Donovan McNabb Gets Benched: My Thoughts on this Strange Story

Matt Goldberg@@tipofgoldbergCorrespondent INovember 1, 2010

CHICAGO - OCTOBER 24: Donovan McNabb #5 of the Washington Redskins throws a pass against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on October 24, 2010 in Chicago, Illinois. The Redskins defeated the Bears 17-14. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Confession 1:  I'm a lifelong Philadelphia Eagles Fan. Yes, I not only remember all the way back to the Vermeil years, but also the five or so drought years before that almost -golden era.

Confession 2-A:  I've been a huge Donovan McNabb fan (that once was popular to be in Philly...before late 2006 or so) since he joined the Eagles in 1999, and have bled Kelly/midnight green ever since guys like Mike Boryla were under center.

Confession 2-B:  This was going to be a difficult NFL season for me, once McNabb got traded to the Redskins, and I have done the hitherto unthinkable by becoming a Skins fan this year.

The other reason for my defection: I just can't quite wrap my head around the idea of Michael Vick as my team's QB, although I rooted for him at Virginia Tech, liked his early years in Atlanta, and realize that he did pay for his crime (well, one of them).

So, it was surreal to root for the Skins when McNabb returned to the Linc on Oct. 3, and it will be at least as weird to visit DC and attempt to do the same on Nov. 15.

And now, with this season and that upcoming Monday Night Football game, it has gotten even more surreal. Salvatore Dali-surreal.  Is there a post-surrealism movement?

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News Flash: If you were living in a parallel universe without access to the last 24 hours of NFL coverage, here's the scoop.  

New Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb was benched at Detroit with about two minutes left and his team down by less than a touchdown.  His replacement:  The less-than-stellar Rex Grossman.

Now, other columns will analyze what this means for:

a) The rest of the 2010 Redskins season

b) McNabb's future (he's only under contract till the end of this season) in Washington

c) McNabb's future, whether under center in Washington, Minnesota or anywhere the NFL flag flies

Of course, this being Philly, the talk has been about many things.  Put it this way:  Last week, wearing my Philadelphia Phillies Featured Columnist hat, I wrote a column titled:  Cliff Lee:  The Player and the Trade that Just Won't Get Away. 

Now, multiply that by about 30 (dirty, or otherwise), and you approximate the sentiment in these parts for McNabb.

Yes, the marriage was sometimes nasty, and feelings of tenderness, rancor, instant nostalgia and resentment are all still mixed together during the still-early stages of this divorce.

So, what has the discussion been like in Philly, the place where McNabb was the franchise player for the last 11 years? 

In my unofficial survey, many sports radio talk show hosts, many of whom never liked or simply resented McNabb (for whatever reasons), are now treating McNabb's benching as if the Eagles just won the Super Bowl.  Ah, the feeling of vindication!

Popular statements heard from these expert talking heads and their callers (and my gut reactions): 

"See, we knew the guy was a loser"

Check the record book.  Even with his tepid 4-4 start in Washington, McNabb has a career regular-season record of 96-53-1 (tied for 14th most wins all-time; only 6 of those 14 have a higher winning percentage).

Oh yeah, he has made it to 5 NFC Championship Games and a Super Bowl, and boasts a winning record in the playoffs.

"He's shot"

Is he playing the best ball of his career? No.  Does he have anything left?  I think so. 

Look at his stats from last year when he led an almost entirely new supporting cast with a woeful O-line to an 11-5 record.

Now, he has a new, woeful O-line and almost nobody to hand off to or throw to, and he's not thriving statistically.

"See, those national guys know nothing...always defending McNabb...idiots"

Yes, there are dopes in the national media, every bit as much as there are birdbrains locally, but in general, the national guys have been much more objective when it comes to McNabb (and to head coach Andy Reid) than the local media and fans have.

I'm not going to solve this divide in a couple sentences, but in general, anyone with objectivity will examine their fairly excellent record together for what it is: An excellent record.

They do not hold these guys personally responsible for not winning The Big One, or for not kissing the butts of the local media, or for not taking them to a parade.

"See...the Eagles made the right move in trading '5'"

We'll see over more time and evidence than the 7 or 8 games played so far. The Eagles were 11-5 last year, and are 4-3 so far this year. 

They have gotten good quarterback play, especially if you only judge this by passer rating.  The Redskins were 4-12 last year, and they are 4-4 at the turn. Let's see what happens.

Shanahan never wanted McNabb there anyway

I'm not privy to the conversations between eccentric Redskins owner Dan Snyder and coach Mike Shanahan.  I'm not sure who instigated the trade for McNabb, and if they were equally on board.

Something does appear to be rotten in Denmark (to say nothing of DC, and Detroit) now, and I'm not sure what to make of it.  Was it a conflict with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan?  Was Mike Shanahan trying to light a fire under McNabb?

And why would Shanahan pull this move before a bye week which happens to give them two weeks before hosting a Monday Night Football clash with the Eagles? I still can't figure this out.

Mike Shanahan did, indeed, win back-to-back Super Bowls with John Elway and Terrell Davis, but his last title was in the 1998-99 season.  Since then, he coached 10 seasons in Denver, making the playoffs four times and winning one playoff game.

A good record, but not that great in the last 12 years. Are all of us sure that the man is infallible in his judgments?  I'm not, but I am patient enough to let this season develop further.

This next Redskins-Eagles game will be fascinating

Well, on this we can all agree.  And maybe, if this game needs some additional juice, the Skins could take a chance on Randy Moss, who was reported to have been released by the Vikings.