Shanahan: Young players must earn time

ASHBURN, Va. -- The Washington Redskins season turned bad long ago. Mike Shanahan doesn't want to make it worse -- which is what he says playing young players just for the sake of it would do.

That means the coaches will continue to play the best players and not just those who are the youngest, in the hope that they develop.

At 3-9, the Redskins have been eliminated from playoff contention. In truth, they were never really in it given their poor and inconsistent play all season. The other reality is that many young players already have played, with the notable exception of the backup offensive linemen: guard Josh LeRibeus, guard Adam Gettis and tackle Tom Compton.

But a losing record and only four games remaining does not equal opportunity for every young player.

“If two guys were very, very close you may go in that direction,” Shanahan said. “It all depends on the competition. Players know when you're playing for the future. Players know that your job is to play the best players that give you the best chance to win. If you want to see a team turn on you, just go start playing younger players and start playing for the future.”

The Redskins have used a number of first- or second-year players already this season. They've used young players in the secondary, at quarterback and running back. Gettis, LeRibeus and Compton have spent the year as backups, though Compton has entered in short yardage or goal-line situations.

Shanahan would not say whether or not any of those three would get more time, even as parts of the line struggle.

“There are a number of guys that are very close,” Shanahan said. “Are they there yet? If you're going to put a guy in that's close, you're not playing your best player, then what you've told your team is you are evaluating these young guys and you really don't care about the game. What you do care about is the future. If you want to lose a team, that's the first thing to do. Now, if that person warrants a chance to play because it's very, very close in competition that's a different story."

The Redskins coaches see the young players in practice and, if they're on the scout team, they'll get to watch them work against starters. It gives them a good sense of a players' ability.

"Just because a guy is on the practice squad or because you're out of the playoff race doesn't mean somebody is going to be elevated just to see what he can do in a game," Shanahan said. "The best players are going to play and they've got to earn the right."