An essentially meaningless game between NFC East teams a long way from reliving their past glory took a turn Friday when Washington coach Mike Shanahan announced that McNabb won’t start the rest of this season. Grossman, who quarterbacked Chicago to the Super Bowl four seasons ago, will make his first start since Nov. 9, 2008.
“I’ve got to find where Rex Grossman is, where John Beck is. I want a chance to evaluate these guys,” Shanahan said. “I told Donovan that there’s nothing he could do in the three games that would influence me over what he’s done over the last 13 games. I said, ‘I’m not sure what I’m going to do in the college draft, if we’re able to get the top quarterback in the draft, if there was a young Donovan McNabb or maybe a Sam Bradford(notes), someone like that.’ There’s a lot of possibilities.”
McNabb, acquired from Philadelphia in the offseason, is turning in his worst season as a full-time starter with a rating of 77.1 and a career-high 15 interceptions. He was surprisingly benched for Grossman in the final two minutes with the game on the line against Detroit in October, a decision made even more bizarre by Shanahan’s mangled explanations that followed.
Now the move has been made at the start of the game. Grossman is set to face Dallas backup Jon Kitna(notes), who has started the last seven games after Tony Romo(notes) went down with a shoulder injury.
The situation reinforces McNabb’s uncertain status in Washington. He signed an extension Nov. 15, but there is a clause allowing Washington (5-8) to cut ties with him after 2010.
Shanahan claims he wants to evaluate the other quarterbacks now that the Redskins have been eliminated from the playoffs. He was oddly evasive earlier this week when asked if McNabb would start Sunday, and it’s now clear why.
“As sad as it is, this league is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league,” cornerback DeAngelo Hall(notes) said. “(McNabb) hasn’t won a whole lot of games with us. Coach felt like it was time to figure out if Rex is going to be the guy we keep around here next year.”
The change is part of a strange first season for Shanahan, brought in as a two-time Super Bowl winner with Denver to try to restore the Redskins to prominence. The coach had numerous issues with Albert Haynesworth(notes), and the disgruntled defensive tackle has been suspended for the rest of the season after a litany of incidents.
The move with McNabb is ironic since it will prevent him from seeing his first action at the stadium where his Philadelphia career ended last season with a second straight loss to Dallas. He was sacked eight times and managed one touchdown and one interception in those games.
Grossman will guide a Redskins offense that hasn’t mustered an offensive touchdown in its last 15 quarters against the Cowboys, who were last swept by Washington in 2005.
The Redskins won 13-7 over the Cowboys in a season opener that apparently foretold the poor seasons for both.
Neither team played well in the contest, and Romo’s apparent winning touchdown pass to Roy Williams on the final play was nullified by holding. Washington scored its touchdown on the final play of the first half when Tashard Choice(notes) fumbled after catching a pass, and Hall returned it 32 yards.
That ill-advised play was called by Jason Garrett, who was promoted to interim coach after the Cowboys’ 1-7 start. The former offensive coordinator and assistant head coach has guided Dallas (4-9) to a 3-2 mark, although there is little at stake.
“I think Jason has really done a great job of laying that out there for all the players,” tight end Jason Witten(notes) said. “You’ve got to keep building. You’ve got to keep working. You can’t back it in. This team won’t.”
Dallas has averaged 32.0 points in the five games Garrett has coached for the fourth-best mark in that span. That should be a major advantage against a Redskins’ defense that ranks last in the NFL, allowing 394.8 yards per game.
Both teams endured close losses at home last Sunday. Dallas fell 30-27 to Philadelphia and Washington lost 17-16 to Tampa Bay.
This is the home finale for Dallas, which is 1-6 at Cowboys Stadium and assured of its worst finish at home since the 1989 team dropped all eight games.
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