Mike Shanahan defends tenure

Updated: November 27, 2013, 10:57 AM ET
By John Keim | ESPN.com

ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan again defended his four-year tenure Tuesday.

Shanahan acknowledged that, when a team is 3-8, there's a reality to the situation. He also made it clear once more that his staff needs a full offseason of work with quarterback Robert Griffin III.

The Redskins fell five games under .500 with Monday night's 27-6 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. It's almost the same mark Washington had in 2011 (4-7 and then falling to 4-8), but two years later much more was expected.

"Everybody is playing for their jobs," Shanahan said. "That's the nature of our business. I don't care if it's players, coaches, support staff. … The nature of this game is to find a way to win, and if you don't win, everybody is accountable."

Griffin III
Jonathan Newton/Getty ImagesMike Shanahan defended his four-year tenure Tuesday. He also acknowledged the coaching staff needs more time to work with Robert Griffin III.

Shanahan said over the summer that the Redskins had more depth than they did the previous three seasons. But he's also talked in recent weeks about the impact of the two-year $36 million salary cap penalty, saying it's hampered the franchise's growth.

There's no penalty this offseason and Shanahan clearly is looking forward to bolstering the roster. 

"I'm talking about winning Super Bowls, I'm not just talking about getting to the playoffs," he said. "I'm talking about what it takes to win Super Bowls, and that's when you talk about depth. You can win 10 games or nine games or eight games, and you can win them in the last seconds of the game, then all of a sudden you look at your schedule, look at your injuries [and] it changes every year. But at the end of the day, we're talking about what it takes to win championships."

The Redskins remain confident that Griffin can lead them places, which is why there's no talk of playing Kirk Cousins once they're eliminated from playoff contention. That means keeping Griffin in the lineup to continue his development as a drop-back passer.

Shanahan said because Griffin did not play in a NFL-style drop-back passing game at Baylor, he needs all the repetitions he can get. For now, at least, the only way Cousins will play is if Griffin gets hurt.

"One of the reasons we had the success we had [in 2012] is he was able to do some things other quarterbacks couldn't do," Shanahan said. "We had a dual threat. Now, that threat is not quite as strong as it was a year ago. Now we go to a different direction. That will come; maturity will come, but it doesn't happen overnight. It's a growing period.

"If you take a look at so many of these quarterbacks, you go back and think of all the Hall of Fame quarterbacks, they've had much tougher years than what we're going through so far. It doesn't happen overnight, but he's got all the ability in the world to make that jump. You just have to be patient."

Griffin is coming off one of his worst games of the season, having completed 17 of 27 passes for 127 yards and an interception for a 58.7 passer rating. For the season, Griffin has 14 touchdown passes, 11 interceptions and a pedestrian 81.9 rating.

It's hardly the same impact he had as a rookie for a variety of reasons. Defenses have taken away what he did well in the passing game and Griffin is still adjusting.

Still, Shanahan said Griffin hasn't regressed.

"The drop-back passing game takes time," Shanahan said. "Robert is getting better and better every game. He feels more comfortable with it and we're putting him through a lot of situations. It's a constant growth in the drop-back game because it's not only reading coverages, it's looking at personnel, it's stepping up into the pocket, getting rid of the football against blitzes, different coverages, all the things that go with the maturation of being a quarterback. That's something he's going through right now."

Griffin also is learning the harsh glare of the spotlight. Even after Monday's game he couldn't escape controversy, as his father, Robert Griffin II, sat with him in the locker room. It was an unusual sight, especially considering Griffin's standing on the team and how his father has criticized the coaches for how they've used his son last season.

Shanahan told a team spokesman the elder Griffin was in the locker room because he thought his son had been injured in the game; that was not the case.

Meanwhile, Shanahan said he will not play young players just to see what he has on the roster. He sees in practice what the backups or those on the practice squad can do.

"You play the best players," Shanahan said. "We're not going to experiment with guys and think, 'Hey, this season's over. We're going to play our young players.' That means you've given up. We tell our scout team if you want to make the team, you better look pretty good against our first-team defense."

John Keim

ESPN Washington Redskins reporter

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