On Friday, Nov. 8, 2013, Redskins HC Mike Shanahan addressed the media following afternoon practice at Redskins Park in Ashburn, VA.
On addressing issues on all sides of the ball:
"First off, you take a look at our offense and I think anytime you're second in the league in rushing and first in rushing average you're doing some good things. We improved yardage wise in passing. Maybe not as effective, but at times we've been very effective, so we have to play our best football in the second half of the season. Defensively, we've talked about that as well. We've played some good halves over the last three or four games, but we've got to put complete games together to get where we want to get. Special teams, we've made some strides. Our coverage teams are much better than they have been. We're getting a little bit more continuity with our players feeling more comfortable with our system. And the bottom line is to be 4 6. When we were 3-6 a year ago, we had one goal and that was to improve and become 4-6 and to do that we have to have a group effort. This loss yesterday was a team loss, just like against San Diego I thought it was a team win. You've got to do it collectively to get it done, and hopefully we can do that."
On why it has been so hard to have a complete effort:
"We've had great effort. It's putting a full game together. I know we were 10 yards short of 200 [rushing] yards, but you take four out of five games and you get some good production out of there, there's not many teams that can do that. But you've got to put enough points up there to win and that's our goal to make sure that we can do that."
On negative plays in special teams in recent weeks and if he is surprised the unit continues to struggle:
"Yeah, that's a good point. Good point. But we have improved. I understand we had a mistake on our punt team. Those things do happen. We're working to correct those. We've got some guys on our coverage units that we've talked about that are really helping us and we've made some strides in that coverage area. We've made some strides in our protection area. Now if we would have taken advantage of that last night, I think we'd be bragging about how the special teams won the game, but it didn't happen. So we're going to keep working on that and hopefully we can get it done."
On how they're letting teams back into games:
"We've talked about this – we'll talk about it this week just like we did last week – we talked about it on offense and defense, what was the difference in your opinion to them keeping the ball in the second half? [Third down conversions] There you go. See, you answered your question, thank you. That's the key, is third downs. What they were able to do – we had two third downs on our first drive of the third quarter and we missed that third one, and we settled for a field goal. The next three drives we were 0-for-3 and then on that last series that we put together a 14-play drive and fell short on the goal line, but that's what you have to do. You've got to convert some third downs. They were able to do that. In that second half, they had two drives for touchdowns and two for field goals. They were 5-for-7 in the third down area. And for us to be the defense we want to be, we have to be better in that third down area, especially in the second half."
On if he is satisfied with the pass rush's ability to close out games:
"That's what we're working on. If we were satisfied ,we would have won those games in the second half. So that's what we're talking about. What do you have to do to improve in that area? You've got to get better on third downs."
On counteracting quick throws and screens from opposing offenses:
"Well, everybody's got screens. We use screens against great pass rushes, too. So you've got to change things up. You've got to keep defenses off-balance. You've got to keep offenses off-balance just like people do to us. We utilize the screen a lot against teams that put a lot of pressure on the quarterback. We did that yesterday. You've got to use your arsenal of weapons regardless of what type of teams you face and you're hoping that you can keep teams off-balance and they're going to do the same to us."
On if there was a lack of creativity in generating a pass rush:
"You can be as creative as you want, but I think you answered your question when you said at the start that you want to put pressure with four people. And if you can do that, you're going to cause offenses some problems. Sometimes if you improvise too much where you're going five, six, and seven, they can come up with the big plays. A lot has to do with what type of quarterbacks you are facing as well. You go against some of the experienced quarterbacks that we've gone against and you are bringing five or six people with the screens and their ability to get rid of the ball, they come up with big plays very quickly. Against teams like Denver or San Diego, most teams will attack them with a three-, four-, five-man rush to keep them a little bit off-balance and change up the coverages just because of the expertise of their quarterbacks. Every situation is a little bit different. At the end of the day though, you've got to find a way to get it done and we've come up short, or we did at least this weekend."
On the struggles of the interior offensive line in the second half on certain plays:
"The first one, second-and-6 and the sack, went to third-and-16 or third-and-12, whatever it was, and all of a sudden you're in a third down situation and you do get sacked again. So you get a couple sacks or you're in a third-and-3 situation and you get sacked. There's a bunch of different scenarios and sometimes it has to do with protection, sometimes it has to do with routes, sometimes it has to do with a quarterback – a combination of different things – but you've got to be on point. The one thing we have done a pretty good job of this year is not having a lot of sacks. Yesterday wasn't one of those days."
On the final offensive play and the decision by quarterback Robert Griffin III:
"When you're a quarterback you're going to make a decision very quickly in an all-out blitz. Robert's got a lot of different options on pass plays. He had an opportunity there to go one or the other. A lot of times you'll have two options when you're on one side of the field and on the other side sometimes you'll have one, two, or three options, but you've got to make a decision and make it very quickly. They key is executing that option."
On Griffin III taking big hits:
"I think what you have to do is you have to learn how to slide, and he's getting better at it even though yesterday, I think there was a few slides I think he'd like to have back. I don't think it's natural for him yet. Head first or if he's going to be feet first, he's got to always protect himself. He is a competitor. I think he was wanting to get in that end zone. I think it was wanting to get in and kind of a semi-slide at the same time. But there's three or four other situations during the game that you want him to improve in that area because you don't want him to take those shots, and if he does take those shots there's no way you stay healthy."
On how linebacker Perry Riley Jr. ended up covering a wide receiver on a key third down:
"It's a mistake on our part. We had the nickel in instead of dime. We played man-free; had a mismatch there. Any time you put a wide receiver, especially with their type of ability, against one of our linebackers – not that Perry can't run with somebody – it's a mismatch and we should have had dime in there at that time."
On if he was satisfied with the performance of tight end Niles Paul in kick returns:
"Yeah, very satisfied with his innate ability to bring back a couple kicks. We're going to move people around. If somebody takes advantages of their opportunities, then they'll stay there. If they don't, then we'll try somebody else. [That's] one of the reasons why we put Niles back there, to give him a little shot, and he took advantage of that opportunity. I think we were one or two blocks away on a couple of those returns from going the distance. We had a lead blocker on two kickoffs – instead of being a 22-, 23-yard return, we had a chance to have a very big play. So, you know, that was encouraging."
On if wide receiver Joshua Morgan is the solution at punt returner or if he will look for a player to "come out of nowhere" like Richard Crawford did last season:
"Well, you're always looking for that Richard Crawford. It all depends. We gave [former wide receiver Brandon] Banks a lot of opportunities and through 12 weeks, we were dead last in the National Football League in returns and we did pretty good the year before. We were going to wait with him – wait, be a little bit patient with him, give him a lot of opportunities and it never did work out. Richard was a guy that we felt, when he got that opportunity, would catch the ball and get upfield very quickly. But we really didn't know until he played in games how much he would turn up and how much he'd make people miss. He averaged over 19 yards a punt return in the last five games, which would have led the National Football League. So we went from 32nd to 17th very quickly because of one guy, the returner. We'll experiment with returners throughout the year until we get the guy that we want. One of the things that you have to do as a returner is make good decisions. You've got to know when to fair catch it, when to take your opportunities to turn it up the field."
On to what extent the return struggles are on Morgan as opposed to the blocking:
"You put it on everybody, you put it on everybody. So it's not one guy, we understand, but the great ones, the great ones sometimes miss four or five guys. The guys that are usually first, second or third in the league can make two, three, four people miss. So you're always looking for that guy, just like Josh did against Denver – he made three guys miss, so you know he's got that ability, but we're going to continually have guys compete for positions and we'll try to go with the best player."
On if he addressed Griffin III taking hits while selling read option fakes:
"I think it was addressed during the game. After Robert ran the first option, he didn't carry out his fake anymore very quickly because he knew [Jared] Allen had it. I think you do it by habit in practice. You hand the ball off and if you continue to run, that defensive end or outside linebacker has a chance to hit you. After you hand the ball off, if you put your hands up where they see you don't have it just like we did during the game, they can't hit you. So it's that simple. It was just that one shot that he took advantage of very early."
On Morgan's decision making:
"Well, you know what, one thing – he's got a lot of guts. In fact, during that game he was actually contacted before he caught the ball if you look at it in slow motion. So he's fearless and you know that, but sometimes being fearless causes turnovers, so we ask him to be smart as well."
On running back/return specialist Chris Thompson:
"Update on him – we're going to put him on IR. His shoulder is bothering him, and so he'll be on IR before next game so he's definitely out… He's going to have it operated on – his labrum. I don't think we'll know [the severity] exactly until they look at it."
On Thompson's shoulder injury:
"It's been something that's been ongoing. It's gotten a little bit worse. Doctors recommended that he have surgery on it."
On winning several statistical categories but not winning the game:
"It doesn't happen very often when [you win] that many areas – especially the turnover area – and lose the football game. Usually if you do it's because of the red zone. We were 3-for-5 in that area and I believe they were 3-for-3. But there's very few times – that's why I think it was so disappointing."
On the difficulty of the defense's job because of the average starting field position:*
"You've always got to look at field position. You take a look at it over a length of time. But same thing for offense. You're backed up, you've got to go on an 80-yard drive or they've got to go on a 50-yard drive. It doesn't matter what it is. You've got to step up and get the job done."