After his decision to bench Donovan McNabb in favor of Rex Grossman on Oct. 31 against the Detroit Lions, Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan gave his reasoning for making the move with these postgame comments:
“I felt with the time, with no timeouts, Rex gave us the best chance to win in that scenario. Everything is sped up when you don’t have timeouts. It’s got to be automatic. People forget how quick things are in that two minutes. It’s like learning a new language.
“Are you asking me if we played poorly? Yes, we did.”
After the game, Jamie Mottram posted the above photo of a seemingly perplexed Redskins Offensive Coordinator Kyle Shanahan as he was apparently looking at McNabb during the Redskins-Lions game.
Dan Steinberg of the WASHINGTON POST following up Mottram’s screen shot with a link to this video:
In the brief clip, while watching McNabb run the Washington offense against Detroit, Shanahan said, “What the hell?”
The next day McNabb’s replacement, Rex Grossman, told the media that he called his own plays for the two drives he was in the game. CSNwashington.com’s Ryan O’Halloran subsequently reported,”it doesn’t appear McNabb has such freedom.”
Though there does seem to be some circumstantial evidence to suggest that perhaps McNabb is not completely up to speed on the Redskins offense, regarding Shanahan’s postgame defense for McNabb’s benching …
Most Likely: Mike Shanahan was covering his own a– for his horrific coaching manuever
Less Likely: Mike Shanahan was covering for son Kyle advocating a horrific coaching manuever
Least Likely: Mike Shanahan has trust in Rex Grossman’s abilities
Unlikely: Mike Shanahan was completely honest in his explanation for McNabb’s benching
From there, Mike Shanahan only made things worse for himself.
From Jason Reid of the WASHINGTON POST on Nov. 1:
Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said Monday that Donovan McNabb’s lingering injuries played a role in the coach’s decision to bench his starting quarterback Sunday.
… But McNabb wasn’t able to fully practice and Shanahan said that from a “cardiovascular standpoint,” McNabb couldn’t handle the fast-paced two-minute offense.
The next day, Michael Wilbon wrote this in the WASHINGTON POST:
“Look, I’ve long ago declared my bias toward McNabb and I’m not going to spin away from it now. McNabb, though, hasn’t played all that well and has said so. He wasn’t particularly effective Sunday in Detroit, either.
“And indications are now that the Shanahans, father and son, don’t much like the way McNabb prepares for games. Mike’s assertion makes it sound like McNabb is some dummy, an ominous characterization he’d better be careful about, lest he run into some cultural trouble in greater Washington, D.C.”
Wilbon’s Tuesday column, as noted by Steinberg in the Washington Post, was followed the same day by stronger comments from David Aldridge and John Thompson II on DC’s ESPN 980 that echoed Wilbon’s implication that race may have been a factor in McNabb’s benching.
Ugly? We’re just getting started.
On Nov. 7, last Sunday, Chris Mortensen of ESPN reported - via Michael David Smith of ProFootballTalk.com:
The latest talk comes from a report on ESPN on Sunday morning in which Chris Mortensen said that Shanahan and his son and offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, have had to cut their playbook in half in order to pare it down enough for McNabb to learn it.
And it gets worse: Mortensen reports that even when McNabb is operating with the Cliff’s Notes version of the playbook, he sometimes has trouble correctly calling the plays in the huddle.
The same day, later that evening, celebrated author and columnist John Feinstein went on D.C.’s Washington Post Live television show and also said, thanks to the contents of Mortensen’s report, possible racism could’ve been behind the Shanahan’s defense of benching McNabb.
But Feinstein went a step further, which he reported in a blog post Thursday:
Then I saw Mortensen’s ‘report.’ That’s when I went on Washington Post Live and accused Shanahan of racial coding because I believe if he was Mortensen’s source that is absolutely what he was doing.
And if it was, Shanahan is a despicable human being and, yes, I think he’s using racial coding and yes I think he should be fired. If anyone wants to disagree with me about that; fine, just don’t give me the Steve Czaban (WTEM) copout that I’ve, ‘lost my mind.’
Essentially what Wilbon, Aldridge, Thompson and Feinstein are implying is that had McNabb been white, Shanahan would not have used - and allegedly leaked to the media - the same excuses for benching him.
There’s no other way around that.
So if that’s the case, Shanahan would’ve just said, “my bad“, and not offered any of the excuses that the coach offered in McNabb’s case? (On or perhaps off the record.)
Or were Shanahan’s own comments and Mortensen’s report about “cutting the playbook in half” for McNabb more an act of Mike Shanahan covering his own a– for a horrendous coaching decision than Shanahan issuing a racist taunt at a quarterback that he himself traded for and has subsequently supported?
If Wilbon, Aldridge, Thompson and Feinstein think Shanahan is racist, they’re sorely underestimating the ego of the man.
But don’t take my word for it. Take the word of Deion Sanders on NFL Network last night. The intrepid Steinberg of the Washington Post has an excerpt of Sanders discussing Shanahan’s McNabb-bench-explanation with Rich Eisen:
Sanders: “Don’t play the race card. Let’s not pull that. Let’s not play that. I just think it was a horrible situation and a situation that couldn’t be explained. The thing about a lie…when you tell a lie, you’ve got to tell another lie to cover up the lie that you just told. And I think it was a mirage of lies. “
Eisen: “Well, what were they lying about?”
Sanders: “Lying about he didn’t have a grasp of the two-minute offense. This is Donovan McNabb. He didn’t have a grasp of the two-minute offense? Was that the only time that they ran the two-minute offense this season? No, not by any means. That’s an insult to Donovan McNabb’s intelligence, but I would not play the race card in this factor.”
If ever Sanders had an opening to cry racism, as validated by Wilbon, Aldridge, Thompson and Feinstein, it was during that conversation.
I’m on Deion’s side on this one.