5 Reasons Kyle Shanahan Is Right in Expecting Redskins to Make Playoffs

Joe Versage@@dcjoevCorrespondent IIJuly 17, 2012

5 Reasons Kyle Shanahan Is Right in Expecting Redskins to Make Playoffs

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    On the final day of minicamp, Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan spoke confidently about his team's chances in 2012.

    We don't go into a season not expecting to make the playoffs. My expectation is to win. That’s why we came here.

    If Shanahan's words sound familiar, it may be because fans have heard them before and they were considered controversial.

    Coaches at all levels expect to win. Most of them hope to win a lot. But not all of them do.

    Hall of Famer Vince Lombardi certainly made good on his promise as coach of the Green Bay Packers and Washington Redskins. "Winning isn't everything," he said. "It's the only thing."  

    The infamous phrase was first used by former UCLA football coach Henry Russell ("Red") Sanders, but Lombardi made it sound like his own.

    Shanahan doesn't compare to Lombardi, but he did not mince or borrow words when he spoke in front of reporters.

    I believe in our guys.  I know our guys believe in ourselves and we expect to come in and win.  Anything short of that and we [are], as coaches, disappointed.

    You have to appreciate the young man's moxie, as he prepares to enter what could be a make-or-break season for him and is father. He is also determined to help turn around a team that has been mediocre under their command. 

    We want a chance to compete every year, and it’s been disappointing for us that we haven’t been able to.

    The first two years of Mike and Kyle Shanahan were tough, but father and son seem rejuvenated, with an influx of young talent and depth. Kyle's words are bold, but there may be some truth behind them.

    The following slideshow backs Shanahan's prediction that the Skins are a playoff-caliber team to be reckoned with. Let's hope for his sake, the proclamation comes true.

The Kid Is Legit

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    Numerous offseason additions have given Kyle and Mike Shanahan a reason to believe in bigger and better things. But no single move was as significant as the drafting of Robert Griffin III.

    To make his projections come true, Kyle will have to get immediate production out of his rookie signal caller. But RGIII appears to be up for the challenge, with a work ethic that is second to none.

    As long as you know where you’re going with the ball, as long as you’re aggressive and confident in what you’re doing, you can complete any pass and do anything.

    And Griffin will have the chance to do that, with depth at running back, a healthy offensive line and additions at wide receiver and tight end.

    Kyle Shanahan will call RGIII's plays, but his Dad will have the final say in what is run. 

    According to the Washington Examiner, "Mike Shanahan's offense hasn’t changed that much over the past 10 to 15 years — at least not the stuff he believes in, from the stretch zone to the bootlegs." 

    And per Yahoo! Sports, the head coach had this to say about the options he'll have with RGIII.

    We’re going to have the flexibility to do a lot of different things. We’ll run the quarterback keeps, the rolls, different type of option schemes are available to us. It does create some problems for the defense.

    Those defenses will likely be on the teams that will compete with Washington for a playoff spot, but to keep the Skins out of contention, they'll have to figure out how to stop a determined RGIII.

    Griffin still has a lot to learn, but he was satisfied with his play at minicamp and understands that it may be best to keep things simple.

    I told coach [Mike] that after every practice, I was writing stuff down in my booklet of things that I needed to work on the next day. After [the final] practice, I only wrote one thing, and that’s ‘Just play.’


Weapons at Disposal

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    Mike Shanahan has utilized mobile quarterbacks before and when he did, multiple players benefited on offense.

    Remember in Denver, when John Elway had Terrell Davis, Rod Smith and Shannon Sharpe to work with? What about the slew of running backs Shanahan made into 1000-yard rushers?

    If one looks at the rosters of the back-to-back Super Bowl Champions Shanahan coached, similarities seem to be developing with his current team.

    Young running backs like Roy Helu and Evan Royster showed progress last year. Fred Davis was nearly unstoppable at tight end. And now, Washington's offense has a multi-talented quarterback, with a group of explosive, young receivers.  

    With an in-shape Santana Moss, a healthy Chris Cooley and the potential of Niles Paul, the playoffs could be the end-result for what should be a dynamic offense. The unit just needs to be on the receiving end of its quarterback's "Ah ha!" moments.

The Defense Rests

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    Washington's defensive unit should certainly be playoff worthy in 2012 after finishing 13th overall a year ago.

    The defense should actually be commended for keeping an anemic offense in most of its games in 2011 (the Redskins lost six of their 11 games by eight points or less). 

    If Washington won four of those six games, they would have finished 9-7. Oh well, that was last year and the past is prelude. 

    In fact, one player who failed to participate last year could be a tremendous addition to this year's defensive line.

    According to RiggosRag.com, "the team essentially gets an additional draft pick this year in defensive end Jarvis Jenkins, who missed all of 2011 with a torn ligament in his knee. Jenkins will add to an already ferocious front seven and likely provide more pressure on opposing quarterbacks."

    Washington has a revamped safety corps and skilled players on the corners, who should benefit from an improved pass rush. Linebackers Brian Orakpo and Ryan Kerrigan will again provide most of it. Kerrigan's goal will be to break the 7.5 sacks he had in 2011, which helped him to earn All-Rookie honors.

Renewed Commitment

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    A number of players appear to be buying into Mike Shanahan's no-nonsense style, after two years of stubbornness.

    Veteran Santana Moss leads that contingent with a renewed sense of purpose, after appearing at OTAs and minicamp in tip-top shape. Both Mike and Kyle Shanahan were impressed with Moss and praised him for his efforts.

    The playoffs were unattainable the first two years under the new regime because there were too many players that felt entitled. They're all gone now and the front office and coaching staff seems committed to building a bright future through the draft.

    The Redskins proved last year that they can beat the elite teams in their division, after defeating the eventual Super Bowl Champion Giants twice. They also know that injuries to key players can hurt the chances of their NFC East rivals. Currently, New York is hoping that Hakeem Nicks fully recovers from a broken foot.

    Off-the-field issues (like Dez Bryant's arrest this week for domestic violence in Texas) also serve as distractions to teams that have stumbled in the past. And there are the over-hyped "dream teams" like the Eagles, who put undue pressure on themselves.   

    Even before last year's 5-11 finish, you could feel the change taking place in Washington, as a respected star urged fans to be patient and "stop hating".  

    "Our fan base hates our owner, because he can’t ever keep a coach" said tight end Chris Cooley in a DC radio interview with Lavar Arrington and Chad Dukes. "Then everyone calls in and says we gotta get rid of Kyle Shanahan, Mike Shanahan, we gotta get rid of these players. I hate it. What we’ve got to do is keep consistency over a period of time, and continue to try to build, trust me, under Mike Shanahan, who knows football and knows players.”

Father Knows Best

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    Persistence pays off for coaching staffs with a plan. It worked for Mike Shanahan in Denver and he thinks he can have deja vu in Washington.

    The numbers don't lie.

    According to Wikapedia, "Shanahan has been a part of teams that have played in 10 Conference Championship Games, in addition to three Super Bowl appearances (all wins)."

    In his 14 years as coach of the Broncos, Shanahan had nine seasons of nine wins or more and just two seasons under .500.

    But perhaps his most telling achievement is something Redskins fans can get excited about. "Shanahan is just the second coach in league history to win two Super Bowl titles in his first four years coaching a team." 

    With "Shanny," Washington's franchise is in good hands and the playoffs are attainable, he just has to keep people off of his son's back.

    During his two years as offensive coordinator of the Redskins offense, Kyle Shanahan has had his share of critics, from quarterbacks to fans and the media. But his old man has stood by his side, in good times and in bad.

    Mike knows that his son is talented and it's not due to nepotism.

    "I studied every potential Xs and Os play and issue possible, Kyle told the Denver Post in 2006. I spent my whole life working on that. My goal was that any question a player could have about anything on the field, I'd be able to answer it."

    Kyle started young, but he did his time in the college and pro ranks. In 2008, it all paid off when he became the director of one of the NFL's highest scoring offenses in Houston.

    Achieving the same success in Washington has been a chore so far for the young Shanahan, but with an intriguing set of weapons to choose from, he hopes to change the Redskins fortunes this year, with a playoff birth Dad can be proud of.