On how he keeps his team focused late in the season:
“It’s a challenge week-to-week. Naturally, the opposition, but it’s more than that – it’s a deeper sense of pride. People want to tell you that you don’t have anything to play for but they’re full of – they don’t know what they’re talking about. You have everything to play for because obviously the scrutiny is very much involved and the powers to be are evaluating your every move. The other thing that I think is important from my standpoint is we’ve been in a couple of celebratory locker rooms after Super Bowls. Well, how’s it going to look if some of these guys were with us in the good times and it’s not so good right now? How are we going to act? What is our statement about who we are? And what kind of example are we for the young people? So I think pride is very important. The character of a man shows up in circumstances like this. You do get stronger in adversity and we certainly are in it. The key thing in all philosophical discussions is about effort, it’s about giving what you have. It’s about remembering that you do have a responsibility and that you are accountable to your teammates and the franchise you play for. There’s no lines of distinction. We have a game to play and we expect to play as hard as we possibly can. And I think most everybody in the room agrees on those kinds of things, it’s just that sometimes it doesn’t look like that on the other end.”
On if he still has a passion for coaching after a season like this:
“Sure – absolutely. I mean, probably even more because there are a lot of those that are telling you that you didn’t do very well and you’re not a very good coach and you’re not this and you’re not that, so perhaps you have something to prove.”
On what he’s seen from quarterback Kirk Cousins:
“I think he obviously has a very strong arm. They certainly have given him – [Executive Vice President/Head Coach] Mike [Shanahan] and his staff have given him – a tremendous amount of flexibility within their offensive scheme. They feature a lot of personnel combinations, formations and they move the quarterback. They have an outstanding running game to help him in his play-action. So I see a guy who has competed like heck, he’s made a lot of plays and has gotten his team in position to win a couple of games here. The unfortunate nature of our business is sometimes time runs out on you.”
On the importance of organizations having patience with its coaches and players:
“Well, these are loaded questions. I can imagine that the media is behind some of this stuff. How important is it? It’s very important. It’s very important from the standpoint of the continuity factor. When I first came to the New York Giants as an assistant coach, I was extremely impressed by the philosophical feeling that [former Giants General Manager] George Young and [Giants Co-Owners] Mr. [Wellington] Mara and Mr. [Bob] Tisch had about being able to put people in positions to do their job and support them. Once the winning started or whatever, it became a real part of the tradition of the franchise. I think it’s very important. The continuity is very important.”
On what makes wide receiver Pierre Garçon so special:
“Big, strong athlete. He has tremendous run after the catch ability – big play potential. He can be used in any number of ways. He’s courageous in going inside. He’ll block. He’s having an outstanding year.”
DE Justin Tuck
On his motivation going into the last game of the season:
“To win the game, like it is always.”
On facing a quarterback with a quick release, such as Kirk Cousins, compared to a mobile quarterback:
“We’ve got a lot of practice against quarterbacks like him, guys that are very – they understand what the defense wants to see with him pre-snap. Like you said, he gets the ball – most of the time, he already knows where those one or two guys are going to be, getting the ball out of his hands quickly. It makes it tough to get pressure on guys like that. All it really takes for a pass rush – it can’t take the pass rush out of the game. A lot of times with mobile quarterbacks, they at least give you time to get to them. Once you get there, that’s a different story, but at least they give you time to get there. It’s a challenge, but I feel like we’ll be up for the challenge.”
On how running back Alfred Morris has developed in his first two NFL seasons:
“I don’t know if develop is the right word. It seems like when he came in, he was developed. He took the league by storm last year and he’s continued to do the same this year. He’s a very difficult back to play against because of – one, because of scheme, but two, also because he’s one of these guys that it’s hard to bring him down once you get your hands on him. A lot of his yards are after-contact-type runs and he’s got great vision, great balance and he makes it very difficult for a defense.”
On who he expects will win the NFC East:
“I don’t know. I think it shifts dramatically with now, I guess, [Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony] Romo’s not going to play. Obviously, that gives the Eagles an advantage, but it’s one of those games where anything can happen. You never know, in this division especially. Two teams that know that [it’s] win and go home, lose and go home. I expect both teams to pull out all stops. I think it’s going to be a pretty good football game, but I probably give the Eagles the advantage just because of the Romo injury.”
On if he is looking forward to the 2013 season being over or looking ahead to the 2014 season:
“I’m looking ahead. Anytime you go into a season like this, you always take time out at the end of the year to go over the goods, the bads and the ugly. I’m looking forward to getting back to the top of the heap. We haven’t – this will be two years in a row for us where we haven’t made the playoffs. It’s just something that you don’t want to get used to. You have to shift your focus to thinking about what next year can be because obviously this year is kind of a lost cause. Again, we’ve got one more game to go and we’re going to go out there and play it just as if we were a playoff team and needed the win.”
Redskins Head Coach Mike Shanahan
Q: What have you learned about Kirk Cousins the past couple of games?
A: I don’t know if you learn anything. I think what you do is you give a guy game experience during the regular season. He had a couple of experiences from the year before and I get to evaluate him in the preseason and it’s always nice to put him in live situations and see how he does, how he handles the pressure and how he plays on game day.
Q: What do you see from him in the progression from last year and this year?
A: He’s had a full offseason with the OTAs and you go back to the preseason games in camp and you just see a guy that understands your system a lot better. He’s a very mature individual to start with, but you like the way he practices and I like the way he’s played in the games as well.
A: Yeah, I believe so.
Q: What does he need to do to solidify the idea that he is an NFL starter?
A: I think everybody evaluates players differently. Everybody will take a look at him play in these last three games of the season. We’ll go back and look at his preseason games and games he played last year and if somebody is looking for a quarterback or whatever the scenario may be, they’ll make their own evaluations as they evaluate that film.
Q: There has been a lot of speculation about your future with the Redskins. Has that affected things in the locker room and with your dealings with the players on the team?
A: I don’t think so. We’ve got a very mature football team and guys are taking care of business the last couple of weeks. It’s no different. I like the way they handle themselves. I like the way they prepare. This week will be no different.
Q: Is Justin Tuck the guy on the Giants defense that you have to keep an eye on during the entire game?
A: You better. You better have to, the way he played us the first time. He did a great job and played extremely well. He’s always been a guy that has a lot of ability and can make plays at any time and he sure did a good job against us last time.
Q: Why was it that he had so much success against you guys?
A: He beat our guys one on one and then he had the effort. I think one and a half…and then the other ones did a good job of getting a jump on us and made some plays. Credit to him.
Q: You mention the maturity of the team. Can you talk about what London Fletcher has meant during your time there?
A: Anytime you get a guy that is a pro’s pro, it just makes it so much easier as a head coach to watch how somebody practices, how they prepare for games, so when you bring draft choices in or free agents in, they get a chance to watch a guy like this on a day to day basis and with the type of leader he is, great leadership skills, just transcends through your football team. So he’s been a very, very positive force since I’ve been here and one of the reasons why he’s so well respected.
Q: A year ago you won the division. What is it about this league where teams can go from top to bottom?
A: I think the difference right now in the NFL between winning and losing is such a fine line and you’ve got to be a little lucky in a few different areas, but I think you said it best. The margin of error is very, very slim or very, very close and in order to win the division, you’ve got to be playing your best football and for whatever reason, if you don’t and you lose that momentum, it can slip away very quickly.
Q: How difficult is it to be in this game Sunday? There are so many games going on around the league with playoff implications and you know that you’ll play this game and go home.
A: I think Tom's just like me… You take a look at the pride of your players. You’ve got a lot of character on both football teams. It’s an NFC East game and even though there are not playoff implications, you still want to go out there and show people that your football team takes a lot of pride in everything that they do and you’d sure like to end the season on a positive note.
Q: Tom Coughlin told Washington reporters that after a season like this for him personally it motivates him to want to coach more. Can you see where he’s coming that maybe after having one of your worst seasons, it makes you want to come back even more?
A: Yeah. I don’t think there’s any question about that. If you’re a competitor and you end the season on a negative note, you want to come back and do everything you can to rectify that, and I agree with him 100 percent. That’s why you’re in this business. You’re motivated, especially when you’re used to winning and you have a year like this. It’s really tough on you. So you get back to the basics and make sure it doesn’t happen again.
Q: You guys have both been around the league for so long. How much do you think this has been eating at him this year?
A: I think it eats at everybody. If it doesn’t eat at you, you’re usually not in this business very long. The reason why you’re here and playing at this level is you’re very, very competitive and Tom’s had so much success throughout his career that you get used to winning and when you do experience some of the things that we both have gone through, it’s very, very tough to take all the time and everything that you do during the offseason, the draft, free agency, to get your team ready to fulfill some of the goals that you had at the beginning of the season is tough on everybody.
Redskins QB Kirk Cousins
Q: What have you learned in these last two games with the chance to get on the field? What’s different for you from last year?
A: I think I have a much larger base from which to work from than I did last year at this time. I got a lot of reps in the offseason and training camp and I was able to get a lot of mental reps in the weeks leading up to these last three weeks of the season. I’ve been putting in the (…) and I think I’ve done a lot of good things, made a couple of mistakes here and there, just to be expected to some degree, but I’m learning from every play, getting better and trusting that it is going to carry me forward.
Q: Kirk, do you think you have so far, or maybe can this week too, make a statement that you deserve to be a starting NFL quarterback?
A: I think every time I get an opportunity, whether it’s in a game, obviously, or even in practice, you’re trying to prove that you belong. This three-week stretch is a great opportunity to do that. Obviously, I would love to catch the eye of a team, of a coach, of a general manager who says we need to acquire that guy to be a starter. As of right now, my job is to get a win for the Washington Redskins, and I haven’t done that yet, but I want to do that this last week of the season. I understand the task at hand and I’m focused on the present, which is getting a win here and now. I really do trust that if I take care of my job this week and just get a win, the other stuff down the line will just take care of itself, but certainly I want to play well.
Q: Is that a little bit of a strange situation, you said you obviously are very focused on getting a win this last game, but knowing that there is really no plans at all for you to stay there, this is really an audition.
A: I think there is a possibility that I stay here and I’ve signed a four-year contract and I still have two more years to go after this season. I think there’s still a likelihood that I’m here. It all depends on what a team thinks of me after watching me in the sample size I’ve been able to put out there and we’ll let that happen as the offseason goes on, but right now it’s about getting the win, controlling what I can control, preparing as well as I can and playing as well as I can on Sunday.
Q: How different is the offense with you running it? Are you still running the same game plan as Robert Gtiffin III was?
A: Well you don’t see the zone read as much. Robert’s obviously very talented running the football, so you’re going to have some quarterback design runs, which can give the defense some issues. We’re not going to do that when I’m in there as much, but we’re going to play to my strengths and probably do a little more drop back and a little more play-pass, a little more traditional things for the quarterback to do to be able to read the defense and get through a progression. Whoever is quarterbacking, the coordinator is going to play to that guy’s strengths and you can see the differences in Robert’s and my game.