Shanahan’s bizarre decision to bench McNabb still makes no sense

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan's decision to bench Donovan McNabb for Rex Grossman was unexpected, and, perhaps, indefensible. Photo by Mike Frandsen.

Redskins coach Mike Shanahan’s decision to bench quarterback Donovan McNabb for Rex Grossman with less than two minutes to go and the Redskins down by six in Sunday’s 37-25 loss to the Detroit Lions was indefensible.  See my article on here.

It just gets curiouser and curiouser.  First, Shanny said McNabb didn’t have as good of a command of the 2-minute offense as Grossman.  Then he said something about McNabb not being in good cardiovascular shape because of injuries.  Let’s face it – the whole thing is weird.  McNabb hasn’t played that well, but the Skins don’t exactly have a good running game, a passable receiving corps, or even a solid offensive line.  And the defense gives up tons and tons of yards. (So much for the technical analysis in this article).

Maybe Shanahan is trying to show the team that no one is above anyone else.  He messed with Albert Haynesworth by not playing him against the Colts, benched Derrick Dockery, and cut Devin Thomas. And at other times during the season, Haynesworth has played sparingly, despite the fact that he has shown he can be dominant against both the pass and the run.

Washington traded for McNabb last spring for these moments, because he has been one of the better quarterbacks in the NFL for the last decade. Grossman is a journeyman, he hadn’t played in a regular season game since last year, and he is known as a streaky player.  McNabb has a reputation as a leader, and already led a comeback this season against Green Bay.  No quarterback has more 50-yard passes this season than McNabb, and with no timeouts, long passes would have been critical.

McNabb has made the Redskins a significantly better team than they were in 2009, already leading Washington to as many victories as it had all last season.

One scary possibility on this Halloween is that the decision came from up above.  Last year, in a bizarre, unprecedented move, Redskins owner Dan Snyder took away coach Jim Zorn’s play-calling duties and hired former NFL offensive coordinator Sherman Lewis to call plays from the booth.  Lewis had been calling bingo games since his retirement in 2004. If a frustrated Snyder hastily gave orders to Shanahan to replace McNabb with Grossman late in the game, Shanahan should have ignored him and dared him to fire him.

Of course, any talk of Snyder’s involvement is purely speculative, and it’s much more likely that Shanahan is sending a message to the team with these moves, that it doesn’t matter your draft pedigree, and that even McNabb, a six-time Pro Bowl quarterback, can be benched for poor performance.  But it’s not loyal to your franchise quarterback to pull him late in a close game.  It’s insulting. It’s very doubtful that former Hog Russ Grimm would have made that decision had he been head coach.

To see the rest of my article on, click here.


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