Mike Shanahan isn’t sounding or acting like a cold, calculated football coach. He’s lashing out like an enraged father.
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The Washington Redskins don’t have a quarterback controversy. They have a family feud.
Mike Shanahan is upset that his veteran, proven quarterback, Donovan McNabb, won’t play nice with Kyle Shanahan, Mike’s born-on-third-base son who has been groomed from birth to become the NFL’s youngest head coach.
Nothing could be more obvious.
Let’s start with Mike Shanahan’s unprofessional, out-of-character postgame explanation of why he benched McNabb in the final two minutes of his team’s loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
“At the end of the game with Donovan, with a minute left and Rex (Grossman) knowing how to run that two-minute offense,” Shanahan told reporters on Sunday, “I felt with the time and no timeouts, (Rex) gave us the best chance to win in that scenario. Just knowing the terminology of what we’ve done, how we’ve run it, it puts a lot of pressure on a quarterback that hasn’t been used to that terminology.
“What you have to do sometimes is you understand everything is sped up,” Shanahan continued. “When you don’t have timeouts, it’s got to come automatic. You’ve got to call a couple of plays at the line, a few plays at the line. When you go through this during the week (in practice), and you take a look at this type of atmosphere (in a game), I thought it was the best scenario to put (Rex) in there in that situation.”
Let me translate that long-winded explanation: McNabb is dumb and can’t be trusted to think on his feet.
On Monday, Shanahan massaged his opinion on benching McNabb.
“When you deal with a two-minute offense where you don’t have any timeouts and you haven’t done it in five weeks, you’re calling sometimes two plays, you gotta hustle to the line of scrimmage and you’re working cardiovascular endurance at the same time you’re working the clock,” Shanahan explained. “It’s really hard to do that when you haven’t practiced it and you haven’t put out yourself in any type of strenuous activity because of your hamstrings. I felt it was in the best interest of our team that he wouldn’t play (in the two-minute offense). Rex hadn’t practiced either, but he’s in very good shape. He understands the terminology inside and out so he can make the double calls. It was nothing against Donovan. I thought it would be in our best interest to go in a different direction."
Let me translate that long-winded explanation: McNabb is fat and lazy.
Before the week is over, I fully expect Shanahan to suggest that fried-chicken grease prevented McNabb from properly gripping the football.
Stop. Quit whining. I’m not accusing Shanahan of bigotry. I’m not playing the race card.
I’m saying that Shanahan’s attack on McNabb is personal, intended to injure McNabb’s reputation and unwittingly pandering to racial stereotypes. All of us, regardless of color, are capable of resorting to lowest-common-denominator personal attacks when we are controlled by our emotions rather than logic.
Shanahan recognizes his blunder. That’s why Tuesday he was working out “Purple Drank,” JaMarcus Russell, a fat, lazy and dumb quarterback washout.
A rational, frustrated football coach who made the kind of boneheaded decision Shanahan made Sunday would simply say, “I changed quarterbacks because I thought the backup gave us a better chance to win in that situation.” The coach would not elaborate. He wouldn’t publicly question the starter’s mental or physical preparedness.
He wouldn’t tell his ESPN spokesmen, Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen, that the Shanahans have been disappointed with McNabb’s “practice tempo” and mechanics all season.
A rational coach would leave the media and fans to speculate. He might even mislead us and tell us he was worried that McNabb took too many big hits.
But Shanahan is acting irrationally. His 30-year-old, silver-spoon son is the offensive coordinator. The Redskins’ anemic offense isn’t helping Kyle Shanahan raise his profile. McNabb, a 12-year vet with an impressive resume, wasn’t all that interested in making the footwork adjustments Kyle and Mike suggested during the offseason.
Chris Mortensen is right: McNabb and the Shanahans haven’t been getting along for a long time. Before the regular season kicked off, McNabb voiced support for Shanahan’s other whipping boy, Albert Haynesworth.
“(Albert) plays a major part in our defense and everybody knows that,” McNabb said in early September. “Albert is one of our brothers in the locker room… We can’t win without him. I think he’ll be here. I hope he’ll be here.”
That is the most controversial and establishment-challenging statement McNabb has made in his entire career.
Shanahan’s media spokesmen aren’t telling both sides of the story.
It’s irresponsible and unprofessional for Mike Shanahan to employ his son as offensive coordinator. It’s the good-old-boys network taken to the extreme. It’s a reenactment of Don and David Shula, who served as offensive coordinator of the Dolphins and became the head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals at age 32. Don protected his son, ushered him into a job he was unqualified for and then gave David a job in the family’s steakhouse business.
There is always a healthy tension between the offensive coordinator and quarterback. They snap at each other, disagree and might even square off physically. The head coach serves as mediator.
What chance does McNabb have with Judge Shanahan?
Let’s see, Mike got his former Denver assistant Karl Dorrell to give Kyle a graduate-assistant job at UCLA. Mike got his former 49ers colleague Jon Gruden to give Kyle a job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Mike got his former Denver assistant Gary Kubiak to give Kyle a job with the Houston Texans.
And once Daniel Snyder turned over the Redskins to Shanahan, Mike gave Kyle a raise to coordinate the Washington offense.
Kyle Shanahan’s nickname should be “American Express.” Membership certainly has its privileges.
Regular readers of my column know Donovan McNabb is my favorite current player. I knew this year was going to be rough. McNabb is playing behind a terrible line. Santana Moss and Chris Cooley are his only reliable targets. Clinton Portis is washed up. And McNabb is old.
Again, I like McNabb. But I can see his flaws. His streakiness can be frustrating. But you don’t bench him for Rex Grossman under any circumstance.
While spewing Mike Shanahan’s narrative Tuesday on ESPN, Chris Mortensen kept pointing to Andy Reid’s decision to trade McNabb within the division as a sign that McNabb is no good.
Maybe Reid was smart enough to look at the Washington roster and realize only Peyton Manning could make the Redskins offense mediocre.
One thing we know for sure is Rex Grossman isn’t the answer. Unlike the dumb, fat and lazy McNabb, there’s seven years worth of NFL information that says Grossman isn’t a long- or short-term solution.
Grossman is, however, the same age as Kyle Shanahan. Rex and Kyle bonded last year in Houston. They’re BFF, and Mike, being the good, guilt-ridden, too-much-time-in-the-office football dad, allowed Kyle to bring his best bud to Washington.
You don’t need to be Ron Jaworski or any other NFL scientist to see what’s transpiring in Washington. If you played a little-league sport and witnessed a father/coach spoil his child, then you understand how Kyle talked his dad into believing Rex is a viable option to Donovan.