Donovan McNabb Demoted to Third String: What is Mike Shanahan Doing?

Cody SwartzSenior Writer IDecember 18, 2010

Donovan McNabb has been arguably my favorite athlete in the world for the past decade. As an Eagles fan, he completely transformed my team, playing a key role in taking a franchise that was the laughingstock of the league to a perennial powerhouse in the NFC. McNabb joined a club that was coming off consecutive 3-13 and 5-11 seasons and led them to the playoffs in eight of 10 seasons.

Nope, I never got to see the grand prize, but I think a lot of fans would be content with ten playoff wins in a single decade.

During his tenure in Philly, McNabb took a lot of flak from fans. Any time a team makes the conference championship game five times and can’t come away with a single Super Bowl victory, the quarterback is going to take a lot of the heat. McNabb deserved a lot of it and for the most part he handled his time in Philly with as much class as I have seen from any athlete.

This is a guy who was booed the day he was drafted (it is worth mentioning that the fans were NOT booing McNabb; they were booing the fact that the Eagles DIDN’T draft Ricky Williams. Nevertheless, no one likes to be booed by his new team on draft day).

He was booed following the Super Bowl loss, and the boos increased each subsequent year in which McNabb failed to deliver a Super Bowl title. McNabb was deeply hurt the day he was benched in ’08, but he responded like a champ, leading the Eagles to wins in four of the next five games, including a deep playoff run.

After last season that concluded with consecutive losses to the Cowboys—one in the playoffs—management decided to go in a different direction, thus shipping McNabb off to the Washington Redskins.

I was heartbroken when I heard of the news but I got over it a lot quicker than I had expected. Michael Vick turned out to be a league MVP candidate while McNabb struggled over in D.C. (although it should be worth mentioning that not even Tom Brady could succeed with those receivers or that offensive line).

Since then, I have managed to let go of my ties to McNabb. After all, he is a divisional rival, and while the Redskins aren’t exactly in the same hatred level as the Giants or The Devil’s Team, I was glad to see McNabb and the Redskins stumbling through the season.

I’m an Eagles fan and I root for the team, not the player. With all due respect to Donovan McNabb, thanks for the memories, but if you’re wearing burgundy and gold, I could care less about you.

Until now.

McNabb has reached his all-time low as a football player. You think he had it bad in Philly? Look at it now.

As if being benched for Rex Grossman in the two-minute drill of a midseason loss to the Detroit Lions wasn’t enough, McNabb has now been demoted to THIRD STRING behind Grossman and John Beck.

Mike Shanahan was supposed to be the guy who could get McNabb a ring. I thought McNabb had a chance to still win a Super Bowl title in Washington prior to the season. Everyone knows that Shanahan was the guy calling the plays when John Elway finally got over the hump and won two Super Bowls late in his career.

In reality, the Redskins’ 2010 season has been a nightmare, more swept up with drama than play on the field.

Shanahan’s pull of McNabb in favor of Grossman was puzzling enough. Shanahan claimed McNabb didn’t have the conditioning to pull off a two minute offense (say what you want about McNabb’s conditioning but REX GROSSMAN? Really?) and handed the ball to Grossman, who promptly lost a fumble for a game-sealing touchdown on his FIRST play behind center.

Two weeks later, McNabb was handed a five-year, $78 million contract extension…and that lasted four weeks before Shanahan announced McNabb will be his third-string quarterback for the rest of the season.

How’s this for irony? McNabb, who couldn’t lead a fourth quarter comeback to save his life in his tenure at Philly, led a last-second drive that included a 4th-and-4 conversion for a touchdown against the Buccaneers (although when the snap was botched, that ended the game), and then was demoted.

I’m not quite sure what Shanahan’s deal is with McNabb. Shanahan hasn’t been getting along with Albert Haynesworth; then again, Haynesworth is an overrated player, a terrible teammate and he has absolutely no desire to play the game of football.

McNabb is an outspoken team leader who was one of the most popular locker room guys in Philadelphia.

Shanahan said he wants to evaluate the Redskins’ other quarterbacks to see what the team has for next season.

I don’t quite get this one. His two backup quarterbacks are Rex Grossman and John Beck. Grossman’s 2006 season (his only one as a starter) has statistically been proven to be the most inconsistent season by a quarterback in over a decade. He’s is a turnover machine. I wouldn’t want this guy anywhere near my team. He’s sloppy, erratic and wildly prone to fumbles.

John Beck was the starter for four of Miami’s losses in their 1-15 season in ’07 and has a total of one touchdown pass in 107 attempts. Beck is a 29 year-old guy who hasn’t taken a snap in three seasons; I think it’s safe to say neither one of those is the answer for the future of the Redskins.

McNabb hasn’t been playing his best football in Washington. His numbers are mediocre at best this season: 14 TD, 15 INT, and a 77.1 passer rating that ranks 25th among 31 qualifying quarterbacks. He’s been inconsistent, he looks washed up, and the Redskins (5-8) aren’t winning football games.

Then again, in McNabb’s defense, look at his supporting cast. Santana Moss is a great receiver, but Anthony Armstrong and Roydell Williams are his No. 2 and 3 receivers. Ryan Torain leads a rushing attach that ranks 26th in the NFL. And the Redskins’ defense is dead last in total yards.

McNabb’s not worth $78 million. I wouldn’t have a problem with Shanahan not bringing McNabb back for next season. No. 5 certainly doesn’t seem to be the answer for Washington.

But Shanahan isn’t just benching McNabb.

He’s disgracing him. He’s humiliating him.  I feel bad for McNabb. I really do. As of now, it appears likely his last pass as a member of the Washington Redskins will be his single most clutch play as a member of the Redskins.

Shanahan isn’t sitting McNabb to see what Grossman and Beck can do. He’s sitting his $78 million quarterback to send a message.

What message is that? I have absolutely no idea.