Redskins coach Mike Shanahan looked mighty grumpy after Sunday’s 19-11 loss to the 49ers and he didn’t seem to be in a much better mood at his Monday press conference.
It didn’t help that the Washington press corps kept asking him questions about whether or not the team was rebuilding. It started with a question about why Shanahan has refused to use the word during his first 24 games as the team’s coach which led to a back-and-forth about playing young players.
“Like I said, I’m not even sure what you mean by rebuilding,” Shanahan said. “You said playing young players. Well, they’re our backup players. When you lose a starter that’s a better player and you play a young guy, you’re playing your next-best player. Is that considered rebuilding, because you’re playing your next-best player? No, I don’t believe so. You’re trying to win a football game. If those are the 46 guys on your team, then the next-best guy is gonna go out there and play.”
Fair enough. The Redskins certainly have had a lot of injuries this season and few teams are deep enough to put established players into the lineup when such things happen. But then he gave a curious answer to a question about hiring his son Kyle to run the offense.
“I’m the one that told Kyle not to come,” Shanahan said. “I said this is gonna be a work in progress. It’s not gonna happen overnight. You’re with an established team. You’ve got your ducks in order. I said we’re gonna have to rebuild this football team, starting on offense. He understood that, and he enjoyed the challenge, and that’s what we’re doing.”
There’s that word that Shanahan took such issue with a little earlier. Unless Shanahan was lying to his son in order to convince him not to take the job, which is unlikely since he could have just hired a different offensive coordinator, then he’s obviously pretty aware of what it means to rebuild a football team. Which is interesting in light of Shanahan saying that the team wasn’t rebuilding right now.
That response naturally led to another question about whether or not that answer was at odds with the idea that the team is rebuilding.
“No, I said when I first came in that we had to change,” Shanahan said. “If you look at [it], our center has changed from when I came in, our left guard has changed from when I came in, our left tackle has changed, our right tackle has changed. Our tight ends changed through injury. Both our wide receivers, our halfback. I say that is rebuilding a football team. Now, with the draft, free agency, getting some young players playing as second teamers, and they’re getting a chance to see what they can do… Now if that’s what you call rebuilding, then we’re rebuilding.”
It isn’t hard to understand why coaches loathe the word rebuilding. It sets up an expectation of losing that usually doesn’t lead to continued employment. Some of this is clearly semantic, but there’s no doubt that the Redskins are in a period of transition/rejuvenation/repair/insert another synonym for rebuilding that is still a fair distance from completion.
But, to answer Shanahan’s question: Yes, that sounds an awful lot like what we’d call rebuilding.