Shanahan: 'We're very close'

Shanahan: 'We're very close'
January 27, 2012, 12:21 am
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MOBILE, Ala. Mike Shanahan doesnt need to see how the Redskins beat one Super Bowl participant (the Giants) twice by a combined 27 points and lost to the other (New England) by a touchdown to further convince himself of his teams path.

I know were moving in the right direction, he told CSNwashington.com. Thats a good indication were not too far away.

To that end, Shanahan agreed to have the Redskins staff coach the South team in Saturdays Senior Bowl. The Redskins hope a week around 50 college prospects will provide a leg up in the draft process and help get them out of the NFC East cellar, their residence the last four years.

After his nightly press conference Thursday, Shanahan granted seven- to 10-minute one-on-one interviews to the four Washington-area beat reporters who traveled here. Here is his session with CSNwashington.com:

Q: In the coaching staffs review of the season, how not surprising was the lack of big plays a 11.7-yard average and no catch longer than 51 yards?

A: We knew that going in. I was disappointed that Santana Moss didnt come up with a few more big plays because he had some the year before. When he got hurt, I think it really set us back, and he never seemed to get back in the playing shape he had been in. But anytime a receiver goes down for four games, its tough to back to that same form.

Q: The Redskins offensive line seemingly had a new combination every week over the last two months of the season. But did you see individual improvement?

A: We had four guys that played well. You take a look at Trent Williams, and you take a look at four games for Kory Lichtensteiger and then Will Montgomery and Chris Chester. That right tackle position we have to do better. Jammal Brown has to get healthy and obviously we have some competition behind him, but were hoping with a great off-season program that J.B. does get better. For us to play at the level we need to play at, we have to be better at that position.

Q: LaRon Landry is a free agent and is injured and O.J. Atogwe was underwhelming in his first year with the team. How big of a concern at this point are the two safety spots?

A: Obviously, we had a lot of injuries and going into this year, there are still some question marks. Were always going to try and improve in the areas where we werent very good the year before.

Q: How disappointed were you in LaRons decision not to have surgery to repair his Achilles tendon?

A: I cant say Im disappointed. Hes a grown man and has to make decisions that he thinks are best for him and his future. Obviously, he thinks it gives him a chance to play. Well see. I hope he does get healed because I think hes one of the best players in the league if hes healthy.

Q: Amid the success of Tim Tebow in Denver and the number of college teams running the spread offense, you were asked if it might seep into the NFL. Can that offense work at this level?

A: What I said is that you cant account for the quarterback in the running game. If that quarterback can run for example, Tebow can create problems. If that quarterback also has exceptional passing skills and can run the football, he can do damage. Michael Vick can run at a very high level and can also throw the football. You look at somebodys skills and try to develop an offense around it.

Q: The Redskins beat the Giants twice and lost to New England by a touchdown. Does that give you some kind of confidence in saying, "Were moving in the right direction?"

A: I know were moving in the right direction; I dont worry about that. Ive been coaching too long not to know were moving in the right direction. But you want to do it the right way. Were very close. We dont have the depth we need. Those games are a good indication were not too far away. The goal is to do something special, and were not there yet. But with a good draft and good free agency, well be a much improved team.

Q: The Redskins had a successful draft last year with all 12 picks still with the team. Is this years draft just as important in continuing to build the depth chart? (The Redskins have five picks in the top 108.)

A: Without question. Every draft is important thats why were here coaching this game, trying to get an edge in knowing the players and the little things about them.

Q: Since youve arrived, you havent made any major changes to the personnel department, and the general feeling is their opinion counts. Has that always been your philosophy?

A: You need to have everybodys opinion. If you dont have a sound approach in every aspect of the organization pro personnel, free agency, the draft you dont have a definitive plan on the type of players youre after. One guy can find something about a player that we may not know watching film, and it could be the difference between taking a guy and not taking a guy. The scouts are doing the extra work at the high schools and colleges, talking to the high school coach, talking to the equipment guy, talking to the trainer. To me, thats the difference in the future of an organization.

Q: Youll get this until the draft: How important, either via free agency, trade or the draft, is finding a quarterback?

A: Youre always looking for that franchise quarterback, and youre hoping to find him. Thats what were going to do. Were more able to do that this year than we were a year ago. With that 10th pick in the draft, if we had taken a quarterback, you miss out on a guy like Ryan Kerrigan, you miss out on a guy like Jarvis Jenkins and we wouldnt have gotten Leonard Hankerson, Niles Paul or DeJon Gomes. But if we had gotten that quarterback and hes a franchise guy, you look back and say its a mistake not drafting the QB. But if you dont feel hes a franchise guy, then you have to take somebody lower who you feel in a year or two will be the guy and theyre normally out there.

Q: The Redskins didnt have free agency in your first off-season, and it was a quick process last year. How optimistic are you that talent can be added?

A: The first year, we didnt have free agency because you needed to be in your seventh year and that was tough. Last year and this year, we feel very good because you get to evaluate everybody and have a game plan of which guys can help your team win.
Contact OHalloran at rohalloran@comcastsportsnet.com.