The Redskins' bye couldn't have come at a better time. The team is reeling and needs to hit the reset button, plus the week off will allow coach Mike Shanahan's comments to blow over.
In case you're just back from Mars, here's what Shanahan said Sunday shortly after Washington lost at home to Carolina.
"When you lose a game like that now you're playing to see who is going to be on your football team for years to come," he said. "Now we get a chance to evaluate players and see where we're at.
"Obviously, we're not out of it statistically, but now we find out what type of character we got and how guys keep on fighting through the rest of the season."
While it's hard to misconstrue any of that, a day later, Shanahan said his comments were misinterpreted.
"To suggest that the season was over with is completely ludicrous," he said.
Shanahan has the support of his players, most likely because they don't have much say in the matter; they're playing for their jobs, after all. Whatever Shanahan meant to say, we all heard the words that came out of his mouth. Look, he's human. He was angry and frustrated that his team lost at home to the previously 1-6 Panthers. That's unacceptable, especially when the 'Skins had a chance to get to 4-5 heading into their bye with five division games left over the next two months.
But here's the thing: you'd never see Bill Belichick or Mike McCarthy or Mike Tomlin -- considered some of the best coaches in the league -- admit what Shahanan did publicly. They might not even be thinking it privately. And that brings us to something former Redskins linebacker Antonio Pierce said recently about all this.
During an appearance on ESPN Radio with Scott Van Pelt, Pierce talked about what it was like on the '01 team under then-coach Marty Schottenheimer that stumbled out of the gate to an 0-5 record, the fifth loss at the hands of the winless Cowboys.
“I can remember exactly what happened,” Pierce told Van Pelt (via the Sports Bog) “He came in that meeting room, he told Stephen Davis, 'stand up.' He said 'Stephen, I’m gonna wear you out the rest of the season.' He told Bruce Smith, Darrell Green, 'I’m gonna rely on you guys for leadership in the locker room.'
“He said we WILL turn this around. It wasn’t 'Okay young guys, get ready, it’s your turn.' It was this next meeting, this next practice, we’re gonna get better. We’re gonna make the playoffs this year.
“And I was shocked. I was going 'We’re 0-5, we’re horrible, everybody’s talking trash about us.' But what did we do? We were one game away from making the playoffs that year.”
That's awkward. Though, to Pierce's credit, he understands why Shanahan might have those thoughts but, like most of us, disagrees with the decision to verbalize them.
“I know a lot of times we say things when we’re upset,” Pierce said. “But never have I heard a coach talk about next year when there’s still seven games left. To me, that just blew my mind. ...
“You can never put that message out there to the masses, to the media,” Pierce continued. “And NEVER let your players hear that. Don’t go and try to cover it up on Mondays and Tuesdays. It’s too late. Because I think you’ve already lost this team.”