playing great defense and don’t have the numbers on offense, I’ll still feel just as good. I’m kind of rambling about your answer but I feel good about myself and I know I’ve still got to improve. You either get better or worse and I plan on being better from this year and getting better in this offseason.”

On what he thinks his father’s legacy in Washington will be:
“I don’t know. Legacies to me are up for you guys to write about and for people to decide. I personally think he’s done some real good things here. I think he took over a tougher situation than he thought. I think fighting through the salary cap issue we’ve had has been tough, but I am proud of some stuff that we’ve done here. It’s kind of hard for me to comment from a whole team standpoint, but I can comment from an offensive standpoint, but that’s not really answering your question. I know that he came in here and he worked his hardest to improve a tough situation. I think the salary cap issue was definitely a lot harder than he expected, mainly with it being that we didn’t think that we were going to get $36 million taken from us. We thought we were going to do that within the rules, which definitely has a huge effect on the team. I don’t want to get caught up too much in that because it’s really out of my realm, but when I put it in the offensive perspective, I know the total of our five O-lineman and our running back is $18 million and so that’s five starters on the O-line and a starter at halfback and that’s just $18 million — that’s half of the $36 [million]. So I do know from the people who put a team together, being the head coach and the GM, that was a pretty tough deal for them. It’s not an excuse. You’ve got to deal with it. I don’t know what his legacy will be, that’s up to you guys. I know that it hasn’t changed with myself and I don’t think it has with some other people who view it the same way I do.”

On how helpful a consistent threat opposite Garçon would help the offense:
“It always helps. I’ll be very surprised if the offense here isn’t a top five offense again next year. We’re going to finish probably in the top 10 this year. Definitely didn’t score enough points, turned it over too much. When we came in here, we replaced all 11 starters. We had to do that by our third year. We didn’t really inherit a starter. I think we’ve done that without a salary cap and without too many draft choices, so I do think a lot of these guys that we have on this offense – on a top 10 offense this year and top five last year – I think a lot of them are young players who haven’t cost a lot of money who make the future very bright for this organization. I think you’ve got a guy like Jordan Reed who comes back who I think has a chance to be one of the better tight ends in the league. I think [wide receiver Leonard] Hankerson is a big deal. And that’s just the people that we already have. When you have those people already, if they can stay healthy, you’ve already got a top five offense and then hopefully there’s actually money next year to be spent, you add a couple more players, you actually use a draft pick, and I think it makes all the difference in the world.”

Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett

On how the rumors about his job security affect his family:
“First of all, this is my 30th year – coaching, playing – so I’ve kind of seen it all and gone through it. I think it’s just really kind of part of the job that comes up when you come with this kind of record that we have right now. I don’t worry about it. I truly try to focus in on the job –trying to win, play well on defense and trying to win a game. Whatever happens on Monday, Tuesday, or whenever that happens – I haven’t been through this yet from that standpoint, so I’ll find out. But that’s kind of part of it. It’s not the good part, because people don’t understand it does involve more than just me, it involves my wife, kids, it involves – there’s families involved, so when you’re talking about 22 coaches, there’s a lot more people than just 22 coaches that get involved. You’re talking about moving families, moving kids, different schools, all that stuff – the ugly part of football.”

On how he would have reacted to the rumors when he was younger:
“Well, Chick, I’d probably tell you to go stick it, you know, knowing that’s what you guys do. That’s kind of part – that’s talk radio. But back then, my first [job] as a head coach I was 41-years-old, it was a little different than it is now. I went through Katrina and all that stuff, so things are a little different – still ugly, but that’s part of it.”

On if he has ever experienced a drop-off from the highs of one season to the lows of the next like these past two years:
“When I was playing, we had like three to four years in a row where we were really good. Then the USFL came in and kind of took some of our players and we fell to 3-13, so that was probably the greatest [drop-off]…But as a player, you’re in your own little world, so you just worry about yourself. You don’t worry about everything else around you – a little different.”

On his biggest drop-off from one season to the next as a coach:
“I was with Chuck Knox playing when he left and went to a new team. I was coaching with Coach [Jim] Mora when he left – when he was in New Orleans – left. But that’s middle-of-the-season stuff. I coached in St. Louis when I became the coach halfway through, so I’ve never been through it completely the whole way.”

On if his defense still does not have the proper personnel to play in a 3-4 defensive scheme:
“Well, take a couple of things into account. I think people have to look at the salary cap issues. You don’t have $36 million over two years to address needs, I think there’s a trickle-down effect. One, it either affects players on the offense/defense and it affects you special teams. Obviously, you can see that and not having that. The first two years, we had no free agency, so I mean, there’s different things that play into it. I do think we have the nucleus to have a good team. I’ll give you this – I’ll give you some numbers, all right, because you guys are number guys. Our first three games of the year, we were awful. We gave up 440 [yards], 580, 441. Do the last 12 games, rank us and see where we’re at, because we’re about 327, which puts you about eighth in the NFL, not including the first three. You can say what you want. I look at the way we played the last 12 games and it’s been pretty good. Maybe we haven’t had the ideal guys, exactly what you want, but they’ve played pretty well. You guys can figure all those numbers out.”

On if being in Washington has been a rewarding experience:
“I look at the positive part. I look at it took us three years, we won the division championship, something they haven’t done around here in 14 years, so I’ll take that as a plus. Obviously, we had high expectations this year, didn’t fall the way you want. But I think anytime, especially in the division you’re in, if you can win that division, something they haven’t done in 14 years, I would say that’s a positive experience.”

On if he expects to be in Washington next season:
“You know what, I don’t make those decisions. Would I like to be here? Of course, I like being around here. I like the players. I like you guys. I like the fans. Obviously, the fans are awesome. I think this is a great organization. It’s a shame that we couldn’t do what we did last year and win our division – that’s the negative. Yeah, sure, I’d love to be here. You’d like to continue to build and now you have the chance, with all the salary cap money, I think you can add pieces and have a pretty good football team.”

On which pieces need to be added to improve the defense:
“Well, I’ve got one more game left to play with the guys we got. We’re going to go out there and try to play our best. Maybe we’ll talk about that next week or whenever.”

On if linebacker Brandon Jenkins has received a fair evaluation through 29 snaps so far this season:
“No, you can’t give a fair evaluation on a guy like that yet. To be honest with you, it takes a couple years to learn to play that position. You’re talking about a guy that’s played with his hand in the dirt his whole life, and then all of a sudden you stand him up. That’s not a natural thing to cover, drop, do all those type of things. When I was in Pittsburgh, it took Joey Porter three years. It takes guys a few years to learn it. I think Brandon will be a guy that can step in and play here in another year or so, but to say that we gave him a fair evaluation this year, no, I can’t say that.”

On the importance of bringing back linebacker Brian Orakpo:
“I think he is – if not the best player on the defense – I think you have to have him back no matter what. I think he’s a heck of a football player. He can do everything for you, not just – like I said, he’s a good pass rusher, he can cover, he’s really good in the run game, he’s a good person, he’s a team guy. He’ll do anything you ask him to do. He’s never balked at anything. You ask him to drop into coverage. You get some of those guys who complain about it. He’s not one of those guys. He just wants to win games. I think he’s great for an organization.”
 

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