Skins players not surprised, still impacted

December, 30, 2013
12/30/13
3:15
PM ET
ASHBURN, Va. -- They expected the news, yet it still resonated. For weeks the Washington Redskins players answered questions about Mike Shanahan’s job fate. For days they read he was going to be fired.

When it finally happened Monday, the news still hit the players.

"It just got real," defensive end Kedric Golston said.

"Everyone expected it, but it doesn’t make it that much easier," tight end Logan Paulsen said.

"It definitely becomes a lot more real and makes the situation more sad," linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said.

Shanahan was fired shortly after 9 a.m. Monday morning as players were trickling in for their end-of-season physicals. Others were already packing up the belongings in their lockers.

It comes at the end of a 3-13 season, which is why the firing wasn’t much of a surprise. They finished 24-40 in Shanahan’s four seasons.

"Frustrating," fullback Darrel Young said. "We failed a Hall of Fame coach. It was a lack of execution by the players this year."

The players know that few, if any, current assistant coaches will stick around. The firing impacts coaches the players had relationships with, in some cases for four years. But the players also know there's a bottom line for them, too. Some players won’t fit what a new coach wants to run, whether offensively or defensively. So their futures are at stake, too.

"It’s also difficult because we have to learn a new scheme," Paulsen said. "We have to adapt to a new coach, a new coach who you might not fit their system. So a lot of guys might be gone. That's always difficult. It will be a complete culture change. But right now I just feel for coach and the staff and hope it works out for the best for them."

And, as players who have been around here know all too well, a new coach doesn't always bring results. The Redskins will be looking for their seventh full-time coach under owner Dan Snyder, who bought the team in 1999.

"Just because you change coaches doesn't mean that all is fixed," Golston said. "You have to now start the work to build something to be successful.

"Whenever you have a coaching change it's tough because you have new philosophies. You have to understand their communication, understand what he means when he says something and what his pet peeves are, what his practices are like, what his offseasons look like. All those things are new to you, so it brings uncertainty so you have to adapt on the fly. It’s never a good thing."

The Redskins' season unraveled in a hurry. They were 3-5 after a home win versus San Diego and then blew a 13-point second-half lead at then 1-7 Minnesota. There was a palpable difference in the locker room after that game, as if the players knew they had blown their chance. They never won again.

"The turning point was the Minnesota loss," Young said. "I [still] went into every game thinking we were going to win, but to look back now that was the turning point in the season. It felt like we were playing good football … and all the emotions that go into it changed a lot for us."

Last year at this time the Redskins were preparing for a playoff game against Seattle, coming off seven straight wins and full of confidence -- about that game and the future. Despite Robert Griffin III’s knee issues in the offseason the rest of the roster felt good and were buoyed by what they considered a strong training camp.

"And then to be where we're at now," Golston said, "to lose in the ways we lost some games, it's been unfortunate just because you don’t have many years in this business to let one slip away and let something like this happen."

In the end, though, something wasn't working.

"None of these coaches played a down this year," Kerrigan said. "It’s all on us. We can complain and say we all like this coaching staff and don’t want them to be fired, but if we played better we wouldn't be in this situation. That’s what hurts me."

John Keim

ESPN Washington Redskins reporter

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