The ongoing soap opera in Washington took another twist on Friday as the Redskins announced that their $40 million quarterback, Donovan McNabb(notes), will be benched for Sunday's game in favor of Rex Grossman(notes). It was just eight months ago that McNabb was hailed as the team's savior following a trade from Philadelphia and only 32 days since he signed that massive contract extension to stay in Washington.
Now, he's a third-string quarterback, playing behind a guy who's started one game in the past three seasons and a 29-year old who has thrown one touchdown pass in his NFL career.
Redskins players are not happy. "The guys are extremely pissed," one player told NFL.com's Jason La Canfora. He reports that Redskins players think offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is using McNabb as a scapegoat for his own failures.
[Related: McNabb's 'cardiovascular endurance' to blame]
It's a valid point. Shanahan's ego seems out of control. (Head coach Mike or Kyle, take your pick.) The father-son combination seems intent on placing the blame for the Redskins' failures on anyone but themselves. Albert Haynesworth(notes), Hunter Smith(notes) -- it's always someone else's fault.
Why point the finger at yourself when it's easier to point it elsewhere. Distract everyone by benching McNabb and that will take blame away from all the coaching, personnel and execution failures that have tripped up the team this year. (That's the theory, at least.) Even though going with Grossman will draw Mike and Kyle a ton of heat, the criticism will be about this decision, not the dozens of other ones that have backfired. They're using the tried-and-true D.C. trick of getting out in front of the story and creating their own narrative.
What's going to be lost in all of this is that McNabb has been a thoroughly mediocre quarterback this season. His numbers are pedestrian (3,377 yards, 14 touchdowns, 15 interceptions) and he constantly misses easy throws that can be the difference between wins and losses. The 2010 season has proved one thing: Andy Reid knew what he was doing when he traded McNabb within the NFC East.
Still, anyone who thinks Rex Grossman gives the Redskins a better chance on Sunday than Donovan McNabb is out of their mind. To that effect, benching McNabb only makes sense if the Redskins have no intention of bringing him back for the 2011 season. Yes, the QB signed that huge extension last month, but it was written with enough out clauses that the 'Skins could cut him in the offseason and only have to eat $3.75 million as a result. If this hastens that process, then Redskins fans should be all for it. The team needs to start over. An aging, injury-prone quarterback isn't the cornerstone for a rebuilding effort.
Shanahan acknowledges that. He says he told McNabb that he can't guarantee he'll return to the Redskins in 2011 and that his benching is part of a trial run for Grossman and John Beck(notes), who goes from third-string to backup.
But things aren't always what they seem at Redskins Park. The last time the Shanahan boys benched McNabb, they signed him to that contract extension before he set foot on the field again. I doubt even they know where the Washington Redskins go from here.
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