[Editor’s note: Redskins coach Mike Shanahan joined PFT Live on Wednesday. The full transcript of his interview appears below.]
MF: Let’s start with Robert Griffin III. This guy is a force of nature. He just has a great personality, he’s got a ton of energy, he’s a Heisman Trophy winner, all of the accolades. At what point did you know that you had to do whatever you had to do to get up to one of those first two picks to either get him or Andrew Luck?
MS: The first thing you’ve got to do is evaluate both guys and you have to study them thoroughly. When I did look at Robert the first thing I did look at was his mobility. He’s just a fluid athlete, with rare speed, and you know, he can create all kinds of plays off schedule and really demoralize a defense. He threw well on the move and big time arm strength, you look for that big arm. A guy that can make all the throws and he make all the throws down field. I thought he had a lot of poise, he’s fearless in the pocket he wasn’t afraid to stay in the pocket and throw the ball and face some pressure. So there’s a lot of things you look for in a quarterback and as you mentioned when you started the show, he had the intangibles too. A charismatic guy with great character and work ethic and leadership skills. Just a fun guy to be around, and I felt a lot of the same things about Andrew. But obviously we’re talking about Robert now because he’s with our football team. But when we did move up we felt it would be a positive with either guy. We’re very happy with Robert.
MF: And you mentioned coach, Robert Griffin III’s mobility. He’s explosive. He can move laterally. He can move vertically. How do you strike that balance between moving horizontally and tucking the ball down and taking off down the field and exposing his legs to the kinds of hits that can cause injury?
MS: Well, the great players can make plays off schedule. You know they understand coverages, they understand fronts and what they’re going to do. Their vision, they gotta keep their eyes down the field, either passer first and a runner second. You know, they’ll look at the run after they go through their progression but they understand maybe . . . guys may not be open and the rush lane is there, he’s going to put some pressure on the defense. There’s a lot of guys that do run that really don’t have the instincts to stand in the pocket, look down field, and make the throws, and what I saw in film this year he was able to do that.
MF: And to get this deal done, it required the sixth overall pick, two future first-round picks, and a second-round pick this year. Some would say that’s a lot to give up for a quarterback, others would say ‘Hey, look if you’ve got to get a franchise quarterback, you got to do what you’ve got to do because there aren’t that many out there.’ Is this proof of how important it is in this league, in this day and age to have a quarterback that you believe is a franchise quarterback?
MS: I think so, I think it all depends on philosophies, but when you find a guy like Robert who can make the type of plays he’s made, throwing the football, his mobility, his arm strength, his poise, you know, he’s a natural thrower. I think he’s got what you look for and obviously we gave up a lot, but I do believe it was worth it and hopefully we can show that in time.
MF: Under the new labor deal, we’ve seen the time period for signing draft picks get accelerated dramatically. But Robert Griffin III is not yet under contract. Any progress toward getting a deal done with him?
MS: You know, Mike, I don’t even think about those things. I know we’re fair with all our contract negotiations we’ll get it done here probably fairly quickly, but that’s never been a problem with this organization.
MF: As the dynamic changes, though, under the new labor deal and these deals are being done sooner than ever before, how concerned are you that at some point an agent is going to tell one of the draft picks, ‘You know what? Don’t participate in anything at all. No offseason workouts, no OTA’s, no minicamps until you’ve got your contract?’
MS: Well, I really think it will hurt somebody’s chance of making the team, maybe it might it be a little different for a first-round draft choice, but you know they’re protected, they’re protected with injuries and I think it’s made it pretty simple with the new CBA to come right in a lot quicker than in the past, and I think it’s one of the reason so many of these guys are signing early.
MF: You finished two seasons now as head coach of the Redskins. How does this job compare to your prior job in Denver as coach of the Broncos?
MS: In Denver, we were a better football team, even though we were 8-8 the first year. You know, our division was as competitive as the NFC East, I thought we had a little bit better football team. Obviously had a quarterback or a couple quarterbacks and we had the nucleus of a pretty good football team where we weren’t quite as deep. Here, we’re a little bit older football team, spent a lot on free agents, so it was really starting from scratch for the most part.
MF: Looking back on the first two seasons, what’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned during your time at Washington?
MS: Oh, I don’t think it’s a lesson because you learn every year. You know, you’ve been here 27, 28 years. It’s an ongoing learning process, but I like what we have. You know, you gotta take a look at your guys everyday they gotta go out there and perform. You know, the 90 guys that were have right now, 15 were on our football team the first year and out of those 15, not all of them are starters, but I like what we have. Guys that are really dedicated and give us a chance to be successful and with a couple years of free agency and a couple full years of the draft, you feel good about your football team and the direction you’re headed.
MF: And during your time in the NFL, the offseason workouts gradually had expanded and grown and even though they’re voluntary, more and more teams are having close to 100 percent participation. This year, it’s gone back the other way. What are your thoughts on the adjustments, the restrictions on the offseason workouts as of 2012 and going forward?
MS: I like what we have right now. I think it was a good plan. I like the first two weeks of players coming in, getting some conditioning in. I know for the next few weeks, you’re getting players coming in and getting a chance to be on the field but still getting in shape. Being able to meet with these players for over a month and then obviously in Phase 3, you’ll get a chance to get a good month of improving on what you’ve been doing over the first five weeks.
MF: The running back position has some question marks, you’ve brought Tim Hightower back, you traded for him last year with the Cardinals. Do you have a depth chart in mind as of right now, and if so who’s at the top of it?
MS: You know, Tim Hightower did a great job for us before he got hurt in the fourth game last year. Roy Helu came in, and I thought he did an excellent job, showed his speed. He was able to play in first, second and third down. You know, Evan Royster over the last five, six games of the season averaged almost six yards a carry. So we’ve got some guys who have got some playing experience, obviously with Helu and Royster going to the second year. You know, they’re excited about getting started. Tim is a natural leader, he came in and really impressed everybody with not only his football skills but his leadership skills as well, so we’ve got three experienced guys there. And then we have four guys in right now like Tristan Davis, Alfred Morris our draft choice, and Creer and Bailey, that we think we’ve got a little depth there and let guys fight for a position.
MF: With a rookie quarterback in place how important will it be to have running backs on the field who can pick up the blitz?
MS: Well obviously, if you have a back that can do both, obviously protect the quarterback and also run some routes that’s what you’re looking for. It doesn’t always happen that way. And you gotta find out which guys can do it and that’s what preseason’s about, especially with those backs. You know, you can practice all you want but until you get them in them in live situations, you’re really not sure how they can handle those linebackers or safeties.
MF: You still managed to have a pretty active free agency period despite the removal of $36 million in total cap dollars over the next two years, there was a hearing last week. Have there been any rulings or any decisions in the wake of the hearing?
MS: Well, right now I can’t get into that because it’s strictly confidential, but as you all know when you find out on the eve of free agency that somebody takes $36 million dollar from you, how we had to alter our plans on the eve of free agency.
MF: And one of the issues that comes out of that is the use of draft picks this year and next year because the salary cap money is gone. What would you say to folks who question the use of a 4th round pick on a backup quarterback, Kirk Cousins, in lieu of using that pick on a player who can come in and get on the field and help contribute this year, next year, and beyond?
MS: Well, number one, I think to find those quarterbacks it’s the toughest position to play in all sports and when you have a guy that’s ranked very high on your list, I think he was a steal in the fourth round. Hopefully, Robert can stay healthy and we don’t have to go to our second- or third-team quarterback, but if he does you better have a quarterback that’s either your second- or third-teamer that you believe is a first-teamer in this league, because if not and there is an injury you have no chance, and we’ve seen that in playoffs through the years. So to get a guy like Kirk in the fourth round, I thought it was a steal. Hopefully, Robert can stay healthy. Everybody knows what we think of him, so I think we’ve got a lot of depth at that position. That’s what I was looking for, and we got two number fours and I felt very good about being able to get them on our football team.
MF: Your first quarterback during your tenure in Washington was Donovan McNabb. He’s trying to get back into the league. His coach in Philadelphia, Andy Reid, has endorsed him recently. If someone were to call you and ask you for a reference about Donovan McNabb, what would you say?
MS: Well, one of the reasons that we did get Donovan, is Donovan is one of the best throwers in the National Football League. And you saw what he did through the early part of his career, you know he can throw the ball and he’s got great mobility. The thing I look at, as people get older you want to make that commitment, you gotta be in the best shape you’ve ever been in. As you get older, if you want to play at a very high level, you’d better be in the best shape, you’d better study especially when you’re coming in to learn a new system. You’ve got to spend a lot of time. One of the reasons why we didn’t go in that direction even after giving up the second[-round pick] and fourth is we felt it was in the best interest of our team to go in another direction. Obviously, it didn’t work out. I wish him the best, but that’s probably all I’d like to comment about that situation.
MF: Has anyone called you or you’re your son Kyle, the offensive coordinator, to get an opinion about Donovan McNabb?
MS: No, I don’t think so. No one has called me. And I don’t think anyone has called Kyle. But the main thing is I thought Donovan did some good things here. I mean, threw for 200, almost 270 yards a game. I think almost 90 yards more than he did at Minnesota, probably 20 or 30 more yards than he averaged throughout his career at Philly. So Donovan did do some good things but when you make a decision on who’s going to lead your football team for the future, who gives you the best chance to not only get to the playoffs but win a Super Bowl, you gotta make some tough decisions. And that’s one of the decisions we made.
MF: The future begins September 9, you go to the Superdome to take on the Saints. In light of everything the Saints have been going through, when you saw that you open in New Orleans, what was your reaction?
MS: Well, first thing I thought is maybe they should suspend the quarterback for at least one game, you know being the captain of their football team [laughing]. They said their going to go after the leaders. No, I just think the world of Drew Brees obviously, but you know you just hate to see that happen in the National Football League. You don’t know all the details. It’s tough to be in that situation they’re in, but they’re fighting through it and we’re more concerned and concentrated on our football team, but you can empathize with what they’ve had to deal with.
MF: And when this all first hit the fan in early March there was some talk that maybe Gregg Williams, the former defensive coordinator of New Orleans, had similar bounties programs with other teams he’d been at and he’s been with the Redskins. Was there ever any effort by the NFL to come in and investigate that, or has that just dissipated?
MS: No, I think there was effort with every place Gregg had been. I think there was investigations by the National Football League. I know they talked to a number of people on our football team. I don’t know what the results were, I do know we do have Phillip Daniels on our football team and he was here during those days and he said he never heard anything like it. But other than that, that’s the only thing I know.
MF: I don’t see many teams that I would really want to have involved in Hard Knocks this year. I think the Redskins are on that short list. Is that something you’ve been asked to do, or is that something you’re interested in doing?
MS: To be honest with you they asked me to do it at Denver on my first year there and it was the first year of Hard Knocks. I just didn’t feel comfortable with being in that situation. You know, I can’t be myself. I don’t think coaches can be their self and I’d like players to concentrate on their job. I don’t know if it’s old school or what. You know, for me I just didn’t feel comfortable with that atmosphere.
MF: Have they asked you to do it this year?
MS: No, they have not.