Is Mike Shanahan Wrong?

Steve O Speak

Look I think everyone can agree that Mike Shanahan handled the Donovan McNabb benching situation horribly (that might be putting it lightly), but the overall question remains, was he wrong? Now right then and there Rex Grossman wasn’t going to lead the troops for a come from behind win, but then again neither was Donovan McNabb. Shanahan looked for a spark and I think we can all agree he is the one that got burned. But the overall meaning of the benching is still up in the air, i.e. questioning whether McNabb is the short and longterm answer for the Redskins,.

Now McNabb is the short term answer by default. We are past the trade deadline, and you are paying McNabb $12 million so you mine as well see if you can get any value out of that. Also, when you have Rex Grossman as your backup and your ‘young’ quarterback is John Beck you have pretty much assured McNabb as being your quarterback as long as he is healthy. The real question is whether or not McNabb is the long term solution for the Redskins quarterback conundrum.

The real answer that most Redskins fans don’t want to hear is simply, ‘no’. McNabb in 8 games has not shown any ability of being the ‘franchise’ quarterback everyone has made him out to be. His numbers are simply pathetic any way you look at them and are at the bottom or middle of the pack in just about every category. While some McNabb supporters will talk about his big play ability leading the league in 50 yard+ completions, and ranking 3rd in in 40 yard+ completions with 7, that stat has no bearing on a quarterback’s ability. And the reason why I know that is simply that Jason Campbell is right behind McNabb with 6 such completions (and he has been on the bench for multiple games) and John Kitna has 5, despite playing in only 3 and a half games. Thowing some long balls (some of which the credit goes to the receiver for yards after the catch) does not make up for his horrid 3rd down percentage or low completion percentage.

Now I know people will want to make plenty of excuses for McNabb; he doesn’t have great receivers, his offensive line is horrible, he is learning a new playbook etc. While all of those are valid variables they shouldn’t matter if Donovan McNabb is a ‘Franchise’ quarterback like everyone says he is. Brett Favre went to both the Jets and Vikings during the middle of the preseason and put up pretty good numbers despite not knowing the playbook (also you could easily make the receiver excuse for his year with the Jets, and the offensive line excuse last year with the Vikings when he had a career year). Kyle Orton, had both his top receiver and tight end traded away this year and a horrible offensive line, but it hasn’t slowed him down at all (he also did pretty well with a new playbook last season). And for as bad as the Redskins receiving corps, they look like all-pros compared to the weekly talent the Chargers have had to use due to injury.

If that isn’t enough evidence just take one look at Sam Bradford and Colt McCoy and the success they have had in their rookie campaigns. McNabb came to the Redskins an entire month ahead of them being drafted, and yet they seem to be preforming better. I don’t think I would put either the Rams or the Browns ahead of the Redskins receivers (they might be deeper but Cooley and Moss are better). Now both of their offensive lines are better, but come on they are rookies and McNabb can’t preform better than them?

Now I know people will say I’m ‘cherry picking’ numbers and stats around the league, but that really is all the evidence I need. If McNabb himself believes that he is a Franchise quarterback and every analyst around the country purportrates that belief, then you shouldn’t be able to find so many instances of better quality quarterbacks. I’m not trying to say McNabb is a bad player, but rather that he is more of a middle of the pack/above average signal caller. The fact of the matter is McNabb is no longer capable of leading a subpar team to the postseason. If he were on a good or very good team, he would probably play well enough to be a contender, but he is incapable of carrying a team. In reality there is nothing wrong with that, not every quarterback is able to carry a team on his back, but where there is an issue, is McNabb’s impending contract situation.

McNabb is a free agent after this year and leading up to his benching it was widely assumed he would be resigning long term in D.C. Ideally it looked as though it would be a 4-5 year deal somewhere in the neighborhood of $13-14 million annually (from the Skins perspective). McNabb himself said that he wanted to be paid like the elite quarterbacks of the league (read that to mean $16-19 million annually), so when they finally worked it out it probably would have been in the neighborhood of $14-15 million). Now though can anyone with a straight face say that McNabb is worth even half of that? I mean, Skins fans might not like to hear it, but Jason Campbell is preforming better (for a worse O-line, receiving corps, and new playbook) for a quarter of the price.

As it stands now the Redskins would be better served bringing in a stopgap quarterback for next year (i.e. Matt Hasselbeck, Kerry Collins) and draft a young guy in the midrounds. That way Washington can spend that $14-15 million on players who can improve the team (either two great players at other positions or 3-4 good players could be had for that money) instead of just giving it to a basically average quarterback. I know in a way that is ‘punting’ on next season, but the fact of the matter is until the talent around the quarterback is improved it wouldn’t matter if Peyton Manning was under center, the Redskins won’t be true contenders. McNabb’s contract represents a crossroads between what is doing what’s best for the team and potentially building a sustainable contender or locking up the big name quarterback to appease the fan base. Hopefully Shanahan is smart enough to see that the McNabb experiment didn’t work (and was quite costly to the tune of two draft picks) and decide not to ‘double-down’ on him.

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