Is Washington Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan Sending the Right Messages?

The ProdigyCorrespondent INovember 7, 2010

Washington Redskin's Head Coach Mike Shanahan
Washington Redskin's Head Coach Mike ShanahanLeon Halip/Getty Images

And just when you think you have seen it all, you see the unbelievable, the unimaginable, and the incomprehensible. When did you ever think you would see quarterback Donovan McNabb benched in the fourth quarter of a game that still hung in the balance and be replaced by Rex Grossman.

It’s hard enough to just imagine McNabb being benched in the first place. After all, he’s an 11-year veteran who has led his team to four NFC Championships and one Super Bowl appearance. When you consider his credentials, you would figure McNabb would have lots of room for error.

And maybe such has been the case, when you consider that for lack of a better option he was replaced by Rex Grossman.

The Redskins have yet to turn the corner and suddenly become a force to reckon with in the NFC East division, but on paper it would seem they have a few of the pieces in place to contend. They are in fact in the hunt, so what makes this recent controversial move by head coach Mike Shanahan mind boggling is the timing.

With less than two minutes left in Sunday’s matchup against the Lions and with the game still in the balance, Shanahan decided that it was time to make a change. It was a move that many analysts, commentators, fans, and those that watch the game have been scratching their heads about. Shanahan sent McNabb to the showers and brought in backup quarterback Rex Grossman.

Not exactly the move anyone that understands the basic rules of football would expect, and one that has led some to ask the basic question: Was this simply a “bad move” or was the Redskins head coach trying to send a message?

After watching the conclusion of that fiasco I found it very compelling to search the channels for the postgame interviews and some answers. What I found were many offerings and suggestions, but all seeming to say the same thing. It doesn’t make any sense. Some were even livid and felt the move was a complete discredit to McNabb, his skills, and his accomplishments.

But there was one, one opinion and analysis that seemed to make complete sense and the simplicity of the answer is what makes me think it’s probably closet to the truth. Watching to the ESPN wrap up of Sunday’s games, I listened to analyst and former NFL quarterback, Trent Dilfer offer some answers that seemed fitting.

When you look at the Skins' backup (Grossman) and their starting quarterback (McNabb), when would there ever be a time to make a switch> The only logical reason that made sense for Shanahan to bench McNabb against the Lions was to regain control of his veteran quarterback.

Leading up to the benching, it’s not like McNabb was doing everything right to endear himself to his head coach. Entering last weekend, the Redskins offense was ranked middle of the road and their 18.5 points per game were less than impressive. As the leader of the offense, a lot of its’ success or failure falls squarely on the shoulders of McNabb.

Breaking down the team’s performance last Sunday, the Redskins had only gained 11 first downs with McNabb under center and were an awful 2-of-13 on third down. With the game in hand leading 25-20 and just 4:40 on the clock, McNabb made a critical error throwing a pick to not only set up the go ahead score for the Lions, but preempt Shanahan’s decision to sit down his veteran quarterback.

Not having clear information, but simply from an observer’s perspective it was easy to see McNabb was not doing the job and his benching may have been more of an abrupt (and arguably deserved) punishment for poor play. The only factors in the entire saga that did not make a whole lot of sense were; one, the game was still in the balance with a real shot to win, and two, your back-up quarterback is Rex Grossman.

Knowing what I know, I don’t believe for a minute that McNabb was replaced for Grossman, but rather he was benched and unfortunately for Redskins fans and Shanahan the only option he could then turn to was Grossman.

His follow-up postgame press conference had to be comments made that would support his decision making and offer some sensibilities to the process of his decision; of course no one was buying what he was selling. He’s certainly not going to tell the world, my child (quarterback) was bad and I gave him a timeout.

But without words, if we take a deep look is that not the message? This is the same topic that many analysts have been discussing for weeks concerning the quarterback situation in Minnesota. But it is a situation that it would appear the head coach is not able to be so bold.

Where one falls short, is it really surprising to see a coach and personality like Mike Shanahan to be so bold to take his stand and make his point? In fact, I would argue that this is exactly something that Shanahan would do. We only need to look at the whole Haynesworth situation to realize.

So if McNabb was benched simply because he stunk or was not following the game plan or not doing it how Shanahan designed it, it was of no consequence that Grossman came in. Grossman was the only option available.

I don’t know if Shanahan’s message was received well, but I hardly think for a second that this was the right move, let alone a good one. The Redskins were 4-3 entering the contest and with the game still up for grabs you have to have your best players on the field.

Even if McNabb was not on the same page, he’s got to be your guy on the field. Whatever disconnect existed on Sunday on the field, Monday morning you are meeting with him in the film room working it work.

By all accounts, considering the Redskins did lose last weekend, it may have been a bad move. But only time will tell if the message sent was heard.

The Redskins will enjoy their bye this weekend, but when they return in week 10 to face the Eagles on Monday night you can be sure McNabb will be under center as usual. What will be interesting to follow, will be the effectiveness of McNabb passing and the Redskin’s offense as a whole.

I don’t imagine we’ll see any future benching anytime soon or Shanahan making a move to Grossman as his starter (despite all the things that T.O. claimed in his show), but then again anything is possible.

If replacing McNabb was not a bad or wrong move, certainly bringing in Grossman can’t be the right one?  Can it?

Just my take.