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Monday, December 30, 2013
Redskins liked Kyle Shanahan's offense

By John Keim

ASHBURN, Va. -- As he headed to and from the Redskins' facility, carrying personal belongings, offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan allowed that he was at peace. He, and seven other Redskins assistants, were fired Monday along with head coach Mike Shanahan.

Not only did Kyle Shanahan exit with personal ware, he also left with his confidence.  After six seasons as an NFL offensive coordinator, Shanahan remains upbeat about what he's accomplished -- and about where he's still headed. He should: The Redskins finished in the top 10 in total yards for the second consecutive year. And it's the fourth time in his six seasons as an offensive coordinator that his offenses ended up in the top 10 in total yards.

Kyle Shanahan
Kyle Shanahan's offense finished in the top 10 for two straight seasons.
"I'm pretty confident in myself," Shanahan said, when asked last week where he felt he stood as a play caller. "I feel good about myself as far as I think I'm good at what I do. I'm really trying hard not to brag on myself, I'm just trying to answer your question honestly that I'm confident in what I've done and I'm confident in my future. ... I'll continue to do a good job."

Shanahan was not the only offensive assistant fired. Quarterbacks coach Matt LaFleur and receivers coach Mike McDaniel also were told they would not be retained. Offensive assistant Richmond Flowers also was let go.

But Shanahan is the one the players will miss most.

One opposing defensive coach, who faced the Redskins within the past two seasons, called Shanahan an "above average coordinator" who could be outstanding with the right head coach. His flaws, according to this coach: managing the game and play calling in critical situations. Other complaints over the years: he threw the ball too often and sometimes got too cute with his play calls.

But the Redskins moved the ball under Shanahan. They finished among the top 10 in total yards in consecutive years for the first time since 1991, the last of six straight years in the top 10. The problem is that Washington went from fourth in points per game a year ago to 23 this season. The No. 4 ranking in points in 2012 marked the only time Washington has finished in the top 10 since 1999.

"I liked Kyle's work ethic, his attention to detail," tight end Logan Paulsen said. "You know how in chess you play someone who is really good and they can see a couple moves ahead. I always felt he could do that. ... One thing I remember is talking to [tight ends coach Sean McVay] and said, ‘Why don't we just run this?' He said, ‘It doesn't have answers if you get into a bad coverage.' But the thing about Kyle and his staff they worked very hard to make sure every play has an answer so you never in an awful look."

Since 2000, the Redskins have been mostly dreadful on offense when it comes to scoring -- despite offensive-minded head coaches in Steve Spurrier, Joe Gibbs, Jim Zorn and Mike Shanahan. They've ranked 25th or worse in terms of scoring seven times since 2001 and 20th or worse 11 times. They ranked 13th in points per game in 2005, the next best finish after 2012.

"It's well put together," quarterback Rex Grossman said. "When he gets in a rhythm he's the best in the NFL. You can feel it as a player and it allows you to have success. ... If you're not in the right look, you do have answers so you don't feel stuck, which is a good thing and it's hard to coordinate."

Fullback Darrel Young said, "I respect everything he did for me, this team and this offense. All the people that criticized him, we still had Alfred [Morris] as one of the top 10 rushers in the league."

But Shanahan did not earn the complete trust of quarterback Robert Griffin III. And there is this matter: The Redskins finished 24-40 under the Mike Shanahan regime. In a bottom line business, that's the number that jumps out.

"You don't have a good record and that starts with myself as much as anybody else," Kyle Shanahan said last week. "The ultimate goal is wins."