10 Biggest Stories Of 2010 NFL Season, No. 7: Donovan McNabb Benched (Twice)

Bryn SwartzSenior Writer IIIJanuary 18, 2011

PHILADELPHIA - OCTOBER 03:  Donovan McNabb #5 of the Washington Redskins against the Philadelphia Eagles on October 3, 2010 at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Redskins defeated the Eagles 17-12.  (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

After completing his 11th season without a championship, the Philadelphia Eagles did the unthinkable with quarterback Donovan McNabb. They traded the six-time Pro Bowl quarterback to a division rival, the Washington Redskins.

Fourth-year quarterback Kevin Kolb, with two career starts (and a Player of the Week award) on his resume, was named the Eagles’ starting quarterback for the 2010 season.

McNabb led the Redskins to a 4-3 start, highlighted by a revenge win against the Philadelphia Eagles and an overtime win against the powerful Green Bay Packers.

But he struggled against the Detroit Lions in Week 8. With the Redskins trailing 31-25, the ball on their own 30-yard line and 1:48 left in the game, McNabb was benched for, of all people, Rex Grossman, considered by many to be one of the worst quarterbacks in the league.

On the first play from scrimmage, the FIRST play, Grossman fumbled and rookie defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh scored on a 17-yard fumble return. The Lions won easily, 37-25.

Head coach Mike Shanahan cited McNabb’s lack of knowledge of the team’s two-minute drill as the reason for the benching. Later in the week, he claimed that McNabb isn’t physically fit enough to handle a two-minute drill (and Rex Grossman is?).

The season reached its strangest point the next week. Despite McNabb’s mediocre numbers, plus the benching, the Washington Redskins rewarded him with a five-year, $78 million contract extension on November 15th. The contract locked up McNabb as a Redskin for the remainder of his career.

That night, the Eagles destroyed the 4-4 Redskins 59-28, highlighted by 28 points in the first quarter and 45 in the first half. McNabb threw for three interceptions in the game.

The Redskins, and McNabb, continued to struggle. In Week 14, McNabb completed a last-minute 75-yard drive by completing a six-yard touchdown pass to Santana Moss on 4th-and-goal with just nine seconds remaining in the game.

As a passionate Eagles fan who hasn’t missed a game since before McNabb was on the Eagles, I can tell you that McNabb never did anything like this with the Eagles. A last-second touchdown drive, capped off with a fourth-down scoring strike? Never.

McNabb’s fourth-quarter comebacks with the Eagles would look like this: Eagles enter fourth quarter, trailing a bad team, 17-16. A long run by Brian Westbrook sets up a short McNabb touchdown pass. The Eagles take the lead 23-17 with 12 minutes remaining in the game. The defense intercepts a pass and returns it for a touchdown, and the Eagles win 30-17.

After McNabb’s incredible drive and touchdown pass to Santana Moss, the Redskins did their best imitation of John Carney and the Saints. They missed the extra point. In fact, they never even got a chance to attempt the extra point. Holder Hunter Smith saw the snap go right through his hands. The Buccaneers recovered to win the game.

And incredibly, Shanahan demoted McNabb after the game, not just to second string, but to the third string quarterback. McNabb’s miraculous touchdown pass against the Buccaneers was the final pass of his season and will probably go down as his final pass as a member of the Washington Redskins.

It’s incredible to think about the inconsistency in Mike Shanahan’s dealings with McNabb.

First of all, he benched McNabb in the Lions game, despite McNabb leading the team to 25 points during the game. Then he gave McNabb his job back and rewarded him with an enormous contract before the next game. And then he benched McNabb, ending his career as a Redskin, after McNabb’s best game of the season.

In 13 games, McNabb led the Redskins to five victories. In those five victories, the Redskins scored the following amount of points: 13, 17, 16, 17 and 19. That’s an average of 16.4 points per game in the five wins. Not once did the Redskins score 20+ points in a win with McNabb at quarterback.

But in their eight losses with McNabb, their offense was better. They scored 27, 16, 24, 25, 28, 13, 7 and 16. That’s an average of 19.5 points per game, which is, incredibly, three points more per game than they averaged in his victories.

So when the Redskins scored 20 or more points in 2010, McNabb was 0-4. When they scored fewer than 20, he was 5-4. That’s ridiculous.

For the season, McNabb completed just 58.3 percent of his passes. He threw for 3377 yards, 14 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. His passer rating was a below average 77.1.

And despite a $78 million contract, he will almost certainly be playing for a new team in 2011.

I expect McNabb to join the Arizona Cardinals or Minnesota Vikings.