Mike Shanahan On Redskins Wild Card Weekend

Washington Redskins executive vice president/head coach Mike Shanahan spoke with the media Wednesday night about the playoffs, Robert Griffin III and stopping Seattle Seahawks Marshawn Lynch.

On challenges of facing Seattle running back Marshawn Lynch:
“When you have a big back that has all the things that you look for in a running back, that’s why he’s one of the best, to me, in the league. He can do it all. He can make you miss in space. He has the speed. He has the toughness. He’s got the running skills to make you miss, at the line of scrimmage and the open field. He’s a back that I’ve admired for a lot of years.”

On scouting Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson before the draft:
“I really liked Russell. He has a lot of the intangibles you look for in a quarterback. He’s really a class act. He’s handled himself extremely well and a fun guy to talk to. I had a chance to be around him at dinner for about an hour one evening. We were together at the Senior Bowl which was a good experience to be around him. He’s got the intangibles you look for. He’s a natural leader as well. He’s playing some good football.”

On comparing Wilson to Robert Griffin III:
“One thing you do know is right away who you like as people. They’re fun to be around. You know that they are leaders by the way they handle themselves, the intangibles you look for in people. I didn’t spend the time with him that I did with Robert, but I liked him.”

On how Wilson compensates for his lack of height:
“How does [New Orleans Saints quarterback] Drew Brees compensate for not being tall? Drew is six feet and Russell is 5’11’’. He’s 4.5 in the 40. He has great running skills. He’s a sharp guy. He’s playing well. We’ll see over time.”

On rookie quarterbacks doing so well this season:
“The funny part about it is up until last year I really didn’t know the stats on rookie quarterbacks. When you go back through 40 years and take a look at all the first round draft choices, there are only seven guys with winning records. You’re saying, “How come?” With all the first round quarterbacks that have gone on, only seven guys have winning records and to have three this year, it’s really hard to explain. Obviously three excellent quarterbacks. I think now colleges are a little bit more sophisticated in the passing game. You have three quarterbacks who are excellent football players. I think you’ll see more in the future.”

On where the rookie quarterback readiness has come from:
“I think they’re throwing the football a little bit more than in the past. I think that gives them a big advantage. I think they have the ability to come in, go through OTAs and really learn the system in the offseason, where I know 20 years ago you never had an opportunity like that. To go through a system again gives you time. You have a lot of hours in the classroom with a quarterback that you never had 10 years ago, a chance to learn the system. A lot of these guys are coming out and are ready to go. They’re used to a good passing attack, they’ve thrown the ball quite a bit and are a little bit more prepared.”

On if the brace on Robert Griffin III’s knee limits his ability in any way:
“He’s wearing it so we can protect him. He probably doesn’t have to wear it, but the doctors thought it would be best for him to wear it to protect it so we don’t further injure the LCL. Like I said last week, he still can run well.”

On how valuable a great running game is to the passing attack:
“Everybody has a little different philosophy. A lot of teams have been very successful over the last five or six years not having a great running game, but usually good enough to get in the playoffs, some even with the ability to win the Super Bowl. That’s always been my philosophy, to have a balanced offense. Especially if bad weather occurs, you’re able to have a little bit more balance. That’s always been one of my philosophies. There are a lot of different ways to do it. If you have the skillset to go back and pass all the time and be effective, so be it. When there are injuries, you want to go back and have that running game and I think it’s a big part of any system.”

On cornerback Cedric Griffin:
“He looked like he has been away for a few weeks. I thought he had a good day of practice, but we’ll evaluate him day-by-day.”

On if Wilson would have been drafted by the Redskins if he was available in the fourth round:
“That’s why we don’t talk about all of the different scenarios that could happen. I can’t tell you how many times we are going to pick a guy in the second, third or fourth round and the guy gets picked up just the pick before. I did like Russell. I liked the way he handled himself. I liked the way he played. If you really went back and took a look at all of his games through college you can see that he had the ability to really run the football extremely well, even though he didn’t have to run it very many times because his big offensive line had him well-protected.”

On if there are enough similarities between Griffin III and Wilson that both teams’ defenses are familiar with their style of play:
“I think everyone has a little different scheme. We do have a lot of similarities over the zone-blocking scheme and they’re running a little bit of the zone-read as well. I think it helps both defenses so they’re a little bit more aware of the zone-scheme compared to not knowing it at all.”

On playing at home relative to playing in Seattle:

“You always want to play at home. You’re in front of your fans where it’s toughest on your opponents. The big difference is crowd noise. You have a hard time getting a jump. If you are an offensive football team, you have silent counts most of the game. It’s very hard to audible. For their defense, we have the snap counts, especially a team with that rushes the passer as well as they do. A typical home field advantage.”

On what has allowed the team to have success with long passing plays on play action passes:
“You just explained what it’s all about in the play-action game. You have to have a good running game. When the defense doesn’t know what’s occurring, whether it’s a run or a pass, that’s where the big plays come. That’s why you like to have a good running game, so you can get some big plays in the passing game. That’s one of the reasons why we’ve had some of the success in yards-per-play this year. We haven’t run it as many plays on people, but the yards-per-play is one of the reasons why we have had that type of success off the play-action pass. If everyone is on the line of scrimmage, you’re going to have some big plays.”

On what Griffin III and running back Alfred Morris do to help play-action:
“They’re effective in the running game. The more effective they are, the more they have to commit to the run. It could be off a quarterback keep. It could be off of a play-action pass. It could be off bootlegs. There are a lot of different ways to offset tendencies. I think that’s what most coaches try to do. If you have a running game, you use play-actions off of it on first or second down. Usually the great offenses are up there consistently in third down because you have to make third downs. We’ve gotten better since the midway point. We were very average. Over the last half we have improved in that area. That comes with experience. I’m really pleased with the guys on how we’ve stepped up a little bit over the second half of the season.”

On Griffin III as a natural leader:
“Everyone has different ways to lead. It’s not always a loud guy, but it’s a guy who everyone respects. So when he comes to work every day, everybody respects what he does and how he handles himself. One of the first guys in and one of the last guys to leave. He leads by example. He’s going to go out there and have the game plan down and be prepared. He understands that he’s not the only guy out there. He understands the responsibilities that the team needs. He can pick a guy up and at the same time he can demand perfection. For a young guy, not a lot of people can do that. They can’t focus the whole season. As we’ve talked about, he’s a bright guy. He understands what it’s like to be a leader in life. What I mean by that is trying to bring everybody into the fray, offensive guys, defensive guys and people look up to him.”

On if leadership is an area in which Griffin Iii can excel even if he’s injured at this point of the season:
“I think what he is doing is showing that guys play hurt. They’re telling their teammates, ‘You know what, I’m going to play. I’m not going to let you down.’ I think that’s one of the reasons why he wanted to play in the first game [against Cleveland]. He understood that a number of football players on our football team who are playing hurt. He did not want to let anybody down. When he sees London Fletcher, Trent Williams, guys who can hardly even walk, he wants to be in there. That’s why he was mad at me. I said, ‘You are injured, you are not hurt. You’re injured and you cannot play when you’re injured. This is not the best for you and your future for me to put you in this situation.’ I think his teammates appreciate that he wanted be out there, and if I were to let him, he would have gone out there, or I should say if the doctors would have let him. He’s that type of guy. Once you have a guy that is going to put his body on the line when that might not be the best thing for himself or the future of him, they gain respect very quickly.”

On tight end Niles Paul’s 48-yard kick return:
“Any time you have a return like that…we needed a big return. It was a three-point game and he takes us out to midfield. It’s the difference between winning and losing. He broke a couple of tackles there and that’s what we were hoping he would do. I’m not sure the last time, or the first time, he returned a kickoff. That was against Baltimore in the preseason game. It was right at the end of the game and he almost broke that one and we thought it was going to be a squib kick and he picked it up and he did a heck of a job. He’s got a lot of ability and he’s going to keep on getting better and better.”

On if Griffin III was set to start from the moment he was drafted:
“When you took a look at film and you had a chance to evaluate him over a season or a three-season time frame, I know I wouldn’t be fooling anybody by having three or four weeks. I wanted him to get every rep from the start. It lets everyone know that he was going to be our quarterback because you could see that he had skills most people don’t have. What you don’t know is how he is going to handle himself. You’re hoping that he comes in and does the things that will give him a chance to be successful. He did all of those things. You could see, the more you gave him it was not very hard for him and he picks things up very quickly. Not a lot of people are able to do that because a lot goes into a playbook in the National Football League. There are a lot of check offs, a lot of audibles. He was a student of the game. He worked extremely hard to put himself in the position that he is today.”

On if he noticed an extra level of excitement or emotion from the players and staff for a playoff game:
“We’ve been in this situation now for seven weeks. Every game has been a do-or-die, so we’re kind of used to this scenario. The only thing we talked about is now instead of playing for the NFC East, you’re playing to win the Super Bowl. For everybody, it’s either a three-or four-round fight. For us, it’s a four-round fight. We have to take care of business in round one to get to the next round. We just talked about that very briefly, but again, business as usual. You want to still have your best practices. You want to do a great job every day to give yourself the best chance you can to play well during gameday. That’s what we’re working for. One day at a time.”

On players having coaches who have playoff experience:
“I’m hoping that it helps. Hopefully they have confidence in us to give them the best plan possible to give them a chance to win. That’s what coaching is. Giving those guys a chance to go out there and be prepared so they don’t have to think, they can react. We understand that we’re going up against a talented football team that is on a five-game winning streak and who has probably played its best football. It should be a great matchup.”

On Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who announced his intention to retire at the end of the season:
“To me, he’s a guy when you look at all of the guys that prepare and guys who play at the highest level…the only way you play at that level consistently…I look at him and [Ravens safety] Ed Reed the same way. They knew what was coming before it came. Their preparation was off the charts. That’s why I think he has so much respect, not only by players and coaches, is how hard he prepares and he seems to always know what’s going on and did play at that level consistently for a lot of years.”

On Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and if his style has changed during this coaching run relative to his first coaching experience in the NFL:
“Pete has always been very excitable. In fact, I almost had a chance to hire him in Denver when I was there as a defensive coordinator and he just left New England. I almost had him, but at the last second he went to San Francisco. He wanted to live in the West Coast. I got Greg Robinson at that time. He was on staff, so he and I go back a long time.”

On Carroll’s excitable style of coaching:
“I think you have to be yourself and that’s what Pete has done. He’s been himself. Everyone knows they type of job he did at Southern Cal. He’s a guy who is very enthusiastic in everything he does and a good friend.”

On if it helps that some of the Redskins players played against Seattle last year:
“We just didn’t have a lot of receivers that played on our football team last year that played against them. Yeah, for the guys that did play against them, like Santana [Moss], I think it does. Very talented guys, great size, they play a lot of man coverage. There’s a reason why you’re the No. 1 defense in the National Football League, at least in points. That’s the best stat you can have is point production. They’ve been consistent the whole year. We have our work cut out for us. We’re looking forward to it.”

On why practice was held in the bubble today:
“We did it last week and the weather was way too windy last week for two days. This week, just to make sure. It was cold out today. And sometimes what I like to do when you have a lot of walkthroughs, you may have so many plays that you’re trying to get to perfection and we had 40 of those. Everything else was more of a walkthrough to get the legs back along those lines. That’s what we did and that’s what we’ll do sometimes. We’ll go inside for those types of practices. You always get out once or twice to make sure you’re practicing in the same environment, but sometimes it’s good to focus without guys trying to go by the heater. When there are no heaters outside, people want to come in a lot quicker than I wanted them to go in.”

On if Griffin III’s accuracy was affected by the brace on his knee:
“No, not really. Being 50 percent sounds like it’s not very accurate, especially for him, but they challenged us a little different way last week and we didn’t throw the football as much. Sometimes games are going to occur like that. When you run the ball 30 to 40 times, it all depends on what defenses are doing. Sometimes we’re going to run the option a little bit more, sometimes we’re going to run keepers more, sometimes we’re going to run drop-backs more. It’s all predicated on what the game plan is from the defensive perspective. We thought the best way to win was to control the tempo of the game, hold the ball, try to limit the amount of reps that Dallas had and we thought we could control it a little better on the ground better than throwing. That was our gameplan going in. Just by what they were doing from a defensive perspective, one of the reasons why we weren’t as successful.”

On what he looks for in a potential offensive lineman:
“We look at people, number one, who have an offensive line mentality. That means that they love playing football. They give you everything they have. We’re actually looking at people who are a little bit quicker than most, who have the ability to get downfield and be able to block linebackers and secondary guys. It’s not very often when you get a guy like Trent Williams who is that talented. For the most part, we’re trying to get guys that are quick enough and take pride in locking onto defensive linemen and they work as a unit because you’re only as good as your offensive line. When they take pride in not having a missed assignment and guys knocking linebackers down, defensive ends down, and they’re not really happy unless guys have 100 yards rushing, then you know you have the right guys.”

Source: Washington Redskins Media