Shutdown Corner - NFL

In explaining his rationale for benching Donovan McNabb late in the Washington Redskins loss to the Detroit Lions, head coach Mike Shanahan has sounded like a kid coming up with excuses for why he doesn't have his homework. Shanahan has given three different reasons why he pulled McNabb. Each are contradictory, none make much sense.

Reason No. 1: McNabb wasn't familiar enough with the two-minute offense.

Homework excuse equivalent: "I didn't know we had homework today."

When he was first asked, Shanahan insisted that the reason he benched McNabb in favor of Rex Grossman(notes) was because Grossman was more familiar with the two-minute drill in the Shanahan-version of the West Coast. He claimed Grossman had run it "100 more times" than McNabb. As we detailed on Monday, this fact didn't stop Shanahan from using McNabb in similar situations earlier this year, nor does it allow for the fact that maybe the onus is just as much on Mike and Kyle Shanahan to teach McNabb the offense as it is for McNabb to learn it.

Reason No. 2: McNabb's poor cardiovascular endurance was to blame.

Homework excuse equivalent: "I sprained my appendix last night."

At his weekly Monday press conference, Shanahan changed his mind about the McNabb benching. This time, conditioning was to blame.

"The cardiovascular endurance that it takes to run a two-minute, going all the way down with no timeouts, calling plays, it's just not easy." he said. "If I thought it was the best situation to do, then Donovan would have run the two-minute offense."

Cardiovascular endurance? You mean he's out of shape? He looked pretty in shape when he ran 25 yards for a key first down in the second half. And when he played wire-to-wire in the team's first seven games of the year. But, fine, we'll take the coach's word for it. However, if McNabb isn't in good enough shape to run the offense, what does that make Rex Grossman, Charles Atlas?

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Shanahan's dedication to fit quarterbacks was demonstrated on Tuesday when former No. 1 pick JaMarcus Russell(notes), who was last seen tipping the scales at nearly 300 pounds, was at Redskins Park for a workout

This isn't the first time Shanahan has taken a passive dig at a player by criticizing conditioning. You'll remember the circus this summer when the Redskins' top-paid defender, Albert Haynesworth(notes), was put through a number of public exercise tests that had to be passed before he was allowed to practice.

[Photos: Donovan McNabb on the field]   

Reason No. 3: McNabb took a physical pounding on Sunday.

Homework excuse equivalent: "I couldn't finish my homework because I've been stressed about the looming economic crisis."

Shanahan gave this excuse to Sally Jenkins of The Washington Post. He told her, "[McNabb] had taken a couple of shots there, and I said, 'This is crazy, I'm going with Rex.'"

You'll note that Shanahan never said McNabb was hurt, just that he had "taken a couple of shots." Since when has pre-emptive injury avoidance turned into a legitimate football strategy? This would have been a ridiculous excuse if it had been the first one Shanahan had given. The fact that it was the third reason makes it all the more preposterous.

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The only thing that's clear is that there's a growing divide between Donovan McNabb(notes) and the Washington Redskins coaching staff. For now, McNabb is still the starter. But if he struggles in the next game (against McNabb's old team, the Philadelphia Eagles), it's hard to imagine we won't see Rex Grossman make another appearance.

I can hear Mike Shanahan now. "The dog ate Donovan's playbook, you see..."

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