Mike Shanahan is not giving up on the Washington Redskins' spiraling season. He does not plan to play young players for the sake of evaluation, and he still prioritizes winning above all else.
In fact, Shanahan feels so strongly about that, he did not wait for any reporter to ask a question at his Monday news conference before saying so.
A day after a crushing home loss to one-win Carolina, the head coach acknowledged he did not clearly express himself in his postgame comments, and he bristled at the notion he would capitulate in the face of a 3-6 record entering this week's bye.
"From my perspective, I'm not saying I did a great job of explaining," Shanahan said. "Just to think that we would play young players or suggest that we play young players and the season was over with was completely ludicrous."
Minutes after the Redskins lost Sunday, Shanahan acknowledged the Redskins had played themselves out of the playoff hunt. And he's right — only four teams in NFL history have overcome a 3-6 record to qualify for the postseason.
"Obviously, very disappointing," Shanahan said. "When you lose a game like that, now you're playing to see who, obviously, is going to be on your football team for years to come. Now we get a chance to evaluate players and see where we're at. Obviously, we're not out of it statistically, but now we find out what type of character we got and how guys keep on fighting through the rest of the season."
Shanahan on Monday explained that his evaluations over the final seven games will focus on players' character and perseverance in the face of adversity.
"I would never say that we're going to play young players," Shanahan said. "I never said that anytime since I've been here: we're going to play young players. We're always going to play the people that give us the best chance to win. It never changed. I never have wavered."
And as Shanahan looks forward to the remaining seven games, beginning with a home game against Philadelphia on Nov. 18, he sees opportunity to climb out of last place in the NFC East because five games are against divisional opponents.
Before that, though, Shanahan plans to address the team Tuesday to clarify his postgame comments that left some players in disbelief. Then coaches will spend several days during the bye week evaluating this season's successes and failures and devising a plan.
There will be no changes to the coaching staff during the bye, Shanahan said.
He expects his team to dig in and fight as the losses mount. Several players on Sunday were adamant they will.
"If we win a couple more ballgames over the next few weeks, our outlook is different," linebacker London Fletcher said. "You get to 5-6, 6-6 and then, hey, you give yourself a chance. But I think the character of this football team, guys will continue to play hard. I'm not concerned about guys not playing hard."
"We need to just get one win," linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. "That's what it starts with, and start putting them together to give ourselves a chance to maybe get to the playoffs, but ultimately gain some respect."
Shanahan said he would be "disappointed" if players lose faith in his vision for the team midway through his third year as coach. On Monday, as he addressed media with a 14-27 record in the books, he explained the difficulty and complexity of rebuilding the aging roster he inherited in 2010.
Asked if he measures his plan's progress by the record or other peripheral indications, he directed those inquiries to Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.
"If he feels like this team is going in the right direction, then you ask him, not me," Shanahan said. "I know I'm going in the right direction."
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