The Washington Redskins seem doomed, and maybe they are. But a 3-6 record doesn't seem to scare coach Mike Shanahan. It's like old times.
For the third time during Shanahan's four seasons, the Redskins are 3-6. The one exception was 4-5, so Shanahan has never led a winner at Washington around the season's midpoint.
"The only thing I think we can draw on is that our goal is to be 4-6," Shanahan said. "I think if you do that and you have that type of mindset, then you've got a chance to take care of business."
To become 4-6, Washington will have to win a Nov. 17 game at Philadelphia. Last year, the Redskins reeled off seven straight victories to win the NFC East title. This year, such a streak would be miraculous. The remaining schedule includes the San Francisco 49ers (6-3) and Kansas City Chiefs (9-0) along with four division games that are almost always bruising.
Shanahan made headlines last year when saying the rest of the season would be an evaluation after falling to 3-6. He quickly rephrased that players are always evaluated, and he wasn't giving up on the season. It was a quirky mistake, but quickly forgotten when the team started winning.
Posed the same question Nov. 13, Shanahan paraphrased last season's reply without making another headline-grabbing statement.
"I think I made a comment last year along the same lines that you always see when you have a little adversity how hard people work in practice, how they play in the game," Shanahan said, "and that's a constant evaluation, especially when you're 3-6. You find out which guys are mentally there, which guys practice well, which guys play well, if they give you effort for 60 minutes -- it's all part of the process."
It all starts against the Eagles, whose 33-27 opening-day victory against the Redskins during coach Chip Kelly's pro debut wasn't as close as the score. Philadelphia manhandled Washington for a 26-7 halftime lead, then cruised during the second half.
The quick offense exhausted both teams after one half. The Eagles ran five plays during the opening 80 seconds and 51 by halftime. Philadelphia's 77 snaps were seven more than Washington's, but the Eagles weren't threatened.
Shanahan dismissed revenge motives against the Eagles. Indeed, the Redskins just need to beat anyone and especially division rivals.
"We want to get back at everybody," he said. "We want to win each week. It's a very important game because this is a division game. I think everybody wants to win the division. I think we all know what the records are. We know this is a very big game for us, especially on the road -- an NFC East opponent. We want to play our best -- very important for both of us."
A key difference is this time, the Redskins know what to expect from the Eagles' offense. The opener gave Washington no film to review of the offense that Kelly, a former Oregon coach, would run. The Eagles rebounded from a couple of poor efforts near midseason to score 49 against Oakland. Defenses looked as if they were figuring out Philadelphia, and then the Eagles rebooted.
"There's always a couple of wrinkles everybody puts in," Shanahan said. "This is what they've been doing all the way through the college days, so there's not a lot of surprises. But there's a lot more film on what they've done through all the years in college. They've taken that to the NFL.
"It's nice to see on film, because you're not surprised like you are in the first game, because you're not sure which direction they're going to go, because they're not going to use everything in preseason. But once you get to this game during the season, they've shown most of their wrinkles and you get to see it on film -- different adjustments they've made [and] what defenses have done against them to try to keep them off-balance."
The Redskins' game against Philadelphia will help determine whether they'll have another long shot at the postseason or an earlier start to the offseason.