Tuesday, November 2, 2010 4:15 PM
By Rich Tandler
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Mike Shanahans decision to pull Donovan McNabb out of Sundays loss to the Detroit Lions created a firestorm of criticism. His evolving, convoluted explanation for doing so has just about gone nuclear. Heres a look at all sides of the issue in todays edition of the wildly popular Point-Counterpoint. PointWow, Shanahan really blew it this time. What in the world was he thinking? Rex Grossman? Does Rex really know the two-minute offense better than McNabb? There is some evidence that book learning, which is all of the exposure that Grossman has had to Kyle Shanahans two-minute offense, has some value. We saw Todd Collins, who knew Al Saunders offense from studying the playbook, came in and ran it well on the field in the 2007 run to the playoffs. But Collins had 10 years under Saunders. By comparison, Rex and Kyle had a cup of coffee together in Houston last year.
CounterpointI dont think that anyone is buying any of the explanation, from the playbook through the cardiovascular endurance to the hamstrings. But its important here to separate the action of benching McNabb from Shanahans explanation for doing so. I dont know who at Redskins Park had to shovel out all of the barnyard excrement that was spread around the auditorium there yesterday but I hope he had a big shovel. Im not sure what Shanahans level of formal education is but it seems to me like he has his B. S. (we all know what that stands for), M. S. (more of the same) and PhD (piled higher and deeper). PointThe thing is, Shanahan couldnt tell the truth. His only options were to give no comment or to make something up. The no comment wasnt doable, so the fabrication was the more tenable of the two evils. But what ultimately matters is not the message that Shanahan sends to the media and the fans. What matters is the message that he sends to his starting quarterback. Remember a few weeks ago when all the talk was about illegal hits by headhunting defenders? What everyone was saying was that the only way to get the players attention was to suspend them, to take away their playing time. Apparently, Mike Shanahan needed to get McNabbs attention. So he took away a little bit of his playing time.
CounterpointThere is getting someones attention and there is smacking him upside the head with a two by four in front everyone. This cant be good for the long-term future of the relationship between McNabb and Shanahan. Now McNabb will be looking over his shoulder every time he makes a mistake. All of this has the potential to split the locker room, too. At the very least, the other players will have to wonder is something similar will happen to them. PointSo what is Shanahan supposed to do if hes unhappy with how McNabb plays? Should he pat him on the back and tell him to try harder next time? Give him a smiley sticker to make him feel better? This is big boy football. If McNabb cant take being benched maybe he consider finding a job that, unlike being an NFL quarterback, doesnt require skin as thick as rhinoceros hide. The fact is that Shanahan had to do something. Here, from my own notes and observations on the game, are some of McNabbs mistakes and miscues on Sunday. With the exception of the tripping issue, none of them are anything new: In the first few series of the game, McNabb twice tripped over the foot of center Casey Rabach. Admittedly, this could have been an issue with Rabach but it also could have been lazy footwork on McNabbs part. Early in the game on second and 15, McNabb threw a sideline pass to nobody. Santana Moss had stopped on the route and McNabb threw the ball as if Moss was going to continue up the sideline. On the first play of second half, there was a fumble during a play action fake. It looked like McNabb didnt pull ball out in time. McNabb did recover the fumble. On third and 6 on first drive of second half, McNabb had time while being blitzed and he overthrew Cooley by a mile on a short route. With even a marginally good pass, Cooley would have been able to turn up the field and get the first down. Late in the third quarter, with the Lions up 14-13, McNabb sidestepped the rush and threw for Cooley in the flat. The ball was low and Cooley couldnt quite get it off of the ground. Instead of third and about four or five at worst, was third and 13. On the next play, Moss was open down the right sideline. But McNabbs pass was late and the cornerback had time to recover and tip the ball away. With less than five minutes to go and the Redskins nursing a 25-20 lead, McNabb throws into triple coverage and the pass was intercepted. This wasnt from this game, but McNabb has been atrocious in two-minute situations this year. Inside of two minutes in the first and second half this year he is 18 of 33 (55 percent) for 152 yards, 0 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. That works out to a quarterback rating of 41.5, 37th in the NFL. There is now what that he was going to lead the Redskins from behind in that game I could go on, but youve seen the games, too. McNabbs quarterback rating has gone down just about every week since the Houston game. He runs hot and cold and the cold stretches are much longer than the hot stretches.
CounterpointDont forget that hes learning a new offense and that the 10 other guys he is playing with also are learning. Some, particularly those on the offensive line, are not picking things up very quickly, either. To point the finger at McNabb here while Kory Lichtensteiger and Joe Galloway either start or get substantial playing time is just crazy. No doubt, hes been hot and cold but his hot stretches have been long enough for the Redskins to have as many wins at midseason this year as they did all of last year. And McNabbs two-minute numbers are what they are but if Rex is the answer in that situation, Shanny isnt asking the right question. PointI dont know if this rift is going to heal. If it doesnt, McNabb will be one and done here and the Redskins will have blown two high draft picks for one-year rental. There is going to be an opening for a quarterback in Minnesota and Brad Childress is an old McNabb fave from their days together in Minnesota. If not there, Arizona needs a replacement for Kurt Warner. McNabbs offseason home just so happens to be in the Phoenix area. If the rift between him and Shanahan grows any more, hell be so desperate to leave that hell go just about anywhere.
CounterpointFor one thing, see the part about needing a rhinos skin above. If the guy really needs to bolt town after taking one little owie to his ego, who wants him around anyway? The window on the Vikings is closing. They have a ton of players whose deals are up this year and no new stadium deal is imminent. They are not going to replace Bret Favre with another quarterback drawing an eight-figure salary. And Chilly might not be there; he could well be thrown overboard in the aftermath of the Randy Moss fiasco. Arizona could be a possibility but if they continue going downhill they arent going to pay top dollar for a short-term quarterback, either. And if you think there is doing to be any sort of permanent rift, see how Shanahan and Albert Haynesworth have gone from being mortal enemies to being best buddies. Its a job. There are conflicts all the time. Players and coaches get over it.You can reach Rich Tandler by email atRTandlerCSN@comcast.netand follow him on Twitter@RealRedskins.