Shanahan sticks with McNabb

BILL LANKHOF, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:32 AM ET

Mike Shanahan said Monday that Donovan McNabb is still his starting quarterback.

He just has a curious way of showing it, dumping all over the guy like some mad-dog linebacker the past 48 hours.

Shanahan shocked the team Sunday when he put backup Rex Grossman into the game to replace McNabb with 1:50 left and Washington trailing by six points.

These are the moments for which the Redskins supposedly acquired McNabb. Instead Shanahan gives the ball to Rex The Hex? McNabb’s teammates were incredulous. Of course, Grossman fumbled on the first play and Detroit’s Ndamukong Suh picked it up and ran in for the decisive touchdown.

All of which leaves some people wondering if, when he left Denver, Shanahan didn’t forget to pack some brain cells. He has already been involved in one power-play with Albert Haynesworth.

Now this.

After the game, Shanahan said he felt Grossman had a better chance to succeed with the two-minute offence. But what he’s really showing is that he has no faith in McNabb who supposedly was brought in to restore just that to a wobbly franchise.

It hasn’t been an easy road. The six-time Pro Bowl quarterback has his lowest rating since 1999 when Philadelphia drafted him No. 2 overall and he started six games. Washington had a 25-20 lead with 4:40 left when Alphonso Smith stepped in front of McNabb’s pass at the Redskins’ 41 to set up Detroit’s go-ahead TD.

“My arm got hit, so I wasn’t able to follow through with the throw,” said McNabb, who was 17 of 30 for 210 yards with a TD and an interception.

Despite his own struggles, McNabb has led the Skins’ to four wins, equal to their total all of last season. He gives the Redskins credibility. At least, he did.

Monday, Shanahan amended his reason for benching McNabb for just the second time in his career, saying the quarterback wasn’t in good enough shape to run a two-minute offence with no timeouts. He accused Haynesworth of basically the same thing.

Shanahan said McNabb has been struggling with hamstring injuries for five weeks and didn’t have the “cardiovascular endurance” to stay on the field with the game on the line. It’s a curious suggestion because McNabb looked fine during the game and even rushed for a team-high 45 yards.

But, then to some obser-vers Haynesworth looked fine in some of those conditioning drills, too, yet couldn’t seem to pass muster with Shanahan either.

If this is another attempt merely to show who’s running the show, Shanahan may just be messing with the wrong pawn. Haynesworth didn’t endear himself to teammates; McNabb has, prompting cornerback DeAngelo Hall to note it was “definitely a shocker” to see McNabb pulled. He said it raises the question: “After the season, will he be here or not?”

McNabb is a free agent after this year. After this he’s unlikely to want to keep sharing a sideline with Shanahan.

The timing of Shanahan’s move is awful, too. Washington has a bye week, meaning the Redskins’ commitment to McNabb will be dominate press conferences and become a topic of discussion for the next two weeks.


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