Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan has been around long enough to know that his job infrequently asks him to dole out praise to his players.
Much like the principal's office in grade school, a conversation with the head coach is rarely something to look forward to.
So Shanahan saved the praise for his team for a very public forum, at the podium for the 52nd annual Welcome Home Luncheon, presented by USAA.
"I don’t get a chance to brag on my players very often. Usually when I talk to my players, it’s about thing they do poorly," he admitted. "Very rarely do you get a chance to tell people what you think of them as a whole."
He went on to discuss his logic behind roster composition and praised the front office for working against NFL salary cap penalties to build winning chemistry in the locker room.
"When we put a football team together, we’re looking for people that are very passionate about what they do, very positive in the way they think, and perseverance to last during tough times," he explained. "You always want great work ethic; it’s very important. But so often, they don’t have that perseverance.
"We’ve got a football team that’s got everything. And that’s why you should be very proud of them. I know you were proud of them last year, but I was super proud of them because they went through adversity that most people don’t do, without giving up or listening to the critics."
Last season, the team overcame a 3-6 start that had them in the cellar of the NFC East and effectively dead in the water.
Shanahan credited the character of his players for keeping the team afloat when most would shut down.
"Very seldom do you have a team that goes 3-6 through the first half of the season, and they keep their poise and they keep together as a team," he said. "That doesn’t happen very often, where you win the last seven games in a row. You have to have something very special about your team as a whole: people that fight through adversity when the pressure is on you the most.
"People will tell you, you can’t do something. And usually the people that tell you, you can’t do things, have never tried to accomplish anything themselves. Our players as a whole, walked through that adversity and never wavered at any time through the season.
"That’s why you’re proud and you’re not surprised with what they accomplished.
A remarkable bye week away from football brought the team together, launching one of the most electric comebacks in franchise history.
Rattling off seven wins, including five against division opponents, the Redskins surged to the NFC East title and an improbable playoff run.
Shanahan credited a full team turnaround during the last seven games, with an offense that scored an average of five more points per game and a defense that held opponents to an average of eight points fewer.
"At the end of the season, for every time the ball was snapped, they were the most effective offense in the National Football League, with six new starters," Shanahan said. "That doesn’t happen very often unless you have character, and you’ve got people who believe in each other.
"Defense was the same thing. Defensively, all of a sudden you lose our two safeties and you lose ‘Rak (Brian Orakpo), you lose Adam Carriker after the first quarter in the second game. We had some guys that fought, but we’re still 3-6 at the midway point.
"Our guys played their best football in the last seven games. Our defense stepped up and made the plays that you had to make. And when you have people like that, you know you got something special. You got character."
Shanahan's address to the crowd was just one highlight of another successful Welcome Home Luncheon.
The Welcome Home Luncheon, presented by USAA, benefits the Redskins Charitable Foundation and is the only annual event that gathers all members of the Washington Redskins organization in one place all year.
Each table of fans and special guests has at least one Redskins player or coach to eat lunch with, and the five players of the year are honored at the head table along with the Redskins brass and alumni.
The event also featured live and silent auctions that benefit the team's charitable outreach in the community, with several exclusive VIP packages available.
This was the first time the event was held at the Gaylord Hotel at National Harbor, and the event sold out quickly given the excitement for the new season.