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McNabb needs to get a mean streak

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Kalani Simpson

Kalani Simpson is an award-winning journalist who has earned national recognition as a sports columnist at the Honolulu Star-Bulletin and editor at Nebraska Sports America magazine.MORE>>
 
   
 

When Michael Strahan knocked on his door, handed him a pizza and knocked him on his can (you can’t have missed the commercial), Donovan McNabb still wasn't half as blindsided as he should be right now.

In fact, he's reacting the same way. ("Michael?")

In fact, he's reacting the same way he did when T.O. baited him and turned on him. ("Michael?")

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And the Rush Limbaugh thing. And when Philly fans booed him at the draft. And …

The best thing about McNabb is also the worst thing about McNabb: He is decent and he is restrained and he is an excellent role model. He is Mr. Nice Guy. Nothing can shake him from it, no slight, no cheap shot. He remains unruffled. He does the right thing at all times.

McNabb is everything I try to drill into my 5-year-old son.

That is McNabb's biggest strength and his biggest weakness. He always does the right thing. Even when it’s the wrong thing to do.

And so here it is again. Redskins coach Mike Shanahan yanks him and benches him and belittles him, adding insult to injury with a host of ever-changing explanations that don’t pass the smell test. And again, McNabb (“Michael?”) is bewildered by the whole thing but raises his chin and responds like a gentleman. But maybe that’s part of the problem.

Maybe in professional football, decency is not always the called-for response. Maybe in McNabb's career, it has hurt him as much as it has helped.

Don’t get me wrong, he’s a tough guy. But he’s a good guy. Maybe too good for his own good. McNabb always takes the high road.

But he may have won the locker room if he had punched T.O. in the face.

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(Note to you young players watching at home: Don’t punch people in the face.)

The whole second half of his career might have had a very different arc.

Now, here he is again, respecting his coach's decision. This situation does not call for respecting the coach’s decision. Now is not the time to ponder, yet again, why the guy across from you has just acted the way he has. Now is the time for fire, the time to (figuratively, of course) come out swinging.

And maybe that's what Shanahan was hoping would happen.

Seriously. With Rex Grossman as his backup quarterback, what else could he be hoping to happen?

Oh, Donovan doesn't know the plays, Donovan isn't in shape. (Didn't he pass the Albert Haynesworth conditioning test?). I'm not buying any of that. Nobody is.

All the talking heads lining up to defend McNabb's honor have dissected Shanahan's litany of motivations and found them all lacking. But really – why else would you yank someone for Rex Grossman (sorry, Rex) except to tick him off?

And now, OK, Rex Grossman doesn’t get a rise out of you? How about JaMarcus Russell? How about that? Anything? Anything?

But McNabb has been slapped in the face so many times, he just takes a breath, lifts his chin and says the right thing, yet again. He’s been slapped in the face so many times, he keeps his sense of humor about it.

You just can’t rattle him. He does the right thing. Even when it’s the wrong thing to do.

Being decent actually dragged him down in the T.O. fiasco. Now I’m hoping it isn’t the end of him here.

I love McNabb, even if the evidence is mounting that he simply may not be that good anymore. Andy Reid loved him – he just about could have replaced Donovan’s mom on those Chunky Soup ads – yet he traded him. To the Redskins. That says it all.

The stats say it all. The games say it all. The old McNabb magic may be running on "E."

So maybe all he has left is fire, anger, the determination to find new life – LaDainian Tomlinson-like – through spite. It's a tried and true winners' fuel. It can be the fountain of youth when you’ve got nothing left. (It’s the only thing keeping Brett Favre’s ankle attached to his leg.)

Except McNabb is too decent. He's a gentleman. He’s the last gentleman in a sport better known for raging bulls.

Now isn't the time for that.

Come out swinging. Tell Shanahan what he can do with his benching. Crank up “We’re Not Gonna Take It” and act like it.

Of course, none of that is in McNabb’s personality. But then, every man has his limit.

Or at least we can only hope.

Tagged: Redskins, Donovan McNabb, Rex Grossman

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