Saturday, December 18, 2010

The McNabb benching

The fact that Mike and Kyle Shanahan were very dissatisfied with Donovan McNabb and considering a change had been asserted for some time now by various reporters who generally know what they're talking about, but I'll admit it still came as a shock to me.

This move basically seals the McNabb trade as a complete failure. I think most of us were skeptical of giving up a second round pick (and a mid-rounder), although I was in a state of mind at the time to give Mike Shanahan the benefit of the doubt. After all, he knows what he's doing, right? Assuming McNabb signed an extension, three years or so of above-average quarterback play is probably worth that cost.  And if the new regime had no confidence in Jason Campbell, then it was best for everyone to move on.

There's no way that the coaching staff comes out of this without looking terrible. McNabb may be older, but there's no denying he had been an above average quarterback throughout his 11 year Philadelphia career. There are various possible explanations for his poor play this year:

- Despite the conventional wisdom, maybe McNabb's skills were not actually a good fit for the Shanahans' offensive scheme. If so, that is a major failure of evaluation by the coaches, as its not like McNabb was some sort of unknown quantity.

- Maybe McNabb stubbornly resisted adjusting himself to the system. There were at least hints of this with his apparent resistance to altering his mechanics, particularly his high stance in the pocket. There were also discouraging hints about his approach to practice. But it's part of a coach's job to win over his players and convince them that he knows what he's doing. Coaches have to share some of the responsibility for their players' attitudes and approach to the game.

- Maybe they simply failed to teach McNabb. That's a rather obvious coaching failure.

- Maybe McNabb's skills are in rapid decline. If so, that is another failure of film study, and calls into questions the coaches' judgment for giving up significant draft picks.

So the fact that the McNabb trade was a failure cannot be minimized. It's a huge setback for the team, bit it's also overwith. A lot of people are criticizing this as an awful decision, but that's only the case if McNabb still has a chance to be the quarterback here in 2011. And the fact that they are bouncing him all the way down to inactive 3rd QB (after this week) means this isn't a temporary benching to make a point - they sure seem to be giving up on him altogether.  And if that's the case, then there is absolutely no reason not to put him on the bench. The two draft picks and the lost season now represent sunk costs and it's time to move on.

In fact, giving Grossman a three game audition may be the only responsible thing to do at this point. Obviously the quarterback situation is wide open at this point and its time to start planning how it will be addressed in the offseason. I am as skeptical as anyone of Grossman as a viable NFL starter, but if he doesn't get significant playing time it's going to be awfully hard to make personell decisions.  I assume quarterback will be a major draft target, and we need to decide of Grossman can hold down the starting job for a year or two. If Grossman plays decently, then we don't go and waste resources on another veteran starter to hold down the job for a year or two. If he fails, that's fine - better to find out now than next year when the games matter again.

And I suppose there is a little silver lining here. The situation, while generally frustrating and miserable, is at least interesting. The Redskins have given us a reason to watch and pay attention to three games that would otherwise have been meaningless. I'll admit I'm pretty curious to see how the whole situation plays out.

I'll close by referring you to some of the better analysis of this move:

- Tandler points out that after Shanahan made a dramatic move to bring in McNabb, and then made an equally dramatic move to reverse that decision, he really, really needs to get this right: "If you’re going to be the smartest guy in the room, executing your master plan while all of the others in the room are watching and wondering what in the world you are doing, what you do had better work."

- Matt Terl over at the Offical Redskins Blog argues that we probably shouldn't be all that shocked when a 5-8 team benches a quarterback who has clearly been underperfoming.

- I tentatively agree with Hog Heaven on this point: "I'm also going to go ahead and give Shanahan credit for for decisiveness and for the clarity of his position...It shows that he learns from mistakes. The minus is that the high profile Super Bowl quarterback we expected to build a team around, and gave up two draft picks to get, might not be with the team next year." If acquiring McNabb.

- The Examiner's John Keim, as usual, has one of the more insighful and analytical takes on the situation.


  1. Boswell's take in the WaPo today was the best one as far as I'm concerned. Occam's Razor says it's not that McNabb's skills fell off a cliff, but that the o-line wasn't going to allow him to run the offense the way Kyle intended and so he was repeatedly thrust into a no-win situation. Same McNabb + worse offense = worse results. And he's to blame for that how exactly?

    If Rex lights it up this week and next I'll revise my opinion, but right now this looks like a coaching staff that stubbornly resisted the idea that this was going to be a rebuilding year, had unrealistically high expectations about McNabb's (or any QB's) ability to work with this o-line and WR corps, and is in panic mode because they are severely disappointed in a record that the rest of us expected.

    I've defended Shanny a lot this year, but this move is seriously disappointing and I'm not a happy Redskins fan today.

  2. To add to waht j44fl said, you can pin this one on Shanahan too. Unlike the Haynesworth charade, Shanahan created and then exacerbated this mess. And all to play Rex Grossman?

    Makes no sense. I wrote about it on my blog.

  3. Good analysis, Dave. Once the smoke clears from this explosion, what will be left is Shanahan taking a QB in the first round of the draft and Grossman, or someone like him, taking the snaps until the rookie is ready.