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Breezy days for Mike Shanahan before NFL draft
Coach basking in dawn of new era for franchise
Mike Shanahan was in a good mood.
A day before the Washington Redskins will draft Robert Griffin III with the No. 2 pick, the normally-stoic coach smiled. He joked. He laughed.
That's what happens when a team trades three first-round picks and a second-rounder to draft the Heisman Trophy-winning Baylor quarterback — known for his deep throws, scrambling and eye-catching socks — Shanahan hopes becomes the face of the franchise.
"We're very close to the same type of charisma, Robert and myself," Shanahan said during his pre-draft news conference Wednesday at Redskins Park.
More laughs. The coach was kidding, of course, wearing a blue and white dress shirt without the hint of a wrinkle and carefully-parted hair without one strand escaping its place. Shanahan, smiling, teased Griffin's selection as 99.99 percent likely and a "one percent of one percent chance" Stanford quarterback Andrew Luck, who will be drafted first by the Indianapolis Colts, would be the choice.
Picking Griffin in the three-day draft that starts Thursday at 8 p.m. is the easy part for Shanahan. He spit out superlatives in a matter-of-fact voice: work ethic, speed, family, demeanor in the pocket, commitment, personality.
"Really, everything," Shanahan said.
How the Redskins use their remaining six picks to build Griffin's supporting cast and continue Shanahan's wholesale remodeling of the roster is the question. After the second pick, the Redskins aren't on the clock until No. 69 in the third round Friday.
Last year, 10 of the Redskins' 12 draft picks played. Eight started at least one game. But holes remain, particularly in the secondary and on the offensive line.
Shanahan dodged and dived through 24 minutes, 54 seconds of questions Wednesday, using lots of words to say little. He spoke of building depth on the 5-11 team. He talked about using picks, such as the two fourth-rounders, to move up or down. He mentioned three times the team has a game plan. The coach was clear the Redskins will follow their board and select the best player available, not draft for need.
"If you're just talking about needs, chances are you're going to make mistakes," Shanahan said. "Sometimes it works out that a guy is there that fits your need."
So, for instance, Shanahan wouldn't pass up a high-rated running back just because youngsters Roy Helu and Evan Royster are on the roster and he wants to re-sign veteran Tim Hightower.
One possible clue to draft direction came in what Shanahan believes a young quarterback needs to be successful. And it has nothing to do with Griffin. Instead, it's defense. The Redskins ranked No. 13 in total defense last season and add defensive end Jarvis Jenkins, last year's second-round pick who missed the season because of a knee injury, to the group.
"When you do bring a quarterback in, hopefully he has the weapons to give him a chance to be successful," Shanahan said. "The better your defense is, the better your offense may be. Obviously, that's less pressure you have to put on that quarterback."
Everything came back to Griffin Wednesday. And that won't soon change.
• Shanahan praised the progress tackle Jammal Brown (hip) and tight end Chris Cooley (knee) have made in rehabilitation. Pilates and yoga have helped Brown's troublesome hip. "I feel better about Jammal Brown than I have since I've been here," Shanahan said. Cooley's knee hasn't experienced swelling, either.
• Receiver Jabar Gaffney can explore opportunities with other teams, Shanahan said, because the coach expects newcomers Pierre Garcon and Josh Morgan and second-year man Leonard Hankerson to see significant playing time. The option remains for Gaffney to return to the Redskins. A series of profane comments on Gaffney's Twitter account earlier this month weren't "the deciding factor" in the situation, Shanahan said. "I believe I owe it to him to give him a chance to look around."
• Veteran kicker Neil Rackers signed a free agent contract and will compete for the job with Graham Gano. Rackers made 32 of 38 field goal attempts for the Houston Texans last season. He's also played with Cincinnati and Arizona.
• Free agent running back Hightower's rehabilitation from a torn anterior cruciate ligament is going well, Shanahan said. The coach expects him to be at full-speed in June.
• Shanahan declined comment on the NFL's salary cap penalty against the Redskins, citing NFL rules, until the situation is resolved. But the coach added, "Does it change your game plan? Sure it does."
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About the Author
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