McNabb benched, Grossman to start vs Dallas

McNabb benched, Grossman to start vs Dallas
December 17, 2010, 3:17 pm
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Friday, December 17, 2010, 6:52 p.m.

By Ryan O'Halloran
Staff writer
CSNwashington.com

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Donovan McNabb arrived in Washington on Easter Sunday in exchange for two draft picks, a 11.2 million salary but a 33-year old body and a reputation for spotty accuracy.

But Redskins fans didnt care. They and his new teammates felt a franchise-type quarterback was finally on the roster and his play-making ability and leadership would will them up the NFC East standings.

The marriage lasted 13 games.

Mired in a season-long offensive slump, a 1-5 skid that ended their playoff hopes and posting the worst statistics since his rookie year, McNabb was benched by coach Mike Shanahan following Thursdays practice and replaced by veteran Rex Grossman.

Grossman will make his first start in more than two years when the Redskins travel to Dallas on Sunday. McNabb will serve as the back-up before he becomes the third quarterback behind Grossman and John Beck for the final two games.

I have to find out where Rex Grossman is, where John Beck is, Shanahan said after practice Friday. Ill get a good chance to feel for where were at.

Shanahan told McNabb a spot on the Redskins roster next year isnt guaranteed, a clear sign that No. 5s time with the team will last one season, clearly not the kind of return the Redskins thought they were getting for a second-round pick last year and a third-round pick next spring.

What I can guarantee McNabb is that Ill be honest with him and Ill evaluate the situation, Shanahan said. I want to evaluate everybody, I want to evaluate the draft, evaluate these two players and come up with the best plan. It could very well be Donovan but Im not making that commitment until I see everybody.

If the Redskins cut ties with McNabb via release, theyll be on the hook for 3.5 million of signing bonus money from the extension he signed in mid-November but nothing else.

Grossman is a free agent next year and Beck who signed an extension in early September has only four NFL starts, opening the possibility that the Redskins will draft a quarterback next spring. Shanahan mentioned the draft several times during a 12-minute post-practice press conference that was exclusively about McNabb and Grossman.

McNabb has a career-worst 15 interceptions and his touchdown (14) total and passer rating (77.1) are the lowest for a full season. Sunday will be his first healthy non-start since November 1999.

McNabb wasnt made available to reporters in the locker room following practice and teammates expressed equal parts indifference and mild surprise at the switch. There certainly wasnt the outrage that would have gripped the team had McNabb been benched at mid-season.

It was shocking; I dont think any of us saw it coming, cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. Sad as it is, this league is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league and he hasnt won a whole lot of games with us so Coach felt like it was time to figure out if Rex is going to be a guy we keep around here or not.

Said tight end Chris Cooley: I guess I was surprised. Theres always something new here but thats the NFL. I trust our head coach and believes hes doing what he feels is best for this team.

The Redskins could be nipping their quarterback quandary in the bud, admitting that McNabb is not a fit but doing it with enough time left in the season to assess Grossman, who has career marks of 33 touchdowns and 36 interceptions.

Regardless, the McNabb trade can now be viewed a colossal blunder for the Shanahan regime and it creates another gaping hole on a roster that already needs to improve along both the offensive and defensive lines and at receiver, linebacker and punter.

There are a lot of mistakes you make and if you do make one, you make it and go on, Shanahan said. What I want to do is evaluate where were at and then tell you whether weve erred or not.

McNabb takes a seat after what offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan called one of his best drives of the game, a 13-play, 75-yard march that ended with a touchdown against Tampa Bay. National reports for weeks have said Kyle hasnt been enamored with McNabb.

Kyle had no idea I was going to do it, Mike Shanahan said. Nobody did because once you tell one person, it gets out.

Shanahan delayed announcing the decision so the Redskins could practice without distraction on Wednesday and Thursday. This isnt the first high profile benching of his career he sat Bubby Brister for rookie Brian Griese in 1999 and demoted Jake Plummer for rookie Jay Cutler seven years later.

Its always a very tough conversation when you deal with a Hall of Fame player, Shanahan said. Youre doing something in the best interest of the organization, not necessarily in his best interest because he wants to compete, he wants to play, which I understand. Being fired a couple times, I know how tough that is.

Grossman will try to resuscitate an offense that ranks 27th in points per game (18.3) and has exceeded 20 points only four times (all losses).

Rex gives us a great chance to win, Shanahan said. I have the utmost confidence in Rex. Im throwing him in the briar patch. I think hell perform well.

Said Grossman, who is 19-12 as a regular season starter: Ive definitely had some time to reflect on my time in Chicago and what I would have done differently if given the opportunity to be a starter again and how I would go about it. I definitely have a game plan.

Just because hes made a quarterback switch doesnt mean other back-ups will see extended action, save for Anthony Bryant, who is expected to start at nose tackle ahead of Maake Kemoeatu.

Somebody has to earn the right, Shanahan said. I just dont do it for young kids, I do it when a person has earned the right to show me what they can do on the football field and gives us an excellent chance to win.

Contact Ryan at rohalloran@comcastsportsnet.com