Mike Shanahan spoke with the media this afternoon before he and his staff lock themselves into their draft board bunkers for the next 72 hours. Shanahan had a lot of interesting things to say and it made more sense just to lay it all out for reading then break it up with analysis. A lot of what he said with draft strategy seems like common sense, but the difference that stood out in hearing him speak was calmness and sticking to the plan.
It's not a great comparison, but we've all been in fantasy drafts and badly wanted a player or two. It's impossible to stay calm when your pick approaches, especially in an auction draft. Overpaying, sweating, and reaching comes naturally when your draft plan goes out the window. A sure guy you had slated for the 3rd is gone in the first??? What?? Zorn and Cerrato come to mind.
(tip of the cap to the Redskins for the transcribing)
On if Shanahan's draft philosophy changes after winning the NFC East:
"I think you always try to look at your board and take each position, try to get a priority on which guys you feel are a certain skill level: first-round draft choice and second. You get a game plan and if a certain player is there at that time, you are going to take him. If not, you try to trade back, sometimes you try to go forward. A lot depends on how it all falls in place. You never know. So you have to be ready for different types of scenarios. We have done it both ways. But at the end of the day, you may have a guy, you may have a position need and if it is close between two guys, you go with the position need. For example, last year, you ask me, ‘Why would I take a quarterback [Kirk Cousins] in the fourth round?' We had him ranked as a first-round guy, inside the top 32, and you are picking him in the fourth round. The value is there and you have to do what you think is best for your football team and the draft. He makes your football team, steps in and plays like the guy we thought he'd play like. At least you're hoping. It doesn't always work out that way. A lot of different philosophies. [You] always have to be ready for everything."
On the team's needs in the draft:
"Well, I think when you have a lot of needs, sometimes what you will do if you have a lot of guys ranked in the same area, sometime you will go back and get an extra two or three draft picks, like we did with Kerrigan. You go from 10 to 16 and wind up getting three extra picks, those three guys we needed on our football team. So a lot depends on where your football team is and what direction you think you need to go."
On if he thinks this is a good year not to have a first-round pick with a deep draft class:
"I think so, I do. I think you are getting offensive linemen and defensive linemen if you are the top 10 picks, it is a pretty good year; a few receivers in there as well. I think everyone sees the obvious ones. Each year is a little bit different. There is always value. It all depends what your team needs are and you get the guy that you want to help your football team."
On drafting #51 several times before:
"Sometimes when 51 comes up, you have your guy. One of those guys was Clinton Portis and I was hoping he would be there. He actually got mad at us because we picked him at 51. He wanted to go in the first round. I said, ‘Clinton, don't get mad at us. We picked you.' He said, ‘You should've picked me in the first round.' It was that kind of confidence he had that he was going to be a football player and he said, ‘I'm going to make you very, very happy.' That is the kind of mindset when you do pick a guy in the second round, that he feels like he is a first round guy and he is going to prove to everybody that he can play. Hopefully you get that kind of guy."
On reaching for players:
"I think anytime you go back in your history and try to reflect through all the scenarios that you do, is you don't ever reach for a player. You try not to reach. You might have a position need and you push the envelope a round or two and you are looking for that one piece to what you consider a championship team. So what I have learned through the years is that you have to be true to your board, you have to look at every player. And it is a killer to a position coach. As a head coach, a lot of hours go into looking at all these guys. You are ready on draft day. No matter what situation arises, you're hoping you can take advantage of the opportunity."
On when is a good time to trade back:
"I think that is what you have to evaluate. You think you've got a guy you don't want to lose, then you don't trade back. You may trade back because there are three or four guys you like and you think you may be able to get one of those guys and you look at those guys the same. So you trade back knowing you will get one of those guys and you get an extra pick or two. A lot of scenarios you try to go through in your mind."
On if one draft plays into another:
"You never know how many juniors are going to come out. That is a big question mark. I think everyone has a feel for the seniors, but you are not really sure how many juniors will come out. We know where the strength of the draft is and sometimes you are really lucky when it does play into your hands."
On if he will make any decisions in this draft based on next year's draft:
"No, because of what I said. You don't know the juniors that will come out. They influence the draft drastically."
On if he can get a first-round player in the second round because of a deep draft class:
"There is always an area, there are guys that make it in the second, third, fourth round that you say, ‘Why aren't fourth-round players a first-round player?' Why wasn't Alfred Morris a first-round player? He should have been with his production. So you go back through your mind and look at all the scenarios and you try to figure out why a guy does last until the sixth round and you try to find those guys out there. Sometimes you are lucky enough to find guys like that, other times you miss out. That's what we are looking for and that is why we look at a lot of film."
On what positions are the strongest in this draft and if rounds two through four are deeper than recent years:
"I think it is always pretty deep round two through four every year. There are quality guys you can get. I think this year, the obvious people talk about this draft - the offensive linemen, you can take a look at receivers, as I mentioned before, defensive linemen - everything you guys write about every day. You guys talk, you communicate and you are pretty close to being right on. There are a lot of those guys that will picked in the third, fourth, fifth round that are football players and you are hoping that you get the right guys targeted if they are there."
On any realistic scenario of trading into the first round:
"I'd say it would be a long shot looking at what we have, but there is always a possibility. Like one in a million, there is a chance."
On if he places an emphasis on trying to find players that drop into later rounds:
"You get ready for each round and sometimes a guy will fall a little bit further than you think he will, and if you are lucky enough to get in that situation, you gobble him up. You just hit that draft board from the first day and try to get a pecking order and you have a few guys you are hoping that are there. Sometimes a position need or just the way a guy plays, and sometimes you just take a guy because it is just the best available. Sometimes it will be in the seventh round. You see a guy that has some quality that you like and you try to gobble him up."
On assistant coaches working with players in the offseason more than previous years:
"We haven't changed at all. We have the same schedule we've had, or at least I've had for the past 10 years or close to it. Our coaches are very heavily involved with working with the film and workouts. There is time to meet with the players as well. I like what we have in the offseason, programs now with the new CBA. I like the time that we are allowed to spend with the players. First couple weeks is conditioning [we're] allowed to meet two hours a day to look at film, which we do. Next three weeks we are able to work on separate fields, offensively and defensively, trying to get our drills, our agility, a feel of our offense and defense, get guys back in the swing of things after working out for a couple weeks. Then you really have a month of OTA days. I like where we are at right now. I think it's sensible and logical and we don't overwork guys, but we get them in shape and they get a good feel of what we are doing offensively and defensively. With that we are still able to get ready for the draft and our mini-camps that we have for the rookies coming in. You aren't able to do everything but at least the roles are defined and I think it works out well for the NFL."
On what he will do without any picks in the first-round:
"You've got your board, so you are hoping some guys go off. Obviously, the guys you want with the 51st pick don't go and a lot of scenarios happen. The interesting thing will be the next day waiting for our pick, seeing which guys are picked that day."
On assessing need in the secondary:
"We have some corners with some experience. We have [E.J.] Biggers, who has some experience, I like the way he plays. Anybody that comes in will have to compete and that is what you want, you want some competition. At the safety position, we lost [Brandon] Meriweather and Tanard Jackson last year and you are hoping that both guys will be back, will be back healthy. You don't know that for sure, so you've got guys like Reed Doughty, [Jordan] Pugh, [DeJon] Gomes, guys that have to step up and play but will have more competition depending how the draft works out."
On cornerbacks DeAngelo Hall, Josh Wilson and E.J. Biggers being in the final years of their contracts:
"Well, number one, we are in a tough situation with the salary cap. Anytime you lose $36 million, $18 million a year, if you told me we would be able to keep almost every player, I would've told you you're joking. But it kind of gives you an idea of what type of players we are dealing with. They want to be here. I think both Bruce [Allen] and Eric [Schaffer] did a fantastic job of working with the cap to get these guys back on our football team. Our coaches, I think they want to be here. It gives us a chance to do something this year with basically the same team we had a year ago. We did some good things. Hopefully we get better in a lot of different things as well. I like the nucleus we have. We hate to lose a guy like Lorenzo [Alexander] but I was happy for him. He played hard and got paid well, and you always want your players to get paid at the highest level. If you take care of them, they will take care of you. It goes into next year. You are asking about the corners, I am hoping those corners get a lot of money next year. We will be in more of a position to pay people next year than we have the past two years. It is always nice to keep those players on your team."
On how he weighs talent against character:
"It all depends on how big a risk. If it's a big risk, we're not going there. We're not going there. We've worked too hard to build this football team to take big risks. Now, will you take a risk? It all depends on how much research you do and you decide if it's worth the risk, and sometimes we'll look at a guy and someone will think it is a big risk but we've done our homework so, if it was that big a risk, he wouldn't be on our football team. So, you go ahead and do your homework, your due diligence. There's always mistakes made, but that's something that we put a lot of time in."
"[We] go back to high school. Go back to the college. Go back to the equipment man, the trainer. Not just the coaches that usually give you the standard line, ‘Yeah, this guy's great.' Teachers in college. There's a lot of different people that you can find out about the true character of a guy and usually it's the people that aren't your coach or aren't the people that are talking to the scouts. We try to do that and if you do it enough and you've got scouts that work hard enough, you start eliminating mistakes and that's what we're hoping to do."
On how much you take current locker room influences into account with a guy with character issues:
"Well, again, you go back and [see] how much of a problem it is and if you think it's a problem, then you stay away from it. You don't want to bring a problem into your team if you don't have to. Now if you said a guy is a great player and you think that, you've got a feeling that this guy can overcome this problem, for whatever the problem may be, you might take a chance, and the stronger a locker room you have the more of a chance that guy has to turn, but some guys just don't want to turn."
On how surprised he is with what he's seeing from quarterback Robert Griffin III:
"The one thing I don't want to do is I don't want to see anything too quick. I mean we're dealing with an ACL. That takes time. Mother Nature is going to take its course. The thing that you love about Robert is he's working the muscles around it. He loves to work. He does everything we ask him to do and then some to get himself ready. There's a time frame and there's Mother Nature that's involved and that ligament takes time to heal, so we've got to make sure that he doesn't go too quick, because we don't want him to do anything too quickly because he could set it back. When you work as hard as he does and your muscles are strong around the ligament, sometimes guys have the tendency to go too quick and we're going to try to make sure that he doesn't."
On if he consistently talks to Griffin III about not rushing through rehab:
"Well, I think what players do, and anybody does, trainers, they tell you to look at the muscles and you see his quads and his hamstrings. You see him working out with weights, his flexibility, how hard he's working. Everybody's very optimistic and they say he's ahead of schedule. Human nature is you have to let a ligament heal. You cannot force that. It's a time frame that you've got to make sure that you don't push it too hard, and that's all we're saying. We want him to work as hard as he can. Do what you can with the muscles around the knee but don't do anything too quick because we don't want to set it back. We want it to heal first."
On if rookie defensive backs can get on the field quickly based on his past experiences:
"Well, it has to do with how talented you are. I've seen a lot of young players, especially defensive backs, come in and start in the National Football League. A lot has to do with their awareness, how sharp they are, relative to their football-related intelligence. Some guys are all football. Other guys are, maybe, a man-to-man coverage guy and it's easier if a guy is more well-rounded and he understands zone concept, man concept. Some teams just ask a guy to lock down a receiver. Well, it's a little bit easier to do that than play the whole gamut of what you can do as a defensive back with two-deep, three-deep, quarters, and so it all depends on what you're doing defensively. Depending on the play and the system you're using depends on how quickly he can get on the field."
On if the NFL was involved in upgrading the FedEx Field playing surface:
"I don't think so. I don't think they said anything to us, but anytime you have a field like we had, we're going to take care of it ourselves. We've got a game plan with the drainage of our field, drainage system, that's going to make it better. Depending how our field looks at midseason, I'm sure will determine what we do, but we've got a plan in place and if it's not great, we'll re-sod everything. Maybe between the numbers, goal line to goal line, and may not need it depending on, you know, what the weather's like so we'll just wait and see. We're ready to go when we have a quality field."
On Griffin III's injury and what collectively he and the staff would have done differently:
"I think it's been talked about enough. What we're going to do is make sure Robert's 100 percent. I get a feel with people the more I'm around them. I think players get more of a feeling for me, but the one thing you want to make sure of is how somebody practices gives them an opportunity to play in the game. If somebody does, what you think, someone might get injured, it's your gut to take somebody out. Sometimes it changes from year to year. I know mine does with different players. Every situation is different and sometimes you make the right call. There are times you don't, but at the end of the day you're always hoping that you'll learn from your mistakes, whatever they are. At the end of this year, when we go into next year, one thing we want to make sure of is Robert never plays if he's not 100 percent, so if he does tell me something, I'm not going to believe him this year compared to last year...That was a joke. That was a joke, I think [laughter]. But anyway, we'll have fun with that."
On what he meant when he said Griffin III will "set a record" for coming back:
"I didn't say that. You've got to quote me the whole saying. I said, ‘If hard work had anything to do with it'...That's what I'm talking about with Robert. I said Robert works so hard that if hard work had anything to do with the recovery, he'd set a record. That's the way he is. But we're dealing with ligaments, we're dealing with tendons. You can't rush that. But around his knee will be the strongest support group you'll have, and if you have a guy that does that, works that hard, then he's got a chance to do something special."
On defensive end Adam Carriker and tight end Fred Davis and their recoveries:
"Fred has made some strides. I think we'll find out in OTA's exactly where he's at but he's feeling good. Adam, with the quad tendon...I can't give you a percentage. I can't say if it's 70 or 80, but he's making strides. It's much better than it was a month ago so we're going to let the due process take care of itself and I'll update you the more I know."
On how linebacker London Fletcher's rehab is going:
"The elbow surgery went well. The ankle surgery went well. I just can't believe he's never had any surgeries in his career. It's hard to imagine a guy playing all those years and not having a surgery. With the elbow, it's relieved a lot of tension. I understand that with [Head Athletic Trainer] Larry [Hess]. The ankle, he's already gotten in the weight room working out so, he's doing well."
On linebacker Keenan Robinson's rehab:
"He's doing pretty good. He's doing pretty good. Just like ‘Rak [Brian Orakpo], it takes a little time. ‘Rak's 100 percent, and I'd say Keenan, at least the doctors think he'll be ready to go in about a month so we're hoping to have him ready for OTA's."
On running back Roy Helu, Jr.'s status:
"He's still a little bit sore. I still think he'll be able to go here over the next couple weeks. He's not 100 percent but he's close to it. He's got the same injury as Reed [Doughty]. Reed's close to 100 percent right now. I think he'll be able to go. He did set it back about a week ago but according to Larry, he still thinks there's a chance, so we'll wait and see."