Talk radio here in DC is buzzing and fans are confused; this in a city where people are rarely caught off-guard and understand politics better than most. But the untimely benching of Donovan McNabb late in the game on Sunday has virtually turned the nation’s capital upside down.
It was shocking to see McNabb on the sideline replaced by none other than Rex Grossman with less than two minutes to go in the game and the Redskins down by only six points to the lowly Detroit Lions.
The Lions have only won four games in the last three seasons. But now two of those four victories have come against Washington.
In fairness though, Donovan McNabb has struggled mightily much of this season, his first in DC since being traded by the Eagles. He’s thrown especially poorly the last couple of weeks and his decision making has been less than stellar.
But to be replaced by Rex Grossman—the guy who helped make a very good Chicago Bears team look ordinary and vulnerable when he played there—are you kidding?
The implications of gracelessly replacing McNabb at such a crucial point in the game are colossal. McNabb will probably be inducted into the Hall of Fame when he retires. But it certainly looks like Redskins coach Mike Shanahan won’t be one who will agree with the voters.
Shanahan surprisingly said he thought the team was better off going with Grossman in the closing minutes.
Donovan McNabb was brought in to bring a veteran presence to a team that needed a leader it could look up to. But in one curious moment Sunday afternoon, Shanahan may have permanently undermined McNabb’s role as team leader.
Shanahan’s actions seem to make clear that he has no use for McNabb, who is in the final year of his contract. I’m hoping that going forward McNabb will have no use for Shanahan and the Redskins. But more than likely, McNabb will be too decent to admit that Shanahan grossly harmed him.
No doubt it was a gutless and classless way for Shanahan to handle things. But Mike Shanahan has had plenty of practice this season at classlessness. Particularly the way he has handled the on-going conflict with his best defensive player, Albert Haynesworth, who he has harassed all season and has tried to publicly embarrass.
If there was any justice though for McNabb it was the fact that on the very first play that Grossman replaced him, Grossman fumbled the ball into the waiting hands of Lions rookie superstar lineman Ndamakong Suh, who promptly ran it in for the deciding touchdown.
Obviously not much has changed with Grossman.
More and more Mike Shanahan is looking like a petty, vindictive coach bent on doing things his way, no matter what the cost or implications. Perhaps Shanahan’s the guy who ought to be sent packing – even after one season.