I’m trying to find the method behind the madness. When Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan benched his star quarterback for his back-up, Rex Grossman with 2 minutes to play and the Skins behind by six, he sent a message- but to what end and at what cost?
Let’s face it, Donovan McNabb has been inconsistent. He looks horrible at times and then all of a sudden connects on a 50 yard bomb. Regardless of how bad he played Sunday, he was the guy you wanted in there to lead the team on the final drive.
But I understand Shanahan’s impatience. The previous two drives were maddening. McNabb threw an interception into triple coverage when the Skins had a five point lead and were trying to kill clock. The next series was 4 and out and ended with an inglorious sack. Forget what Shanahan said after the game that Grossman knows the terminology and the playbook better. He simply had had it with McNabb.
Remember, this is a guy who coached John Elway in his prime and walked away with two Super bowl victories. He knows a great quarterback when he sees one and McNabb for as much as a leader as he is and for as much as his raw skills can produce sudden lightening- he’s no John Elway. Shanahan has seen the kind of quarterback is takes to win it all.
In retrospect, it seems Shanahan was willing to sacrifice one-sixteenth of the season to make a point. Besides being disillusioned, he might have been trying to light a fire in his star quarterback for the rest of the season. In baseball, you can sacrifice one contest and it’s not that big a deal since you play 162 games. But you only have 16 chances for victory in an NFL season. That was a mighty big sacrifice in order to make a point.
Now facing a bye week, there are two full weeks of second-guessing ahead of us. Two weeks for players to consider what it is that occurred with their on-field leader. Two weeks of shaken confidence to rebuild and fix.
And in that sudden, rash, seemingly emotionally-based decision, it also sealed the end of the McNabb era in Washington. There is no way that man is coming back to Washington having been dissed by his coach and with an offensive line that is so porous, McNabb may not physically survive another year in the nation’s capital.
Maybe three years from now, it will all make sense- after the Skins have rebuilt around some new free agent quarterback or a whiz-kid draft pick. Then we may realize that in that first year of the Shanahan era, McNabb was never meant to be the savior, just the stop-gap solution that made the team semi-respectable.
But right now, it seems like a petulant decision that may end up costing the Redskins what confidence they have, a possible playoff spot, and in McNabb, a pretty classy guy who will likely join Shanahan some day in the Hall of Fame. Probably the only place in which they will ever be able to peaceably coexist.