Shanahan says Redskins improved, had worse record

The Washington Redskins’ record is a matter of perspective.

Steve Spurrier infamously proclaimed 5-11 was ”not very good”

after his 2003 season with Washington. He quit the next day, done

with the NFL after two years and a 12-20 record.

Mike Shanahan’s spin couldn’t be more different.

”Even though the record may not show it,” Shanahan said

Monday, ”we’re a much better football team than we were a year

ago.”

The Redskins regressed from 6-10 to 5-11 this year, so

Shanahan’s mark in two seasons in Washington stands at 11-21. He’s

never had a worse full-season record as a head coach, and

Washington has now finished in last place in the NFC East for four

years running.

”Thank God I haven’t been through any like this before – I

might not be in this profession very long,” Shanahan said. ”But

it’s something that really drives you and motivates you. It’s

something that I look forward to doing, putting a great football

team together and doing it the right way, and sometimes it takes a

little bit longer than sometimes expected.”

Shanahan cited the team’s improved depth as evidence that he has

the Redskins pointed in the right direction. Even so, there are

significant upgrades needed at receiver, in the secondary, along

the offensive line and in a special teams unit that had five

blocked field goals this year – the most allowed by a team in the

NFL in eight years.

But it all starts and ends with the quarterback, and Shanahan

needs to find one.

After failing to make it work with Donovan McNabb last year,

Shanahan made the bold statement that he was staking his reputation

this season on Rex Grossman and John Beck. Grossman ended up

committing 25 turnovers in 13 games, and Beck lasted for all of

three winless starts.

”I don’t care what anybody says, I know what I can do and I

know what I’m capable of – and I know that I will achieve it,”

Beck said Monday before stuffing his belongings into a large clear

plastic bag at his locker. ”I thought it was going to happen this

year. It didn’t. But it’s going to happen. I’m not going to let it

not happen.”

Grossman’s self-confidence was just as strong. While Beck is

under contract for next season, Grossman is a free agent – but it’s

possible he could be brought back to mentor a quarterback taken in

the first round of the draft.

”There’s a lot of things that I can do to improve,” Grossman

said. ”But definitely there was a lot of good, and we’ll see how

they evaluate it.”

Shanahan has already starting looking for someone else. For

weeks now, he has been spending about a half-hour in the mornings

looking at video of the top college prospects. The Redskins hold

the No. 6 overall pick in the April draft.

”Everybody’s looking for a franchise quarterback,” offensive

coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. ”You want one of those guys that

there’s no question about. There’s probably only about five or six

of them in the league. Then there’s a lot of guys who can play and

there’s some guys who need to be replaced. You’re always trying to

find that one and (we’re) still working to do it.”

The Redskins’ noteworthy free agents include linebacker London

Fletcher, safety LaRon Landry, tight end Fred Davis, defensive end

Adam Carriker and running back Tim Hightower. Shanahan said

Fletcher is a priority to re-sign, while Landry’s value is subject

to his return from a left Achilles injury and Davis has just

completed a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s drugs

policy. Davis was one of three Redskins players suspended this

season, the latest black eye for the franchise.

But the Redskins, being the Redskins, couldn’t wrap up the

season without one final bit of consternation. Shanahan, as is his

usual routine, gave his parting words to the players in the locker

room Sunday after the final game. On Monday, with the coach not

even in the room, the players heard from Navy SEALs and a marine as

part of a program mandated by the NFL.

While many players said they found the presentation inspiring

and that it helped them put football in perspective, backup

offensive lineman Sean Locklear tweeted that it was the ”Worst

exit meeting ever!” because no coaches or front office people

spoke. He later went back on Twitter to apologize.

”I talked to Sean after the game and, obviously, he must not

have liked my speech,” Shanahan said with more than a touch of

sarcasm. ”Obviously he must have been disappointed in it. I’ve

only been doing it that way for a number of years, and he must be

used to a different way. So I apologize, Sean, it’ll never happen

again – at least not with me.”

Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP