February 26, 2021

Washington Nationals officially introduce Dusty Baker as manager

Dusty Baker was formally introduced on Thursday morning with great fanfare as the sixth manager in Washington Nationals history in a press conference at Nationals Park.

Baker, 66, was accompanied by the team’s general manager, Mike Rizzo. The overall mood of the day was one of humor and looking toward the future, with the affable Baker cracking a number of jokes and Rizzo saying that it must be a big day when the occasion calls for him to wear a tie. [Read more…]

Winter Classic: Barry Trotz media availability

Here is Barry Trotz’ Winter Classic postgame media availability. [courtesy NHL Media Relations]

BARRY TROTZ:  I’ve got the first question.  Did anybody have any fun?  Yeah, I’m having a lot of fun right now.

Q.  Can you talk about that five-on-three in the second period.  That was pretty tough?

BARRY TROTZ:  To me, that was the tipping point of the game.  We don’t kill that off, the Chicago Blackhawks are leaving here with the two points and we probably have a pretty disappointed locker room. So, the first penalty kill we had, we killed off about three seconds, they scored.  And that was huge.

And a lot of times, your stars in these big games, they step up.  Those were our guys, our — the guys that are sort glue guys sometimes.  The guys that don’t get a lot of credit.  All of those guys were huge on the kill.  Guys like Jay Beagle, Brooks Laich, and Orpik, what can you say about him today?  And Carlson and Niskanen, all those guys. So a really big kill.  If we don’t kill that off, I’m pretty sure were — you’re asking me a different question today.

Q.  Technically not halfway, but for the sake of discussion, halfway through your first season here, is the team where it needs to be, are you happy with the progress?

BARRY TROTZ:  I’m happy in a lot of ways.  The progress, we need to learn a few things.  And one of the things I learned today is that the game started ramping up, and I thought we came out with really a good game plan and good intentions and we executed it and we had a lead and then it sort of unraveled on us and we started to unravel a little bit.

We haven’t been on the big stage as much as maybe the Chicago Blackhawks the last couple years, and that’s an area that we have to improve upon. But the thing that we have been really good at this year is, when we get off what I call the rails a little bit and we lose our focus, we’re able to get back and find ways to win. Today was another case in point.

This team last couple years has been able to score quite a bit, but haven’t been able to win close games.  Haven’t been able to win games when the power play hasn’t been clicking. So, this whole month has been really a test for us, because our power play hasn’t been good this whole month, I would say, and we’re finding ways to win.  You ended up with two of the hottest teams coming into this Winter Classic, which was great.

Q.  Just describe this whole experience.  What this was like for you and what will you take away, what will you remember, other than the win?

BARRY TROTZ:  I will — the whole month I will remember a lot of things, because we have grown a lot.  Obviously, when — not used to having the not the center of the universe, but everybody watching our every move.

I do apologize to all kids that my F-bombs during the whole segments and I think Joel beat me by quite a few, so I think I’m safe. But we tried to give the experience of just being ourselves.  I went into this just saying, you know what, I got to be myself, the players can read through that.  And all that. So good or bad, we were going to go through this and it’s actually helped us learn a lot about ourselves.

Dealing with pressure, dealing with situations, and building up to this game and learning to deal with all the distractions.  We were the home team.  We probably had a lot more distractions because I just talked to Mike, I was sitting down having a quick bite to eat because we haven’t eaten since this morning and he said he’s got like 50 people here.  And Johnny Carlson’s got like 70 people. We were, as I said, we’re creatures of habits and I was really worried how our focus would be and we came out with really pretty good focus.

We’re maturing as a team, but still in the second period we were crying about everything and whining about everything and it just, our focus wasn’t on the right things.  We got off track there.  But third period I thought we got back on track and I thought we played a pretty good third.

Q.  Could the script have been written any better with Troy scoring the game winner against his former team?

BARRY TROTZ:  Not really.  Today the big players were in play.  A guy like Ovechkin, Troy Brouwer, ex-Blackhawk, us killing penalties and then going on a power play late in the game and turning that thing around and getting a big win. So, emotionally, that was a great script for us, because it showed a little bit of what I think the Capitals are becoming as a group.  Us as a team, is that we are — we can win different ways, we can be really resilient and we play to the end.  That’s been sort of our MO.

We have been in a few games that were 3-0, behind the eight ball, and we find ways to get a point.  There’s only one game in the last 12 or 13 that we haven’t got a point in.  And we have been on the road for a month, for the most part.  I think we only had two home games really when this whole thing started.  So, a lot of effort has gone into it and I think our group has grown.  We’re finding out a lot about guys.

Q.  What was the lead up like for Brooks Orpik in terms of him deciding to play?

BARRY TROTZ:  Well it was — well Brooks skated the other day under the radar at Kettler when we were over here.  He felt pretty good.  He was classified as 50/50 and got up to 75 last night. Then this morning, our trainers always want a little leeway, he got up to 85.  And then Brooks, when I talked to him before warm up, I said, how are you feeling?  And he says, unless something happens, I’m pretty sure I’m going to go. And I asked him when he came off, are you good to go?  And he says, yeah.  I says, no hesitation?  And he said none.

Tonight he was fantastic.  He played like 24 minutes.  A lot of kills, which is what he does.  You can only admire what he does and brings to the group.  He just makes everybody better.  He doesn’t say a whole lot in the room, he says everything with how he plays and how he lives and his actions and his commitment to the game.  So, it really is an important piece to what we’re trying to do here in Washington.

Q.  What did you learn about Alex and the way that he does seem to kind of relish this big stage?

BARRY TROTZ:  Alex, the bigger the stage, the bigger Alex is.  Alex is a — he’s a rock star.  When I was in the other conference I didn’t see the Caps a lot, but Alex has this ability, as the great stars do, that you want to keep your eyes on him.  Even if he’s not doing anything good, bad, or indifferent, you want to watch him.  And that’s what’s star power does.  You want to watch those guys out there. You can say, you know, bad game, good game, whatever, you can pick him apart, but you want to watch him. That, to me, is a star.

The bigger the stage, the more Alex stands up to it. There’s a lot of players in this league who want the big stage, but when they’re put in the spotlight, they’re not as big.  I think that the great players of their generation, and Alex is one, is that, when the stage is very big, you know what you’re going to get and you’re going to get a good performance, a great performance.

I know, since I’ve been coaching Alex and we have gone around, a lot of people want to tear him apart, but how many superstars have scored as many goals, how many superstars put people in the seats, how many superstars play as physical as Alex Ovechkin.  There’s not very many.  And that’s what makes him unique.  He’s been a pleasure to coach and very easy to coach, really.

Q.  You mentioned first time on the big stage for a lot of guys in this organization.  Is this something, come playoff time, that they can draw back on to help them through a playoff run on the big stage?

BARRY TROTZ:  Yeah, I think so.  Any player that gets on the big stage and is a part of it, grows as a person, as a player, and we needed more of that.  In the organization.  We have got some young guys who have been there, we have got some older guys who have forgotten a little bit about what it takes and are re-learning that a little bit. To have this stage is, it’s important for what we want to do.

We’re not near where we want to get to.  We played the Chicago Blackhawks, they have won Stanley Cups. To me, that’s still the gold standard.  Until they’re knocked off the pedestal they’re still the gold standard. We aspire, in this organization, to be the best and you’re not the best until you can put a Stanley Cup banner up in the rafters here.

Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz Winter Classic media availability

[Courtesy NHL public relations]
Q.  What were your impressions on the conditions of the ice; the glare.  A lot of people have been talking about that, but you were able to get on the ice about an hour before?

BARRY TROTZ:  Yeah, I think that the ice is phenomenal.  It really was.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  Dan Craig and his staff did a great job.  Obviously, they’re getting really good at it, they have done a number of these events in different conditions and he’s the best in the business. So the ice will not be a problem.  Boards will not be a problem. The glare, we were out earlier and everyone said there was a lot of glare, but towards the end it settled down.  So, roughly a half hour ago, probably, the game would start and I think it will be fine. I think we have come up with a, maybe a little bit of a solution, if it is a little bit bright, we’ll probably switch ends or something like that for the 10-minute mark.  Chicago and us have been talking about a possibility of that. So, I think it will be fine.  It will be, if it stays gorgeous, like it was like that today, it will be a great game tomorrow.Q.  Will Brooks play tomorrow?

TROTZ:  Brooks is taking warm up and he will tell me if he’s playing.  But he is feeling much better and we will not put him at risk.

Q.  If he does not play, how much do you think the pairs will change?  It looked like you’re going to put Schmidt with Carlson, but what do you want to see out of those guys together?

TROTZ:  Well, if Brooks is in there we won’t see that.  But if they are together they’re going to have a real tough challenge, obviously, with the Hawks. Look at them, they’re a real deep team.  They got nine pretty productive forwards, but obviously they got some weight on their big line, with Toews and Hossa and Saad that is a line that has a lot of weight to it.  And obviously they got Richards and a guy like Kane, who is really dynamic, so we’ll have our hands full.  No matter who we put on ice, trust me.

Q.  Can you talk about the way Holtby has been playing these past few weeks and how comfortable are you continuing to ride him the way you have?

TROTZ:  I’m very comfortable.  I think he’s worked on a lot of things with Mitch and our goal tending staff. Also, I think just our system is a lot different than maybe the previous year in terms of who we’re playing and the additions or Niskanen and Orpik. I think early Braden’s biggest problem was he wasn’t getting very many shots early, and that’s hard for a goalie, when you’re used to getting a lot of shots, not getting as much.  I think he’s got more comfortable, he’s worked on his game. I feel very comfortable.  He works hard.  He’s got that sort of blue collar mentality where he really works at his game and he’s filling in the holes where he knows he needs to fill in and he’s done a really good job.  So I’ll ride him as hard or as long as he says I’m good to go, so.

Q.  That 10-minute mark scenario that you talked about, would that be something that you and Joel [Quenneville, Blackhawks coach] have to come to a consensus?

TROTZ:  Yeah.

Q.  Or does the staff?

TROTZ:  It would be something with us and the league.  But everybody would have to know that that would happen.  But the league’s done this a few times and they talked about scenarios and that’s one of them that came up.  Maybe we go at halftime.
But they’re on the ice right now, so they will get a real idea of that.  So when they come off, I’m sure there will be a conversation between myself, NHL, and Joel.

Q.  Would you feel comfortable doing something like that that’s a little unorthodox?

TROTZ:  I think it’s fair.  I think it’s fair.  You know.  If they wanted to stay in one end, if it’s really glary, they can. (Laughter.) I’ll take the shaded area.

Q.  How did the decision come about putting CR on the back of your helmets for the players and why was it so important for you guys to do that?

TROTZ:  Well, I think what you find out in this community, hockey community, it’s a lot smaller than the people think.  The trainers are very, very close.  They are very tight, just as the players are, across the league.  The coaches, all that. When a member goes down, they all want to show their respect.  I reached out to, made a phone call to Joel, the trainers called the trainers, and I asked if they would — we didn’t want to take anything away from what Chicago was doing and representing, but we do, our trainers wanted to do it, so we reached out to Chicago and asked them.  And they were gracious enough to do it.

Q.  Circle back to Orpik for a minute.  You said he’ll tell you.  What’s a player have to do to earn that kind of trust from you and what has he meant to you?  You guys have had a pretty good month, what has he meant to you and how does it impact you when he’s out there?

TROTZ:  He’s been huge.  One of the things is that Brooks demands a lot of respect.  You’ll find that there’s some players that you’ll have in your locker room, every team, that they do everything right, they say all the right things, and they don’t have to talk a lot, they don’t have to say a word.  They just show up to work every day. You come in our locker room, Brooks Orpik will probably get the most respect of almost anybody.  Because he’s earned it.  He’s a champion.  He’s a pro.  He’s a good teammate.  There’s a lot of respect that goes around without even saying a word. And he’s really helped our young defense.  I think John Carlson has benefited playing with Brooks Orpik, I think Karl Alzner’s benefited from watching Brooks Orpik, and Matty Niskanen — it’s had a really good affect on him and Mike Green and that.  It’s sort of filters right down through our whole organization.  Those are two really important signings for us this summer.

Q.  And you really will have him tell you if he is ready to go?

TROTZ:  Absolutely.  Yeah.  Structurally there’s nothing wrong with him, it’s — Brooks is a pro enough to know, “Can I help the team or would I hurt the team?” If he feels that he’s not there and he might hurt us, then he will definitely be honest and say to me, hey, I just got to bypass this one.  He’s that quality of a guy.  So we know if he’s not playing tomorrow, then he’ll be playing the next game for sure.

Q.  How do you handle — this is your first NHL Winter Classic — how do you handle the balance that you have to have with reminding yourself that this isn’t an exhibition game, it’s two points in the standings, and what’s your message to your players addressing that?

TROTZ:  Really the message is enjoy this experience.  Let’s face it, this is pretty unique and it’s something that you don’t always get to do.  So you want to share it with your family. One of the things that I have tried to do with our group is just make sure that — be pros about it.  We have got such great people that care about people and you want to take care of your families and you’re dealing with — we got members here that got 60 people.  How do we get to the rink?  Where is my pass?  Where is my tickets?  And where do we go, what time. And that becomes, for creatures of habit, which athletes are, it can be really distracting.

So, our team services and our people have done a really good job, I think, as a staff, we have done a really good job of keeping that in order; and then we have had a couple of veteran guys who have gone through this before.  I think that’s helped. And we basically said, hey, if you want to be — we got to be pros about it.  If your house is brimming with people and friends and family, then tonight would be a really good time to get a hotel room and get your rest.  Because I think that, at bottom line, this is such a spectacular event, but the bottom line for the Washington Capitals and the Chicago Blackhawks, these are big points in the standings.  And I know we can’t afford to give up any points to anybody.

Q.  Do you think you’ll get butterflies out there?

TROTZ:  I will.  I will.  I always get butterflies before every game.  You see me pacing.  But when that goes away, that will be the time to walk away. But tomorrow will be different.  It will be like a playoff game.  It will be like something that you haven’t done.  It’s strange, for people that haven’t been out there, when you go on the ice, the ice seems smaller.  I was wondering if maybe the dimensions were right, because everything is so spread out.  But it is. You realize that the game’s still played on the same size ice, but your brain and your visuals are off. I wonder how it was for the goalies.  I haven’t asked my goalies, but I know it will be, because of the depth perception and one goalie, obviously, we were going with faking our shots, you know, at the net for the first couple.

But I think it’s a unique experience and I said right after practice, put it simply is, when it ended, instead of going around and having fun and shooting, I have to remind the players that that was an opportunity to share this experience with, obviously, the people they love, people that they care about, and friends and family. So, don’t think about yourself right now, think about the people that you’re taking care of, but as soon as this is, that experience is over, you might go for a meal, and that, and then you have to realize what you are, you’re a pro athlete playing in a big game tomorrow.

Q.  The Capitals and Blackhawks do so much with the USA Warriors, can you talk about the program?

TROTZ:  Yeah, they practice at Kettler a lot and they’re phenomenal to watch.  I am blown away, number one, of how they can perform, what they do on the ice, but what they have done for the country, all those things, that’s a special group. We’re very supportive and one day we’re going to do something with them, when I get a little more comfortable in the community, I know that I’ve been talking to a couple people, we will get together and make a special day for a couple of the communities in Washington, because the organization is really about that.  So, we’ll get really involved with them.

Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden’s Tuesday press availability

From a team press release:

On if the play of quarterback Colt McCoy eases pressure on the possible return of Robert Griffin III: “Well, we are not going to rush Robert back no matter what happens. You know, we are going to make sure that he is 100 percent, and until we feel like he is 100 percent, Colt will still play. And Colt did a great job obviously leading us to victory against Dallas, but it’s all going to be predicated on when the doctors say he is 100 percent, when Robert feels like he is 100 percent and when I feel like he is ready to take the game time reps.”

On anything that stood out to him about McCoy’s play: “I like the way he competed, No. 1. You know, he wasn’t perfect by any stretch but he competed his butt off, made some huge throws, some good scrambles, you know, a great quarterback draw for a touchdown – dove in there. Just a great competitor, you love to have that competitive spirit at your quarterback position. You never really quite know until you see him out there with the lights on and under pressure, so I just love his competitive spirit and the way he handled the pressure.”

On if he was trying to motivate running back Alfred Morris by giving Silas Redd, Jr. a series: “No, I think it was just – if it motivated him good, but it wasn’t anything to punish Alfred. It was just to get Silas Redd a couple carries and we like to have – we feel good about all three of those backs. I haven’t been good enough to get Silas some touches throughout the game so far. I think he showed in Jacksonville he has got a great knack for finding holes, he’s got great feet and in the preseason did some really good things. We just haven’t had a lot of opportunities to get another back in there with the way Roy [Helu, Jr.] and Alfred have been playing, but I thought it was a good time to take a look at Silas. Unfortunately, he put the ball on the ground but it was reviewed and we got it back. It was nothing meant to say, ‘Hey Alfred, we are trying to replace you’ or anything like that. I was just subbing guys in there and keeping backs fresh.”

On if he is starting to feel more comfortable with the performance in the running game: “Yeah, I do, I do. It was a good night. We stuck with it and got some good clips, it was a good to see Alfred break one, had a 20-something yarder. Roy had a couple good hits, got a good one on the draw, got a good one on the one-back power-type thing. So, there is something to be very optimistic about in our running game. The most important thing is to show that we can run it. Obviously when can run it you have to make a decision defensively. Are you going to have that guy in the box or are you going to bring that extra defender which opens up DeSean [Jackson] and Pierre [Garçon] in a big way?”

On how McCoy responded to the interception: “He was upset at himself, no question about it. But, I think his demeanor was great the whole time. He was pretty much poised – I think early in the game he might have been a little bit overexcited, pumped up – You know what I mean? Playing back in Texas and Monday Night Football – but after the first couple series where he had a rough start so to speak, he still had a calm demeanor about himself and was talking about the next series. Really nothing of cause of alarm, we just had to get him settled down and play the position the right way.”

On if there was a play that stood out from McCoy’s performance: “Oh, the quarterback draw. You know, it was blocked pretty good but to find that crease and dive in the end zone is pretty gutsy, you know, to dive in head first on third down and six or seven at the seven-yard line. Makes that type of call look very genius by myself, but really he made it all happen. Great block by Jordan Reed, Kory [Lichtensteiger] got up on the safety and Colt did the rest.”

On if he has grasped the magnitude of this win and what it could mean for the season: “I read somewhere after we lost our fifth game that we were playing meaningless games from here on out, which is pretty far from the truth. You know, we wanted to come out against Tennessee and get a win, and then obviously come out and compete against Dallas on Monday Night Football and prove that we aren’t dead, you know? We still have a pulse, our heart is still beating, and we have a lot to play for still. And that’s what that game meant for us, man. It showed the hard work that we put in. The resilience that we’re showing is paying off, and we’ve just got to keep it going. You know, we dug ourselves in a mighty hole at 1-5, and we understand that moving forward, but we’re not dead. We still have a little bit of a pulse left.”

On if Griffin III and McCoy will likely split first-team reps in practices this week: “Yeah. Tomorrow’s a typical Wednesday for us, but we can’t really go full speed. Because we played Monday night and we got in so late, we’ll probably have to have more of a jog-through, walkthrough-type tempo tomorrow. So that’s going to take a little bit off. It’ll be a little bit of an issue. But Thursday we’ll get some really good work, Friday we’ll get some real good work, and then we’ll make the decision. I think Robert is very, very, very close, and we just have to decide if he’s ready. Physically, I think he’ll be ready to go. Doctors are feeling pretty good about it — they still want to see him running around this week until they make their final determination as far as clearing him, but I just want to make sure he feels good in the pocket moving forward with everything.”

On if he can look forward to a possible opportunity to continue the momentum the next couple of games: “That’s what the intent is. You know, we’re not looking really beyond the Vikings. You know, they’re obviously a very good defensive football team. I know Mike Zimmer very well and what he does with those players on defense. I was with him the past three years in Cincinnati, and he coaches them extremely well, and they have some good personnel over there. And then offensively they have a rookie quarterback, but he’s very talented, and they’ve got some skill over there. So for us to look past the Vikings at 3-5 would kind of be pretty stupid, so we have to focus all our energy and time on the Minnesota Vikings this week, and then what happens after the bye happens after the bye. But this is a huge game for us — they all are because we dug ourselves into this hole. We were 1-5, and we’ve got to pretty much win and win often to have a chance. So one game a time is our motto. I know it’s cliché, but that’s the only way we can go about things.”

On using motivational techniques for the Cowboys and how he can motivate the team against the Vikings: “I just think you have to continue to build off what you were doing. You know, the success that we had against Dallas, you know, our ability to come back against Tennessee… Like I said, get that big stop for our defense, and I think to get the ball back and go down and get the winning field goal against Tennessee, build off of that momentum, go to Dallas on the road, win on Monday night. We just have  to continue to build off of the momentum. You know, the blocks that we’re paving — we’ve just got to continue to build and get better and better, and I think when you start seeing success, you start seeing the work that you’re putting in paying off. The concepts that are working offensively; defensively, the blitzes, the coverages, all that stuff — when players see, ‘OK, this is how it’s supposed to be done, when you do it right, this is what it’s supposed to look like,’ it’s pretty exciting, and guys are excited to come to work and see what’s next — ‘Hey, what plays you got in for me this week? What defense you got? What blitzes you got?’ So I think we can continue to build on that moving forward. I think guys are excited to come back in here to work and, you know, success can really do wonders for players’ psyches. You know, they come in with a little bit bounce in their step and they’re ready to roll. I think every pro football game — I know the Dallas Cowboys is a special deal; Monday Night Football, at Dallas, division rivalry, all of that good stuff — but every game is very, very important. Every game is very, very hard, and if you overlook anybody, you’re going to do is get beat. We’re not in a position to do that by any stretch.”

On the delay of game penalties: “I think one time we caused it, we were late getting the play in early in the game, and that was on us. But the other one, the last one at the end, you know, we had 18-19 seconds left as they broke the huddle, and the quarterback’s got to know the play clock at some point. We just were really slow getting to the line, and that’s something that’s got to be addressed — our tempo, breaking the huddle, calling the play, breaking the huddle, getting to the line. Getting the play in isn’t the issue. It’s breaking the huddle, the receivers’ have got to get to the line quicker, we’ve got to send our motion quicker, and we always, as a quarterback, have to know what the shot clock is, and get the play off. I mean, that’s what the quarterback – that’s one of their responsibilities. And when I saw it going down to 3, 2, 1, I had the one timeout left — I wanted to save it — but I thought we were going to get it off, and then I was too far from the referee to call a timeout with one second and we got a delay of game. That’s one, in my mind, if you’re going to critique Colt for his interception, and then the two delay of game penalties, you can’t have as a quarterback. You don’t see veteran quarterbacks take delay of games very often.”

On the learning curve for the quarterbacks in gauging DeSean Jackson’s speed: “We throw to him plenty in practice, but sometimes he gets on that fast track – that turf out there – and then he’s rolling. We’ve just got to get them out there. We’ve got to get them out there to him and continue to work him. Sometimes he gets jammed at the line of scrimmage and doesn’t get going quite as fast, but when the ball’s in the air, he’s got unbelievable speed and tracking ability to go get it. So we’ve just got to understand as quarterbacks, all of them, they can lay it out there a lot farther than they think they can. I think we’ve only overthrown him maybe twice since I’ve been here in practice. It’s pretty incredible. That’s an incredible guy tracking the ball. The first deep one, if he throws it out there, it’s a touchdown, but at least we completed the dang thing.”

On what he said to the offense to quell their frustration at halftime: “It’s a tough deal. It’s Monday Night Football and everybody wants to show up and show that they’ve put in the time and work and they really want to help this football team win. When their number’s not called and they’re not getting looks, getting the ball thrown to them, they get frustrated. So would I if I was playing wide receiver. I probably would’ve been in the same situation with them. As competitors, as football players, you want to have every opportunity to help the team win and move the ball. When you have three points and you’re 0-for-4 on third down and you haven’t got a touch or get the ball thrown your way, you’d be mad if you’ve had success that some of these guys have had in their careers. It’s just a matter of calming them down, trying to tell them to hang in there, we still have another half to play and we’ll get it to them. They have to trust that. Sometimes you’ve got to let them vent a little bit, but ultimately it’s a 60-minute game and we had to have them for the second half play at a high level and I think they all did that despite being a little frustrated in the first half.”

On cornerbacks Bashaud Breeland and David Amerson: “They were outstanding, both of them. Not so much in the cover ability, which they both covered extremely well, but tackling. They were great tacklers. There were some open field tackles, and really you look at Breeland, you see all the plays that he had were good – the pass breakups, the tackles – but I thought the most impressive play he had was coming all the way over from the other side of the field and tackling DeMarco Murray at the five-yard line on his long run. A lot of players might have taken that one off, and if he wasn’t hustling and flying from the other side of the field, he scores there. Instead of him scoring, we held them to three points on that possession. That’s the two plays that Breeland broke up on [Dez] Bryant back to back. That whole series right there was very impressive for Breeland. Amerson was steady, as always, but the guy who really didn’t get a lot of love was [Brandon] Meriweather. He had probably his best game since I’ve been here. He had tackles. He had sacks. He had fumbles, fumble recoveries, forced fumble, he was all over the place so it was great to see him show up in a big way the way he did.”

On the backup quarterback if Griffin III returns: “That’s a good question. We’d love to dress three quarterbacks. They’re all worthy of playing, man. I said this before, Kirk’s did some great things, man, and I think his career is still going to be very good in the NFL, it’s just that Colt has shown – you see what Colt does. He’s done that every day in practice that he’s been out here. He’s a viable option, also. When we’re struggling with the turnovers and the third down percentage, I thought Colt had earned the right to have a crack at it and he proved that he can do it. If Robert comes back, then we’ll have to make a decision the second quarterback, whoever that it is, or dress all three of them and that’ll be determined when Robert comes back.”

On if he could feel confidence building for a team throughout a game and if he could feel that last night: “Yeah, you could feel it. I think that really, to me, it stemmed from our defense. Our offense did some decent things – the first half we weren’t very good – but when your defense is flying around, sacking the quarterback, doing what they were doing, it’s pretty exciting. Then our special teams did some good things. You just feel you always have a chance to win the game when your defense is playing like that. It gave our offense a chance to get going. We were a little slow started – offense – in the first half. We took the ball and drove 80 yards to start the third quarter which really gave our defense even more reason to fly around to the football. It gave everybody confidence. I think the opening drive in the third quarter was huge, but that wouldn’t have been possible without the defense playing the way they did in the first half to keep us in there.”

On if there were any noteworthy injuries from last night: “No, not really. Like I said, [Ryan] Kerrigan’s going to be fine, [Kedric] Golston’s got some stitches in his nose, Colt came in and his calves were sore, but he’s going to be fine. Nothing really of note.”

On safety Ryan Clark saying he’s been playing with a torn bicep: “Yeah, he’s been dealing with that a little bit, but he’s OK.”

On how much input he had in Defensive Coordinator Jim Haslett’s game plan last night: “Well, we work on stuff during the week. Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, we have the periods of blitzes and coverages that they install and we watch practice and that’s what the plan is and that was the plan going in. He dialed them up. Sometimes I closed my eyes and watched them but I was ready for them and I had total faith in what they were doing because I saw them during the week and I thought they’d be successful also. So he has total control of the defense and did a great job.”

On if he feels rewarded by his faith in kicker Kai Forbath heading into the season: “Yeah, he’s done a good job. He’s one of those guys that in practice you say, ‘You know, we should probably look at another kicker,’ but game day, he rises to the occasion all the time. He tells me all the time, ‘Hey, don’t worry about it. I’m a gamer. If I miss a couple in practice or pregame warmup – I don’t think he made a kick – I’m good. I’ll make them in the game.’ ‘OK, Kai.’ Sure enough, he makes them in a game. We just have to take that into consideration, man. He’s been a gamer. Him and Tress [Way] both, man, have been very, very impressive helping out our kicking game. Obviously Akeem [Davis] did some great things covering kicks and made a big block for Andre [Roberts], so special teams has been a bright spot the last couple of weeks. They’re coming on and doing what they’re supposed to do and it’s led by the kickers.”

On the 15-yard substitution penalty: “I guess since he was in the huddle, they thought we were trying to deceive the other team. It was a deception substitution, so they gave us a 15-yard penalty. I had never heard of that one, so it was a rookie move on my part. We sent in Niles [Paul] late. We had a special play call for Niles, and [Offensive Coordinator] Sean [McVay] thought he was already in there. I thought he was already in there, but Logan was in there so we tried to make a quick substitution and got flagged for it. That was a mistake on both our parts and it was a costly one. We had coaching errors – offensively, defensively – that we need to correct also in big games like that. That substitution penalty, my not taking a timeout there at the end of the regulation when I should have been standing closer to the ref, those are costly. We can’t have those happen.”

Washington Nationals NLDS Game 2 pregame press conference

Washington Nationals manager Matt Williams addressed the media in advance of Game 2 of the NLDS. Here are some quick nuggets from that availability.

  • No decision has been made on the Game 4 starter yet. Williams said his attention was on today’s game and a decision will be made at a later date. With Tanner Roark in the bullpen, the debate appears to be whether Gio Gonzalez would take the start or if the team would bring back Stephen Strasburg on four days rest.
  • Williams said he did not give consideration to pinch-hitting Ryan Zimmerman for Adam LaRoche in the sixth inning of Game 1 when the Giants called upon lefty Javier Lopez to face LaRoche. “Adam’s been our 4-hitter all year long,” Williams said. LaRoche walked against Lopez.
  • LaRoche said he saw Lopez “okay” in the at bat and that he expects to see the sidearming lefty late in games throughout the series.
  • Both Williams and LaRoche said the hey to facing Giants starter Tim Hudson is to exercise patience. Williams said Hudson does a good job keeping the ball down in the zone with his sinker, while LaRoche said you have to get to Hudson “early” and not let him get into a rhythm. “Once he gets rolling he’s really good.”
  • Williams discussed the possibility of Ian Desmond missing a game as his wife, Chelsea, is close to her due date. He said they haven’t gotten to the point about consulting with the league about a roster exemption should she go into labor on a day game, but that the primary concern is for Chelsea and the baby.

Washington Redskins coach Jay Gruden’s Friday media availability

Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden discussed what he was going to do to correct Kirk Cousins’s interception problem: “He’s a young guy playing the position, and young guys playing that position at this level will tend to make mistakes from time to time.

We’ve just got to make sure he sees the throws a little bit better and his eyes are in the right spot. There’s a couple of them that he stared down the receiver and the safety just came over and made an easy pick.”

Gruden went into more detail. “One of them [Cousins] just had bad location on the ball to Ryan Grant, and another one he threw a blind one to the out route when he was throwing to Andre Roberts and the nickel was sitting right there. He never saw him, which you have to see those throws. You’ve got to get his eyes in the right spot, got to calm in down, and then we’ve got to help him out as play callers to get him more comfortable.”

Gruden was asked if he was worried about Cousins’s performance coming off two good games: “It’s worrisome – you have to take the game for what it is. We lost the game, he didn’t play very well, he threw four picks, we understand that, and a fumble, but he didn’t have a lot of help, either.

There weren’t a lot of people – the defense didn’t help him out, the offensive line didn’t help him out, the receivers didn’t help him out. There’s a lot of other factors that we could have had better game, a better outing, if other people were helping more.

It’s not just Kirk. Kirk, his mistakes are magnified obviously, but there are other guys who had mistakes that were equally important and devastating to the football game.

We just have to continue to work to get better, and we will, but we’re not going to hold Kirk’s head under the water right now. We’re going to keep him composed and getting better, and he’s going to be fine next week.”

Gruden discussed using his playcalling to get Cousins into a rhythm: “Well, you try to get them into the rhythm. Obviously, that’s the entire goal, and getting him into that rhythm is the short-passing game, maybe, maybe taking a shot or something like that that you feel really good about – the look you’re going to get and the protection you’re going to have.

Obviously, getting the running game involved, and then as the game goes on we have a sack-fumble, we start to throw the interceptions and that’s when you’ve got to try to limit your damage.

That’s when you might have to take some pressure off of him – maybe hand the ball off, try some screens or something of that nature.

We were down by a couple scores and we chose to really still try to press the ball down the field a little bit to try and get back into the game because I never felt like we were out of the game until we were down 24 there at the end.

The mistakes kept mounting, so we’ll just have to do a good job in the future of trying to keep the game close, No.1, so we can run the ball and punt and throw the screen every now and then I don’t have to worry about it.

But last night was a little bit of a different deal. We were down 10, then 17, then 24, so we were forced to kind of throw it.”

Gruden detailed what went wrong on the first turnover of the game, when Mathias Kiwanuka sacked and then stripped Cousins: “Well, that was probably on Polumbus.

Kirk was looking to the left – we had a three-man route combination route to the left. They actually covered it pretty good so Kirk, since his eyes were to the left, he never saw [Mathias] Kiwanuka coming around the corner. He beat him clean.

It was a great pass rush by him but we have got to do a better job of being competitive there at right tackle on those tough downs – those third-down-and-eights where you’re trying to get the ball and drive it past the sticks. They’re going to take a little extra time letting those route combinations develop.

For a quarterback to make his reads, we’ve got to do a better job protecting him. They had a good pass rush. That’s why staying out of third-and-eights and third-and-nine is crucial for any offense to be successful – especially this one.”

Blowout recovery

Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden was asked about what disturbed him most about Thursday night’s blowout loss to the New York Giants: “I think the most disturbing thing was – obviously, the outcome was disturbing – but I just think, obviously offensively, when you have six turnovers and the penalties, that’s very disturbing.

Defensively, our inability to get pressure on the quarterback, get off the field on third down and really just pose any kind of physical threat to the Giant offense was disturbing. We’re running to the ball, we’re trying hard, they just had our number.

For whatever reason, we were lacking the ability to contest short throws and we’ve got to do better job of that. There’s a lot of disturbing things in that game, unfortunately it didn’t go the way we wanted, but we will learn from it and move on.”

Gruden talked about his short-term plans for the next few days: “I’m giving them a couple days off to recuperate, get their minds and bodies right. We need them healthy, both mentally and physically.

We are going to challenge them to come back and learn from this and make sure they do everything in their power to not do this again, especially in front of our home crowd. We’re obviously very disappointed in how we played in front of our home crowd.

But the big thing is we’ve got to get out bodies healthy, we’ve got to get our minds healthy and we’ve got to make sure our commitment is in the right spot- and we come back committed to turning this thing around.

The first quarter is over of the season, we are 1-3, so we still have three quarters left and we can still do a lot of damage and still achieve all our goals. We’ve just got to get this thing turned around quickly if our frame of mind is right and we get out guys healthy.”

Gruden discussed the idea that the Redskins needed this blowout as a wake-up call. “We’ve had some success a little bit. We went to Philadelphia, they played hard, lost 37-34. We had a lot of things go wrong as far as some unfortunate mistakes.

But, you know, I just think that sometimes you need a beating like this to let people know that you have a lot of work to do. When you’re in close games like that and you win 41-10 with 10 sacks on defense and you have 500 yards of offense the next week, people tend to think that they might be a little bit better than they are and coaches included.

So, despite being -2, I just think that now that we’re 1-3, reality check has come in full force and we don’t have a choice now. There’s no wasted reps now. We have to take advantage of all our reps and all of our time together to get this thing turned around because we have dug ourselves into a hole so to speak and we’ve got to get out of it quickly.”

Gruden isn’t worried that the Redskins will be too emotionally scarred by the blowout: “I think we have a good group of guys, man, character-wise. And I’m hoping this is a wakeup call. You know, it’s like I said last night, a slap in the face that ‘Hey, you’re not as good as you think you are. You have a lot more work to do than you think you do.’

And hopefully they’ll get it done and realize that. Both coaches are players realize that we have to put in the extra time, we have to put in the extra work, we have to put in the extra preparation, we have to stay focused for longer and work harder for us to be successful because we can’t just put our uniform on and jog onto the field and act like we’re going to beat peoples’ butt without working. We have to work a little bit harder than the next guy and if we have that mentality coming back then we’re going to be competitive in all our games.

If not, if we’re feeling sorry for ourselves or giving up on each other, then we have no chance.

But, I feel very strongly that the group of guys that we have and coaches will get the most out of them and get the most out of this season.”


Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden talked about the lack of discipline that manifested itself in so many penalties: “There is a couple times we give the guys 15 more yards or give them a extra down. Heck, they had third down and goal at the two-yard line and we get a stop and they call illegal holding or something on Perry Riley, which was really a shaky call anyway.

We have to do a better job. We try to talk about penalties, we show penalties, we have done everything we can, we’ve just got to continue to focus on them.

Defensively, offensively we had some more holding calls last night, Logan [Paulsen] had one, Trent [Williams] had one, we had a false start on Trent.

All these become very magnified in close games and we are going have a lot of close games. We don’t have the personnel right now to line up and beat anybody handily. So we have to make sure we protect the football and eliminate the penalties for us to win the way we need to win.”

Gruden elaborated on the penalties committed on special teams: “The penalty on the extra point? Well, you had the one offsides on Tracy Porter which was uncalled for, that was just being lazy.

The other one was [Clifton] Geathers. He tried to jump over the offensive lineman and we know that is illegal. I’ve heard Coach [Ben] Kotwica say you can’t do that. We have shown tape of not being able to do that but Geathers tried to do it anyway and got caught for it.

That’s part of being accountable and that is something we just have to continue to preach to our team. All those penalties, man, they become very magnified when you lose, but they are also going to keep you down from winning games in the future.

We play Seattle, we play Dallas twice, we still play the Giants again and Philly. We have a great schedule ahead of us.

And these penalties, like you guys are saying, are going to cost us dearly. We have to address them as a staff, but ultimately it is up to the players being accountable for what they are doing and we just cannot allow it.”

Gruden spoke about left tackle Trent Williams’s two penalties: “Yeah, it’s unfortunate because other than those two penalties he really played well. You never even heard [Jason] Pierre-Paul’s name.

He really did a great job all night in pass protection and in the run game, but he did have the unfortunate hold. He was on them and they both went to the ground and usually when both the defensive linemen and offensive linemen go to the ground, they’ll call it on the offensive lineman.

Then he had the false start, which he got a little too ahead of himself.

Overall, when you play 60-plus play and you have two negative plays, you know penalties, you want to eliminate the penalties but he still played pretty good, I think.”


Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden was asked what changes schematically or intensity-wise would he make after Thursday night’s debacle against the New York Giants.

“The guys are playing hard, there’s no doubt about it. We just failed to make some plays.

We have a couple of young corners. Losing DeAngelo Hall and Bashaud [Breeland] had to play a lot of minutes early in the game at corner for the first time after not getting any live reps in practice that week because of the short week. [It] had a little bit of impact on him.

And then, of course, the soreness and the injuries to Hatcher and Orakpo hurt our pass rush a little bit in my opinion. And we lost Jarvis Jenkins early, so he was down.

I don’t think schematically was really the issue, I just think we failed to make some plays. There’s some things we could do schematically a little bit different, and I will go in and see what’s going on and if I can help in any way and put my two cents in and change a few things we will, but I don’t really think it’s really schematic-related.

I think more so it was just guys not making plays and finishing tackles and competing when the ball was in the air.

And not to mention, it was Eli Manning making some dynamic throws and being very efficient. He showed why he’s won two Super Bowls. He came in and was efficient and made some good plays.”

Gruden commented on the toll injuries took on the Redskins pass rush: “I think that was a big factor, really. You could see [Jason] Hatcher didn’t have the same pop off the line of scrimmage as he normally has. I don’t think he really trusted his hamstring. You could see that. [Brian] Orakpo, ‘It’s just a finger,’ you say, but for a pass rusher, to be able to use that left hand or use his hands quite a bit, to not be able to use them, you could see it affect his pass rush. So those are two very glaring reasons why the pass rush wasn’t there.

Also, there wasn’t a lot of great pass rush opportunities. I think they were only in third-and-long a handful of times and they got those balls out quick. So we’ve got to do a better job on first and second down, like I said before.

We’ve got to do a much better job contesting throws on the outside as far as playing bump and run, knocking receivers off their [routes], getting off the line of scrimmage, not letting them have free releases and making easy, uncontested throws. We’ve got to do a better job of contesting throws.”

Gruden was asked about the defensive backs’ inability to get a jam on the Giants receivers coming off the line of scrimmage: “No, they were trying to. We asked them to do it. If you’re in bump and run, it’s called ‘bump’ and run for a reason and we just weren’t getting a good piece of them.

And hats off to the Giants’ receivers for doing a good job of being patient at the line of scrimmage and working their releases and getting off cleanly, but we’ve got to do a better job as defensive backs and linebackers when we’re out there playing bump and run – get hands on them and reroute the guys.

That wasn’t happening, and when you reroute them, it gives your defensive linemen that extra count to get home. Since we weren’t rerouting them, receivers were getting off clean and Eli [Manning] was throwing everything on rhythm and didn’t really have to pull the ball down at all to go to his second or third receiver.

He was pretty efficient on who he wanted to go to and was able to get it out quick and didn’t really let our defensive line get a chance to pressure him.”

Recap of Washington Redskins head coach Jay Gruden’s Monday Press Conference

Washington Redskins head coach was available to the media on Monday after losing his coaching debut at the Houston Texans on Sunday, 17-6. Gruden spoke on injuries and strategy, and also looked back on the loss to the Texans.

Gruden talked about Barry Cofield and Jordan Reed’s respective injuries as the Sunday game against the Jacksonville Jaguars quickly approaches:

Cofield has a high ankle sprain. He’s getting checked out today, but it looks like he could miss some time. Then Jordan Reed has a mild hamstring strain and that’s another one. He was very sore after the game, so that could be some time also … we did the MRIs on both of them. So, we’ll see how it goes. We have the trainer and  it’ll probably be a week or two or three. We’ll see.

It’s very difficult [having Reed out]. You have a lot of formations and part of your game plan designed around him, playing him outside, in the slot and all that. When he goes out after the seventh play of offense, it hurts you a little bit. But, luckily we had other things we could do. We didn’t do them very well, but we were able to do some other things. But he was a major part of the game plan, especially in the red zone. But, it didn’t work out that way and now we’ve just got to get him well as soon as we can and keep moving.

Chris Russell reported on Tuesday afternoon that that the Redskins will use a short-term IR designation on Cofield.

Gruden is trying to take a positive outlook on the mental mistakes that had a significant impact on the team’s loss to Houston:

Well, you try to be the positive one – and you look at [the fact that] there are very correctable mistakes that we made. The one thing I did like was our defense was flying around to the ball – there’s a lot of good things on tape, but we had some monumental mistakes that can’t happen in pro football. You can’t fumble the ball in the red zone, you can’t give up big plays, and you can’t let a guy rush inside of a wing guy on a punt protection.

There are some things that are very correctable obviously, but there are some things that we did well, but we just didn’t play good enough all the way around. There is a good thing – offense, defense, and special teams – they all had their hands in this loss. It wasn’t like it was just the offense, just the defense, just the special teams – I think everybody can really take a long look at themselves in a mirror and realize that everybody could’ve done something better, and hopefully they will and move forward to next week.

Robert Griffin III went 29-for-37 for 267 yards against Houston, but had no touchdowns and looked ineffective in the pocket, often not throwing the ball away under pressure. Gruden talked about his quarterback’s play, saying that he did well:

It was pretty good. He did some good things, obviously, and  there are some plays there that I’m sure he wishes he had back obviously as everybody does in that game. We took a sack at the 34-yard line when we’re in field goal range – didn’t have much protection, but we’ve got to throw it away. We took a sack on a screen pass in a two-minute drill that we can’t have happen, but he did complete I think 75 or 80 percent of his passes, which were good, but really to score six points on offense – not quite good enough.

Finally, the rookie head coach also critiqued his own performance. Gruden said that from a play-calling standpoint, there are things he could have done better:

Yeah, we could have done better in the first half. First half we were poor, I was poor in the first half and we could have had a nice lead. However, we didn’t execute and I took some shots with play-actions that failed miserably, and didn’t quite work out, but you’re right. Defensively we’ve got to do a better job of getting off the field on third down.

If you look at the stats, if you’re a stat person, third downs were a major issue for us on offense and on defense. They were 50 percent, I think we were 25 percent and that’s a huge issue. Third-and-six, they get a first down, they gain seven. Now that not only obviously gives them better field position, it eats up another minute and a half of the clock. Hats off to Houston playing good ball control offense and keeping the offense off the field, but you’re right, we have got to do a better job defensively getting off the field and stopping them on third down.

Capitals’ Leonsis and Patrick speak on front office changes: “New leadership at this time was needed”

Saturday morning, the Washington Capitals announced that they would not be renewing General Manager George McPhee’s contract and that they had relieved head coach Adam Oates of his duties.

McPhee was one of the longest tenured general managers in the National Hockey League, and he’d been with the Capitals organization since 1997. The Capitals made the playoffs for six straight years, and as irony would have it, the team would fail to make the postseason in the same year as his contract was rumored to be expiring.

Adam Oates coached 137 games for the Capitals, an organization that he was a part of as a player as well. He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame the same day he was hired by the Capitals in 2012. His meticulous – some would say nitpicky – coaching style, coupled with a lackluster team performance in the regular season and failure to make the playoffs, outweighed the benefits of his accomplishments: constructing a juggernaut power play and moving Alex Ovechkin to right wing. (Ironically, Ovechkin scored more than half of his 52 goals this season playing the left wing on the power play).

It became less of a matter of “if” and more of a question as to when changes would be made. There was speculation on Thursday that changes were coming, but all talk was quickly extinguished, no doubt because the decision hadn’t been made, as we now know.

Capitals Majority Owner Ted Leonsis and Team President Dick Patrick formally addressed the media at Verizon Center late Saturday afternoon. Leonsis thanked both Oates and McPhee for the work they’d done for the Capitals organization, but said that the decision came down to the direction the team was heading.

“It came down, honestly, after all of the work that we did, and our due diligence, for Dick and I to sit down and say “do we think this team with this leadership can compete for or win a Stanley Cup going into next season?”, said Leonsis. “And our answer was obviously no, and that’s why we made the change.”

The ultimate goal for any NHL franchise is to win a Stanley Cup, and Leonsis and Patrick felt as though the leadership they had in place was not going to take them there. Leonsis admitted it was a tough day for him.

Leonsis said he and Patrick conducted exit interviews for Capitals players, but would not say what was discussed in the spirit of maintaining confidentiality and trust.

“I will say, and this is very important to that process, that when we spoke to all of the individuals [players], we said, “we know this is uncomfortable, and you should be able to tell us whatever you want or tell us nothing, but whatever you tell us is going to be between me and Dick”,  because we’re seeking out information, you want to respect that,” said Leonsis.

“I’m not going to tell you who we spoke to and what they said. I don’t think that’s appropriate,” he said. “But the bottom line, and the timeline, so everyone understands –we conducted a lot of interviews. And on Thursday, we spoke with Adam and with George. And yesterday, Dick and I compared all of our notes, and it was late in the day when we made the decision.”

“We were left with the overall impression that the team wasn’t trending towards being able to compete for a Stanley Cup. That was just a clear signal in why we felt it was time to make those changes,” Leonsis concluded. “I’d say there’s lots of noise, but the signal was that we need to get back to being totally focused on one goal.”

Patrick added that they’d like to have a new general manager in place prior to the NHL Draft on June 27-28, but that it’s not a hard deadline for them. He said the organization has people in place that are capable of handing the responsibilities of draft day if a new GM has not been hired by that time.

As for the matter of selecting a head coach, Patrick was similarly vague: “Generally speaking, we’d prefer to have the manager in place and his involvement in selecting a coach, but could happen otherwise.”

There are still many questions that bear asking and answering in the coming days, but one thing is certain: no matter what led up to the decision to fire McPhee and Oates, Leonsis and Patrick came to the decision that the franchise had lost sight of its ultimate goal of winning a Stanley Cup, and hope to set that right by starting fresh with new leadership in the Capitals’ front office.






Redskins fire Shanahan — Bruce Allen press conference transcript

“Has he taken a step back? He’s still one of the great fans.” Redskins GM Bruce Allen, on owner Daniel Snyder.

Washington Redskins general manager Bruce Allen met with reporters Monday afternoon after dismissing Mike Shanahan as head coach and releasing most of the coaching staff. Below is a transcript of his entire comments (courtesy Redskins Media Relations).

List of coaches not retained: Keith Burns (special teams), Larry Coyer (advance scout), Richmond Flowers (offensive quality control), Matt LaFleur (quarterbacks), Mike McDaniel (wide recievers), Kyle Shanahan (offensive coordinator), Bob Slowik (linebackers), Bobby Slowik (defensive assistant), Bobby Turner (associate head coach/running backs coach ), Aubrey Pleasant (offensive assistant), Richard Hightower (special teams assistant).

Executive Vice President/General Manager Bruce Allen

Opening statements:

“Good afternoon. Obviously this is a painful day for me and the organization. It is fitting though, after a painful season, that these type of press conferences and events happen.

“Four years ago we thought we did the right thing. We went out and met with Mike [Shanahan]. We wanted a proven coach who had a good record and we felt could lead our football team, and in discussions with Mike, he was always honest with us. He said he wanted to make sure he had the same type of control and staffing that he had in Denver and we agreed to that. Unfortunately today our results aren’t what we had hoped on that day, and that’s why we’re here.

“Today [Owner] Dan [Snyder], Mike and I met at 9:00 and we relieved Mike of his duties. It was a cordial, professional meeting. We talked about the future of the team and the direction that we both want it to go. After that I’ve been meeting with all the assistant coaches individually and telling them of their status. Later today [Senior Vice President] Tony [Wyllie] will give you a list of coaches who have also been relieved of their duties. The other coaches will depend on the next head coach – if they fit into the schemes and the system that the new head coach wants to implement. Later today I’m going to meet with a couple more of our staff members and we’re going to start to formalize the coaching search.

“I know there’s been speculation throughout the last weeks and maybe even months about what is going to happen and the reason we waited until now versus all of the previous comments of if we were going to make a change during the season was because we wanted Mike to have the ability to right the ship. We wanted to end that losing streak. For every play on this team and for everybody in the organization, for every fan out there, we wanted to get a win. We came close in the last few weeks, but as is the frustration over the last four years, we played some good quarters, some good halves, but we didn’t play complete games.

“As I said a moment ago, our head coaching search will start tonight. Because of league rules, we’re not going to try and publicize who we’re going to try and talk to. I know there’s going to be rumors out there as we meet people, and we’re going to try and keep you updated on a regular basis. We’re going to try and do this as quickly as possible, but more importantly we want to do it correctly. We want to pick the right coach, the right leader for this franchise that can inspire this football team, that can lead this team and teach them the fundamentals that are so critical in the game, who understands the value of time, because in the NFL right now time is really, really critical to manage. You don’t have much time in the offseason with the players. You don’t have much time during training camp with players. So to understand the value of that time is going to be important, and to have someone with some urgency to accomplish the goals that we’re looking for for this franchise.

“To sit here and talk about Mike Shanahan leaving us is difficult because we’re all 3-13. We accept that. We understand it. The Washington Redskins will win and lose as a football team. Period. That’s who we are, and we understand some of the mistakes that were made and we are going to take the next several months and figure out all the mistakes that were made in order to learn from them. [Cornerback] Josh Wilson gave me a great Christmas present, pretty telling, it was a book and it said ‘Sometimes you win, sometimes you learn.’ We learned too much this year, maybe, but we’ve got to learn to go in the right direction and that’s what we’re going to do.”

On who will have control over player personnel moving forward:

“The control will be mine, and it will be working with our personnel department. The personnel department of [Director of Player Personnel] Scott Campbell and [Director of Pro Personnel] Morocco Brown actually do a very good job at what they do. We are going to redefine some of the characteristics that we’re looking for in players. Obviously when we have a new head coach there will be some schematic adjustments that we will make, but that power will be with me.”

On the reports and rumors around the franchise late in the season:

“Part of that was – let me use the right word – distasteful to hear. Within in the Redskins — and I do like that the players say it’s on us, it is on us, it’s on all of us from people in the front office to people on the football field to people in the locker room, it is on us — and to see those anonymous sources and the back-biting and different comments, I think it’s very important to know that a lot of it was untrue, but at the same time it was distasteful. Any coach, any organization knows in pro sports you need to eliminate distractions. Instead we created our own distractions and it distracted from our play on the field and we will do our best to alleviate any of those issues in the future.”

On if they will redefine front office roles:

“No, we’re going to keep everybody in their role and we’re going to make sure they can focus on their job that they have to do. They’ll be involved in the interview process. They will be involved as they have been in talking to some of the coaches today. We feel comfortable with them. It doesn’t mean we might not add somebody to the personnel department, but we feel we have a good personnel department that has been interviewed for other positions and we’re comfortable with it now.”

On if the next head coach has to be someone that has won as a head coach before:

“It really is an open list. It will have NFL coaches, it will have college coaches on it. Some have head coaching experience, some don’t, and I’m really looking forward to meeting some of the people who I haven’t met yet. I’ve seen them from afar and I want to hear what their dreams are, what they can do, the fire in their belly to coach the Washington Redskins, to inspire the kids on this football team.”

On reports of fractured relationships within the organization:

“That’s part of the rumors that are out there. Mike has always been professional and we always had an easy dialogue when discussing issues. I don’t think there was a fractured relationship. I think that the intensity of trying to do the right thing all the time maybe was too much for everyone at times, but I think the relationship was good, as it was in our meeting this morning. Mike and Dan have a very good relationship as people, and I think that’s going to continue in the future.”

On if he is concerned about instability after another coaching change:

“In the NFL right now, stability is a strange word. I think we need to put that up at a league meeting, ‘What is stability?’ There’s eight head coaching changes last year, eight the year before, no reason to believe there might not be eight again. Last year half the offensive coordinators in the NFL changed teams, so I think we’ve had a pretty good run with four years. Unfortunately, three of the years were losing records and those are the results. The great thing about sports is we play with a scoreboard. We don’t have to wait for a quarterly report to tell us how we did in sales or any of that. We know immediately, and the distasteful and the painful part was we were 3-13. We lost 13 times.”

On if continuity not breeding success is a problem that goes deeper than the head coaching position:

“No, not at all. You can look at teams that turn around in one year — I think the greatest example is Philadelphia and Kansas City — [Kansas City] Coach [Andy] Reid did a great job with the Chiefs. He just left Philly and they didn’t perform well but the new coach came in and led them to the division title. If we find the right person, we will have the stability that we all want in the NFL.”

On if the team is better off now than it was before hiring Shanahan:

“In ways, yes. The frustration of the season is there is a nucleus for success. We saw it. We saw it just a year ago. And the nucleus is here, and we have some of the right foundational principles to win. We just have to learn to take advantage of all 60 minutes in a game and close the deal. We had way too many giveaways this year. I don’t think there’s anything that speaks to our season as much as our first-quarter record. We had the worst in the league net point differential, minus-79 points, in the first quarter, so obviously that made the games even more painful when you’re trying to come from behind at times. I feel we have an opportunity because of the nucleus of the team, the spirit of the team. I think through all of the different issues that came up this year – some true, some untrue – the team did stick together. The core of this team believes in each other.”

On when the decision to relieve Shanahan was made:

“I would say probably after the Dallas game it was near 99 percent, but the most important thing after the Dallas game was to try and beat the Giants, and we felt that Mike and his staff gave us the best chance to beat the Giants the next week. Unfortunately that didn’t happen and that’s why we’re here today.”

On why fans should believe the next head coach will succeed after previous coaches have not:

“I can’t speak for the prior years. I can speak for Mike’s years, and Dan was very supportive of all of Mike’s wishes and ideas, as he has with the different thoughts that I’ve had from time to time. This is the Washington Redskins. This is a very high-profile team. When the Dallas Cowboys or the Washington Redskins are in first place it’s a lot of news, and when they’re in last place it’s a lot of news. I think coming into this environment, knowing that there is a nucleus, I think it will be a very attractive position to coaches.”

On if he learned anything specific from mistakes made in his time here:

“We met this morning in the personnel department to make sure that we documented every pick that we’ve made and we’ve documented every free agent that we’ve discussed or gave a bad grade to that is performing well right now in the NFL. So we’re studying the personnel at this point.”

On how responsible he feels for this season and the record over the last four years:

“I feel very responsible. I think I said that at the beginning that everyone here feels responsible, and in my position it’s what creates the pain because I can see where we want to go, I can feel where we want to go, and I know that the players have that same drive. So I feel responsible for it. We’re all accountable for our record. That’s the great thing, once again, about sports. I’m 3-13 as is Tony Wyllie over here.”

On what the head coaching job has to offer to candidates:

“As I just said a little bit earlier, the attractiveness of coming to one of the flagship franchises in the NFL is exciting to coaches. The coaching profession is one that I have tremendous respect for and I think it has some of the highest highs and some of the lowest lows of any profession out there, and sometimes you find coaches who can’t wait to have a tough situation of taking over a last-place team. I think if you would ask coaches a lot of times would you want to take over a first-place team or a last-place team, in football, they’d say last place. Unfortunately we’re there, but I do think it’s going to be a great opportunity for a coach.”

On his role in the organization moving forward:

“My job is to put the Washington Redskins organization on the right track and to continue to build the foundation for this team to win and it is my job to find the next head coach for the Washington Redskins.”

On if his role will include control over personnel decisions:

“That’s all part of it.”

On if he will be looking for specific offensive or defensive schemes in the new coach:

“I think I’m going to look for the person who can describe what they want to do the best. It could be a 4-3, it could be a 3-4. It’s the person who has the understanding and the knowledge of what he wants to teach the players. As I said at the beginning, we’re going to look for someone who is a leader first and it could be on the offensive side of the ball, defense or special team. There have been a couple special teams coaches who have made great head coaches. We’re going to keep an open mind and look forward to them telling us how they’re going to make the Washington Redskins successful – have that fire in the belly that I discussed about being excited and what they can do to make the Redskins win.”

On how much Snyder’s involvement has changed in recent years:

“Once again, it’s tough for me to discuss what he did before I came here, because I wasn’t here. He’s been very supportive of everything we’ve wanted to do. Has he taken a step back? He’s still one of the great fans. I think – and I’ve seen some of the reports, if you knew how much Dan Snyder wants to win – I mean, he wants to win more than life itself – and he has given us the support and the resources to do what we think is necessary to help us win. It showed a year ago and this year it didn’t, but it’s our job to do the execution. It’s not Dan calling the plays. It’s not Dan picking the players. It’s the people he’s hired, it’s our job to actually turn this team into a winner.”

On his reasoning for not restructuring the front office:

“I see some people who have to be given an opportunity to succeed. I think Scott Campbell running a college draft will be as capable as any personnel director in the NFL. I know what Morocco Brown can do in free agency. I’ve seen the grades of the players he’s given in free agency. To blame them, I think, would be unfair to not giving them an opportunity to succeed. Our front office will win and lose as the team does. We believe that we have the right people in place. You saw it last year. This year, you saw – not the complete opposite, because we lost eight versus winning seven in a row. We’re very confident where we’re going to go with them.”

On if something is inherently wrong after finishing in last place in five out of the last six seasons:

“Not in the NFL. Not in sports. I can’t change history. You’d like to, but you can’t change history. It’s all about today and where we’re going in the future. I think when we provide the right type of leadership, the right type of foundation for a new coach and a new team, that’s what’s going to matter. I can’t change what happened yesterday. We are going to have the chance to change the future and that’s what our task is and we look forward to it.”

Closing statement:

“It is a difficult day. In talking to the coaches, it’s very painful, and I respect all the work that they put into it, but the results weren’t there. It’s now our job today with the nucleus that we have to change our fortunes in the future and we think we can do that. I want to thank you, and as I said, we’re going to try and keep you updated during this process so the fans know what we’re doing with the coaching search. Thank you.”

Redskins fire Shanahan — Audio of press conference

Mike Shanahan, dismissed as head coach of the Washington Redskins, was permitted by the team to address the media Monday morning. Saying that he believes, “the direction of the team is going in the right direction,” Shanahan took the high road talking about his dismissal, citing the cap penalties and depth issues as principal factors in the degradation of the roster during his tenure.

Below please find the full audio of Shanahan’s final press conference, courtesy of 106.7 The Fan’s Sky Kerstein.

2013.12.30 Mike Shanahan Press Conference RAW

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