For Redskins fans, outcomes like Sunday’s are almost expected.
The Detroit Lions were victors for the fourth time in their last 39 regular season games. 50% of those wins have come courtesy of the ‘Skins.
While the 2010 version of the Lions seem to be a different breed than that of its predecessors in 2008 and 2009, the fact remains that Detroit is one of the bottom feeders in the NFL. Aside from the Lions, the Redskins also loss to the St. Louis Rams in Week 3 – which was well before they had established an identity as a potential team on the rise. Thanks to Washington, their confidence boost has parlayed itself into a current mark of 4-4.
Proving the be the very definition of mediocrity, Mike Shanahan’s bunch have scored some upset wins – against the Packers, Eagles and Bears (who have a combined record of 13-9 at the moment). To add even more fog to the picture, Washington is 2-2 on the road and – you guessed it – 2-2 at home. They’ve teased the public with defensive wizardry (they only allowed 7 points against the Cowboys, and handled an explosive Green Bay offense) as well as defensive indifference (they allow 393 yards of offense per game – 31st in the league).
So, once again, there stood the ‘Skins – trailing 28-25 after a 10-yard touchdown pass from Matt Stafford to Calvin Johnson (along with the accompanying 2-point conversion). With slightly over 3 minutes left on the game clock, McNabb and the ‘Skins begin on their own 28. After rookie Trent Williams is penalized for holding, Washington is forced into pass mode. The 12-year vet completes one pass, misfires on two others and get sacked on 4th down…instantly putting the Lions in position to add three points to their lead and thus, mandating that the visitors score a touchdown.
That was the bad news. The good news was that the ‘Skins had two timeouts reamiming. And with the two-minute warning included, they were able to preserve the clock and give themselves one final shot to obtain victory. Time for McNabb to do his thing.
Or so we thought. Former Chicago Bear Rex Grossman emerged from the sidelines for what could have been the game-winning possession. It could have been, if he hadn’t been sacked – on the very first snap he took - and fumbled. And the future Defensive Rookie of the Year Ndamukong Suh picked it up and waltzed into the end zone, giving Santana Moss a high-five in the process.
What was Shanahan’s response to his earth-shattering decision to bench McNabb in the game’s deciding moments?
Well, it seems that his reasoning morphed over the course of the following days. Initially, it began as a statement from the coach, saying that Grossman was “more familiar with the two-minute offense.” But soon afterwards, Shanahan quickly made more adjustments with his explanation than he did during his team’s loss, stating:
“The cardiovascular endurance that it takes to run a two-minute, going all the way down with no timeouts, calling plays, it’s just not easy. If I thought it was the best situation to do, then Donovan would have run the two-minute offense.”
And just like that, Shanahan made his first statement concerning his feeling about the fitness level of his team’s biggest off-season acquisition. The decorated Pro-Bowl and storied playoff competitor was blindsided and relegated to bench duty because his new coach thought he was out of shape. Now the whole public knew that Shanahan didn’t have the undying confidence that his other players seemed to have in the most capable quarterback that has put on a Washington uniform in almost two decades.
Nevermind the fact that the new skipper is probably justified in his decision to shake things up. Let’s face it – by all accounts, McNabb has underachieved in his brief Redskins tenure. If he continues at his current pace, a QB rating of 76.o would be the lowest he has registered in a full season (McNabb had a 60.1 rating in an abbreviated rookie season). While he’s putting up decent yardage (1971, 6th in the NFL), his touchdown-to-interception ratio leaves a lot to be desired (7-8) and, perhaps more importantly, he’s not coming through in needed situations – like his final faltered possession in Detroit.
The facts are that in 2010, McNabb has failed to produce points during situations similar to the one in Detroit. McNabb has only given the ‘Skins three points – a game-tying field goal against Green Bay – in these types of situations this year. For a guy who was brought in to be stabilizing force and a leader for a sporadic offense, this feels like a lackluster return on investment.
But would anyone dare to treat any other seasoned, multiple time Pro-Bowl, former NFC champion quarterback in this fashion? Unfortunately for McNabb, he has stepped outside of the confines of having a coach who can reminisce about what he has done throughout the course of his career. One of the burdens that comes with being Washington’s head man is that you are put in a pressure cooker – and results that should take years are expected to come to fruition overnight. Indeed, the lack of patience is perhaps the biggest problem when it comes to football in the nation’s capital. But a quick glance at television (Dr. Pepper and Capitol One ads), reveals the hope that the area has put in McNabb.
All quantitative reasoning aside, the way that McNabb’s benching was executed was improper. Shanahan left the team’s leader vulnerable to attacks by the media concerning his personal and professional habits. The incident has not only affected the relationship that the head coach has with his quarterback, but it also strains the relationship that he has with the rest of the locker room. If the other players are witnessing a coach who will make decisions that alienate his star player, how do they perceive that they will be treated? It’s a dangerous line that Shanahan has crossed that could have been easily avoided by having a heart-to-heart talk with his player before candidly answering the media’s questions.
And the domino effect continues. Now, Washington has brought in famed Oakland Raiders flop JaMarcus Russell for a workout. Is this a joke? And who should have a better perspective on how terrible Russell is than one of the opposing coaches in the same division (Shanahan coached Denver; Russell quarterbacked for the Raiders)? Although Halloween was two days ago, this should be a very scary proposition for the Washington faithful.
While Shanahan has three Super Bowls wins and numerous accolades, don’t be fooled by the apparent grandeur of his success. Over his last three NFL seasons (2006-2008), he has a record of 24-24 with no playoff appearances…in the AFC West.
If nothing else, Shanahan’s actions and recent track record point to him being consistently inconsistent.
And who else would fit into the Redskins better than a coach who is…