Saying Donovan McNabb won't be in Washington next season is becoming something of a cliche. The relationship between quarterback and head coach (or more likely, quarterback and offensive coordinator) is damn near irreparable, and despite both sides trying to make it work for a time, an all out split seems likely.
But to the discerning Redskins fan, one has to wonder how much head coach Mike Shanahan wanted McNabb at all.
To be sure, Shanahan is for all intents and purposes the general manager of the Washington Redskins. Bruce Allen may have the title, may work out the contracts and fiddle around with the salary cap, but anyone who has followed Allen's career as a GM knows that he's mainly a background "general-manager-in-name-only" guy. It's always been his head coaches that are the personnel people, to the better-or-worse of their football teams.
If Shanahan didn't want McNabb in Washington, it's not bloody likely he'd be in Washington right now. It was Shanahan's call to bring him in and see if it could work. It didn't.
Shanahan has been non-committal as to who will be the starting quarterback next season. Presuming Donovan is either traded or released, it probably won't be number five under center. Rex has been...well, Rex. He's had his moments where he's looked flawless, followed by "that's Rex for you" moments. (Though tales that he's the same ol' guy have been greatly exaggerated.)
If you've been paying attention, however, you'll know that there was only one person he envisioned being his quarterback in 2011 and well into the future.
It had always been speculated that the Redskins (regardless of who was the head coach) would try and snag Sam Bradford, who actually might've been available, had Jake Locker also declared last season.
Fast forward to the Rams game, and you'll hear how complimentary Shanahan was of Bradford. He talked about his accuracy, his mobility, and his smarts. He gave Sam Bradford such a glowing review, it might've spurred the Rams onto their victory versus the 'Skins.
He also gave a glowing review to Michael Vick before the Monday Night Massacre. Clearly, if coach would've complimented Donovan more, the Redskins would be in the playoffs right now.
If Coach Shanahan's comments towards Bradford had people raising their eyebrows a little bit before the Rams game, the fact that he name dropped him in his press conference about benching McNabb should've sent up red flags.
When explaining to the media that he explained to Donovan that he couldn't guarantee he'd be in Washington next season, Shanahan mentioned the draft. He said "We have to see if we can find the next Donovan McNabb or the next Sam Bradford."
He said the next Sam Bradford.
You know...the rookie guy.
He didn't say it just once, either. He referenced Bradford specifically several times in press conference in response to questions over where the Redskins would go quarterback wise.
This says only one thing about our head coach--Mike Shanahan knew exactly what quarterback he wanted when he came to Washington last season. Shanahan is a know film junky and studies the game intensively. He came into the job knowing that he'd be taken over a team that went 4-12 and would be getting the fourth overall draft choice.
The knock on Bradford that likely would've seen him drafted after Jake Locker was that his health. A nagging shoulder injury had NFL scouts feeling a little weary about the prospect out of Oklahoma. With the fourth overall pick, and two teams that didn't have a need for a quarterback, Bradford was likely to fall right into the Redskins hands.
Shanahan must've figured he found his Elway. Why else would the head coach who has seen many a quarterback in his time heap praise on a rookie?
Mike Shanahan wanted Sam Bradford to be his guy. He would've picked up a left tackle in the second round, and then drafted depth with the rest of his picks. He would've then been able to surround the young quarterback with talent in the 2011 draft with his draft picks in tact.
Locker dropping out of the draft in 2010 changed everything. Bradford became the quarterback to get in the draft, and there was no way the Redskins could possibly wrestle that pick away from the Rams.
The Redskins simply had nothing to give; they couldn't trade up to get him, because they didn't have the picks to trade up and get him. They didn't have a quarterback they could trade to the Rams to get Bradford. Shanahan was stuck. He had no better options.
So, when Andy Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles put McNabb on the trading block, Shanahan took a shot. After all, every one say he's a Hall of Fame quarterback. He had a big armed, mobile quarterback once before; it seemed likely he could succeed with another one.
Far be it from me to claim Coach Shanahan made an impulsive move, but he did make a hasty one. A second round pick in 2010 and a third and fourth round pick in 2011 was a lot to spend on a then thirty-three year old quarterback with known accuracy issues. Had Shanahan taken some time and looked at some film, it's likely he would've rode it out with Jason Campbell for a season over McNabb. Instead, he bought the name instead of the player.
We all saw how that turned out.
Now, the Redskins are coming off another disappointing season. Their supposed Hall of Fame quarterback will likely be moving off to greener (or more purple, or brighter red) pastures. The next guy on the depth chart is a solid back-up, but not a front line starter.
And once again, there is only one quarterback that everyone in the draft really wants.
The Washington Redskins currently have the 10th pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft. There are a lot of quarterback starved teams ahead of the, including the one with the first overall pick, Carolina.
After them sit the Denver Broncos, where John Elway has just been given a position of power, and unless Tim Tebow impressed him over the last couple games, he could chose to draft his Stanford brethren.
After them sit the Bills, who may have found a solid quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick, but who may still want more youth. Cincinnati and a new coaching staff may want to replace the streaky Carson Palmer. Arizona likely won't make any Super Bowl runs with John Skelton. Cleveland will be getting a new coaching staff as well, and who knows if Colt McCoy can be the guy, while San Fransisco is unlikely to renew Alex Smith's contract, and where Luck's Stanford head coach Jim Harbaugh is considered a good candidate for the head coaching job.
If he declares, should the Redskins try to move up and draft Andrew Luck?
Seven out of the nine teams drafting above the Redskins have quarterback issues. If Luck declared, it'd be a miracle if he fell from being the first pick overall. It's almost impossible that he'd fall so far that he'd still be around in round ten.
But Mike Shanahan knows what he wants. And if you go back to that "McNabb's getting benched" press conference, it's almost a lock that he wants Luck.
"I need to see if we have the opportunity to take the top quarterback in the draft", he said. Not a quarterback in the draft. The top quarterback in the draft. There is only one top quarterback prospect right now, and that is Andrew Luck.
I may be reading too much into it, but Shanahan is a crafty guy. You have to believe he's going to try everything in his power to get that first pick overall.
His situation isn't entirely grim. He does have a pair of players that could get him his third and fourth round picks in Donovan McNabb and Albert Haynesworth. If, for some reason reason, the Carolina Panthers decided to trade out of the first pick overall, the Redskins would be the first team trying to claw that pick away from them.
Hearing Shanahan talk about Bradford sounds like hearing him talk about "the one that got away". Bradford is the kind of quarterback you build a team around, and had Bradford been drafted by the 'Skins, a 6-10 season record would be an improvement and a miracle by some standards.
Now, clearly, Shanahan is going down that route again. Trying to find the kind of quarterback you build a team and a franchise around, over trying to find a quarterback that you can win now with.
Bradford almost led his team to a playoff spot in his first season in the NFL. That has to sting the coach a little bit.
Trust me when I say this--if Shanahan has even the slimmest of slim chance to take Andrew Luck, he'll take it. There is no question. Shanahan will not be denied his franchise quarterback again.
Right now, Sam Bradford is sporting the navy blue and gold.
Next season, don't be surprised if you see Andrew Luck in the Burgundy and Gold.
Note: Please keep in mind this is all just wild speculation, and I could completely be reading too much into Mike Shanahan's comments.