ASHBURN, Va. -- Having lost at least 10 games for the second consecutive season, Washington coach Mike Shanahan admitted Monday that the rebuilding project he took on has been more difficult than he expected.
"A lot longer than I first anticipated," Shanahan said in the wake of a 33-26 home loss to the lowly Minnesota Vikings, which dropped the Redskins to 5-10 heading into Sunday's season finale against the Eagles in Philadelphia. "We had less depth than I thought. We were a little bit older at a few different positions. I thought we might keep those players a little longer than we did."
Since taking command of the Redskins in January 2010, Shanahan has overhauled the aging roster he inherited from Jim Zorn. Only 12 of the 53 current active players had ever suited up for the Redskins before his arrival. And yet, Washington has clinched a fourth straight last-place finish, a first in the NFC East's 42-year history.
"It's tough to swallow," said third-year outside linebacker Brian Orakpo. "But that's the NFL, man. We thought (the 23-10 upset of the New York Giants in Week 15) was the turning point, as far as us taking another step forward. Obviously we took a step back (against Minnesota)."
Shanahan agreed with nose tackle Barry Cofield's assessment that the defense, which had been carrying the Redskins most of the season, had its worst day against the Vikings. Minnesota ran for 241 yards despite losing star running back Adrian Peterson and starting quarterback Christian Ponder on the first series of the third quarter in what was, at the time, a tie game.
"It's depressing," Cofield said.
"We got a lot to think about for next week. We got a lot to think about for the offseason. Hopefully, guys use it as a driving force."
Still, Shanahan and Orakpo remain upbeat about the future. The team has a newly solid front seven on defense, while rookie running backs Roy Helu and Evan Royster have combined for four 100-yard games the past five weeks.
"I see a big difference from two years ago," said Shanahan, who could lose 11 games for the first time in his 17 full seasons as a coach with the Los Angeles Raiders, Denver and Washington. "We have a much younger football team. We have a lot more depth at a lot of different positions. I feel good about the type of players that we do have. I feel good about the direction we're heading."
Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press