McNabb more credible than Shanahan

BY Jason Whitlock • November 16, 2010

This is not an endorsement of the contract extension the Washington Redskins gave Donovan McNabb. It’s an explanation, a way to understand how Daniel Snyder justifies giving McNabb any additional dollars considering the QB’s subpar performance to date.

Mike Shanahan, Snyder’s $7 million-a-year coach and executive vice president, lost the Redskins locker room in the wake of McNabb’s benching.

That was obvious Monday night when the Eagles jumped to a 35-0 lead in 15 minutes, 9 seconds. The Redskins -- despite a pregame scuffle and the fawning, night-long Shanahan infomercial provided by his confidant Jon Gruden -- had zero legitimate interest in competing for their head coach.

Washington was lethargic and soft on both sides of the ball. The Redskins mustered little energy or fight until McNabb and London Fletcher emotionally rallied their teammates after they realized they could be on the wrong side of a historic beatdown.

It was too late. The Eagles won 59-28.

Had Brad Childress been wearing Shanahan’s headsets, we would’ve heard all about the Washington players’ disconnect from their head coach along with justified praise of Mike Vick’s magnificent performance.

But the (media) Mastermind, the bully coach who made his bones riding the coattails of the most dynamic player in the history of the league (John Elway), is coaching royalty. Game broadcasters rarely muster the courage to question an established coach. They save their tough talk for the disposable assets (players) they can easily avoid.

Shanahan’s player disconnect started with his over-the-top bullying of Albert Haynesworth. The Redskins supported Shanahan during the offseason when he tried to shame Fat Albert into reporting for voluntary workouts and mandatory minicamps. By the time training camp rolled around, and Shanahan launched his “conditioning test” media campaign against Haynesworth, the players began to sour on Shanahan’s heavy-handed tactics.

His decision to protect his immature, pampered son/offensive coordinator, Kyle, and back a bus over McNabb finalized the players’ revulsion of Shanahan.

Donovan McNabb has an impressive resume on and off the field. And now, thanks to his role in revitalizing Michael Vick’s career, McNabb has locker-room street cred. He’s no longer the golden child who isn’t hood enough and couldn’t get along with Terrell Owens. McNabb is the golden child who reached back to the ‘hood to help an ex-con get back on his feet.

In a league that is 65 percent African-American and a football town known as Chocolate City, the latter perception has tremendous power.

McNabb is Barack Obama, not Clarence Thomas.

Shanahan miscalculated. The Redskins don’t want to play for him. You could see it in their halfhearted tackling efforts. You could see it when Haynesworth laid on the turf unblocked for five seconds as Vick danced around the pocket looking for a receiver. You could see it in their mental and physical errors.

You didn’t hear it though. At one point, in the middle of the Philly avalanche, Gruden claimed Shanahan “managed the bye week” well.

Really? The bye week that focused exclusively on the rift between the Shanahans and McNabb. The bye week that included one of America’s most intelligent journalists, John Feinstein, accusing Shanahan of bigotry. The bye week that featured Chris Mortensen’s nonstop spewing of the Shanahan-friendly narrative that what we witnessed from McNabb for 11 years in Philadelphia was all a mirage, a product of Andy Reid’s ability to hide McNabb’s ignorance and laziness.

I would love to hear Gruden’s analysis of the Titanic tragedy.

“No one handles the ice like Edward John Smith.”

Or how about Gruden on the Guyana Tragedy?

“Jim Jones pours a mean drink.”

Is it too much to ask to hear both sides of the story from the booth? The players have a side. The coaches are not infallible.

Whatever, Shanahan made a colossal error in his handling of McNabb. The mistake could haunt Shanahan and his silver-spoon son. Players talk. Shanahan needs to fix this. It begins with making things right with McNabb.

That begins not only with a new contract, but also acknowledgement the Redskins quite possibly have the most talent-deficient roster in the NFL.

Monday’s score was 14-0 before McNabb ever threw a pass. Kyle Shanahan responded to Philly’s first-play TD bomb by handing the ball three straight times to free-agent rookie/practice-squad running back Keiland Williams, who gained 4, 3 and 1 yards before the ‘Skins punted.

The only thing worse than Washington’s receiving corps (27-year-old rookie Anthony Armstrong and 38-year-old antique Joey Galloway) is the team’s offensive line. The only group worse Monday night than Washington’s offensive unit was its defensive unit.

McNabb has had a lot of help in being awful this season. A rookie quarterback could have his confidence destroyed next season playing with Washington’s supporting cast. After giving up a second-round pick to acquire him from the Eagles, keeping McNabb for at least one more season makes perfect sense.

There’s a chance, with improved complementary personnel, the motivation to salvage his reputation and a year of familiarity in Shanahan’s system, McNabb could rebound next season. His resume says he will. His character says he will.

For years McNabb has endured criticism from a significant percentage of black fans and media members for not acting out or allegedly failing to stand up for himself. They want McNabb to throw a tantrum. Quarterbacks who throw tantrums -- regardless of color (Jeff George, Ryan Leaf) -- get blackballed from the league.

They certainly don’t get new contracts in the middle of their worst season and a chance to redeem themselves.

E-mail Jason or follow him on Twitter. Media requests for Mr. Whitlock should be directed to Fox Sports PR.

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