Steve Spurrier infamously proclaimed 5-11 was "not very good" after his 2003 season with Washington. He quit the next day, done with the NFL after two years and a 12-20 record.
"Even though the record may not show it," Shanahan said Monday, "we're a much better football team than we were a year ago."
The Redskins regressed from 6-10 to 5-11 this year, so Shanahan's mark in two seasons in Washington stands at 11-21. He's never had a worse full-season record as a head coach, and Washington has now finished in last place in the NFC East for four years running.
"Thank God I haven't been through any like this before - I might not be in this profession very long," Shanahan said. "But it's something that really drives you and motivates you. It's something that I look forward to doing, putting a great football team together and doing it the right way, and sometimes it takes a little bit longer than sometimes expected."
Shanahan cited the team's improved depth as evidence that he has the Redskins pointed in the right direction. Even so, there are significant upgrades needed at receiver, in the secondary, along the offensive line and in a special teams unit that had five blocked field goals this year - the most allowed by a team in the NFL in eight years.
But it all starts and ends with the quarterback, and Shanahan needs to find one.
After failing to make it work with Donovan McNabb last year, Shanahan made the bold statement that he was staking his reputation this season on Rex Grossman and John Beck. Grossman ended up committing 25 turnovers in 13 games, and Beck lasted for all of three winless starts.
"I don't care what anybody says, I know what I can do and I know what I'm capable of - and I know that I will achieve it," Beck said Monday before stuffing his belongings into a large clear plastic bag at his locker. "I thought it was going to happen this year. It didn't. But it's going to happen. I'm not going to let it not happen."
Grossman's self-confidence was just as strong. While Beck is under contract for next season, Grossman is a free agent - but it's possible he could be brought back to mentor a quarterback taken in the first round of the draft.
"There's a lot of things that I can do to improve," Grossman said. "But definitely there was a lot of good, and we'll see how they evaluate it."
Shanahan has already starting looking for someone else. For weeks now, he has been spending about a half-hour in the mornings looking at video of the top college prospects. The Redskins hold the No. 6 overall pick in the April draft.
"Everybody's looking for a franchise quarterback," offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. "You want one of those guys that there's no question about. There's probably only about five or six of them in the league. Then there's a lot of guys who can play and there's some guys who need to be replaced. You're always trying to find that one and (we're) still working to do it."
The Redskins' noteworthy free agents include linebacker London Fletcher, safety LaRon Landry, tight end Fred Davis, defensive end Adam Carriker and running back Tim Hightower. Shanahan said Fletcher is a priority to re-sign, while Landry's value is subject to his return from a left Achilles injury and Davis has just completed a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's drugs policy. Davis was one of three Redskins players suspended this season, the latest black eye for the franchise.
But the Redskins, being the Redskins, couldn't wrap up the season without one final bit of consternation. Shanahan, as is his usual routine, gave his parting words to the players in the locker room Sunday after the final game. On Monday, with the coach not even in the room, the players heard from Navy SEALs and a marine as part of a program mandated by the NFL.
While many players said they found the presentation inspiring and that it helped them put football in perspective, backup offensive lineman Sean Locklear tweeted that it was the "Worst exit meeting ever!" because no coaches or front office people spoke. He later went back on Twitter to apologize.
"I talked to Sean after the game and, obviously, he must not have liked my speech," Shanahan said with more than a touch of sarcasm. "Obviously he must have been disappointed in it. I've only been doing it that way for a number of years, and he must be used to a different way. So I apologize, Sean, it'll never happen again - at least not with me."
Joseph White can be reached at http://twitter.com/JGWhiteAP