Watching Donovan McNabb with the Redskins, I kind of feel like someone whose ex-wife has just taken up with a new man. While you may not want the new relationship to fare too well, you also feel somewhat obligated to give the new guy some advice, because you know just how crazy life may get for him.
So here is my advice to Redskins fans on how to handle life with Donovan McNabb as your team’s quarterback:
McNabb is already suffering from an ankle injury and coach Mike Shanahan has said his status for week one is in doubt. This is not terribly surprising.
Over the past five years, McNabb has missed an average of over three games per season, suffering two season ending injuries along the way. 2008 was the only season where he played in all 16 games.
Any NFL player will be more susceptible to injury after ten years in the league. And in Andy Reid’s pass-happy offense, McNabb has taken a lot of hits over the past ten seasons.
He will also hold the ball for an extended period of time, often using his legs to buy time and try to find an open receiver. While this may sometimes lead to a big play, it also leaves him vulnerable to taking some extra hits.
With the Redskins offensive line still a question mark, it is likely he’ll take a decent amount of abuse again this season. And that means that Rex Grossman might be called on for a couple of games.
Will Grossman prove to be an effective backup? Based on his play with the Bears, you wouldn’t want him as a long-term starter. (Although to his credit, he wasn’t as bad as some people think and did QB a Super Bowl team) I think he’ll be fine in limited action though. Remember, the reason that backups are backups is because they weren’t good enough to be starters. Any team will suffer when their top guy goes out.
McNabb will have some games when he looks absolutely amazing. He’ll run around defenders, and carve apart a secondary. You’ll wonder why the Eagles would have ever gotten rid of him.
And watch out if he starts off a game hot. He can sometimes be a slow starter, but when he’s doing well from the opening drive, the Eagles offense is usually in store for a huge week.
Don’t get too excited by the big week, because it could easily be followed up by a game where McNabb can’t seem to complete a pass. McNabb has many skills as a QB. Great accuracy is not one of them. Get ready for some balls to be thrown into the turf, especially early in games when he comes out maybe a little too fired up.
Of course, a good coach will learn to work around a player’s weaknesses. Unlike Andy Reid, I’m guessing that Mike Shanahan will realize that short range passing is not McNabb’s forte. On the other hand, he has excellent arm strength and throws one of the best deep balls in football. It isn’t clear if any of the Redskins receivers can get open as well as DeSean Jackson, but there will be opportunities for them if they can.
While he normally does not throw many interceptions, McNabb will sometimes pick odd times to take chances. I can remember one game against the Cowboys when the Eagles had a lead in the fourth quarter, and they were trying to keep a drive alive and run down the clock. For some reason, McNabb decided this was a good time to squeeze the ball through coverage. The result was an interception returned for a touchdown.
Then there was this scenario: The clock was winding down in the second quarter and the Eagles were well within field goal range. They were out of timeouts, but had enough time to try for a touchdown.
On multiple occassions, when faced with this situation, McNabb threw the ball to a receiver short of the end zone, only to have that receiver tackled before the goal line. And they were then unable to stop the clock, squandering three points.
And while much of the blame may lie with Andy Reid, the Eagles’ hurry-up offense would often look disjointed and disorganized. McNabb never seemed to show the necessary late game urgency.
In postgame interviews, when asked about these bad decisions, McNabb will explain them with reasoning that is even more inexplicable. For instance, the more he talks about his famous lack of understanding of overtime rules, the less sense he makes.
He will also sometimes recap the game action in a way that makes you wonder if he saw the same thing that you did.
Eagles fans can be a bit intense. They do not take losing lightly and they expect the players to take it as poorly as they do. So it never went over too well with some fans that when the Eagles were struggling, you would see McNabb on the sidelines with a big grin on his face.
McNabb would explain that he needed to stay positive, and keep a steady head even in the worst of situations. And maybe that is true. But it is still annoying when your team is getting crushed, and the QB looks like he’s having a good old time.
Jacksonville’s stadium (Now apparently called EverBank Field) has been McNabb’s personal house of horrors. He’s played there twice in his career. Both games saw the Eagles fall behind, and McNabb unable to complete a late comeback attempt.
So if the Redskins are trailing late in that game, and you have front row seats…you might want to watch out.
This isn’t high praise when the basis for comparison is Patrick Ramsey and Jason Campbell, but McNabb will seem like Peyton Manning compared to them.
McNabb is still one of the top ten QBs in the league. He may not be capable of carrying a team to a title (although I think he could win one in the right system), but he’s still plenty good enough to lead a team to the playoffs.
So will the playoffs happen for the Redskins this season? Hard to say, but they are definitely closer to that goal than they were before they traded for him.
So good luck Redskins fans. At the very least, it should be an interesting season.
Originally published on my blog Stranger in a Strange Land