Mike Shanahan mystifies me. He fascinates me, too. Six weeks into the season and I'll be darned if I can figure him out.
I like that he is playing younger players. I wonder if he's putting the best defense on the field with those players instead of Albert Haynesworth who wasn't even active for the game against the Indianapolis Colts.
Haynesworth said that, tragedy aside, he was ready to play and that he wanted to play. But he suspected since his return to practice last Thursday that he would not play since he only practiced with the scout team and wasn't in any defense package for the Colts game.
Haynesworth is quoted in a story appearing on the Sunday Night Football All Access web site where he reminded that he had more experience against the Colts than any other player on defense.
That's a good point. I hear coach Shanahan say he wants to win now. He did not win with DT Vonnie Holiday on the defensive line. Big Al might have made some difference on a critical down or two.
How do we read that Haynesworth spent the week on the practice squad? Sounds bad, yet Brandon Banks spent the week before the Eagles game on the scout team. The Redskins signed Banks to the active roster the day before the game and he played.
When Chris Cooley let slip that Haynesworth was practicing with the scout team, Shanahan said it meant nothing. Every veteran would spend time on the scout team.
So what was with the talk until Sunday that Haynesworth was a game time decision? Was it to keep the Colts guessing? Is that how you win?
The Washington Redskins forgot how to build perennial winners. That sad situation predates Daniel Snyder. Norv Turner's regular season record here was 49-59-1, .454, between 1994 and 2000.
Shanahan adheres to a process. Practice and you can stay. Practice well and you can play. Practice perfect and you can start. I love that approach. The Washington Redskins need that approach. It is still disconcerting to see high value players on the inactive list.
Greg Blache was rigid in his approach to defense and inflexible in his use of players. That seemed bad to me. Isn't it equally bad when Shanahan does the same?
Sunday Night Football shines a spotlight on trade-bait players. Do we infer from Haynesworth's absence Sunday that Shanahan does not seek to trade him?
Is Shanahan making the point that winners are not built around stars. Stars emerge from the process. To whom is he making that point?
The Redskins were in the Colts game until the end with a mix of young (Torain, Armstrong) and veteran (Holiday, Galloway) players. Torain was the leading rusher in Week 6 going into the Monday Night game. That contest features Chris Johnson (Titans), so Torain's lead may not hold up. But we don't expect to see that performance when Clinton Portis is on the bench.
You sense that Shanahan is moving in the right direction. The table is set for a 10-win season next year. But some of Shanahan's moves are real head-scratchers.
That's one thing I miss from last season. Jim Zorn was candid. Shanahan obfuscates. The press will ask him about Haynesworth Monday. Shanahan will give a 30-word answer that divulges nothing.
He is a mystery.