Everyone is still making a big deal of Mike Shanahan’s benching of Donovan McNabb’s benching against the Lions nearly two weeks ago. And FINALLY we get to cries from certain media outlets that Shanahan is probably just being a big fat racist. In which case, I have to hand it to the guy: trading for a black quarterback and starting him for the first eight games of the season is a really crafty way of showcasing his preference for whites.
Anyway, it’s a topic that, despite the Capitals’ early success and John Wall’s stellar play with the Wizards (more on that later today), has dominated the DC sports news cycle. Shanahan’s comments about Donovan’s conditioning and inability to learn the playbook have only added fuel to the fire. DC Sports Bog has a solid rundown of what was said, including this comment from John Feinstein, one of the great sports authors of our day that might finally have gone insane.
“The situation with Shanahan and McNabb has gotten completely out of control,” Feinstein says, above. “Shanahan simply won’t say ‘I made a mistake. I got mad at Donovan, I put Rex Grossman in the game and it was a mistake.’ Instead, the first spin is that he doesn’t know the terminology of the two-minute offense, i.e. he’s stupid. The next day, it’s, well, his cardiovascular, he’s out of shape, i.e. he’s fat. Now, he’s leaking to Chris Mortensen — who is culpable in this, too, because I guarantee he didn’t call Donovan McNabb for a response — that we had to cut the playbook in half because of McNabb.
“I think there’s racial coding going on here, and it’s my belief that that kind of behavior is worth firing a coach for. Dan Snyder’s not gonna do it, but I think it’s out of control.” Via.
Jesus, John. Take off the tin-foil yarmulke and come back to reality. By the way, if you’ve ever seen Mike Shanahan’s tan, you realize that he technically could pass for a “person of color.” Which makes it totally cool. But we’re way off topic here. My point was to illustrate that Shanahan screws over his quarterbacks (and sometimes even his team) despite their skintone.
Let’s go back to 1999: Mike Shanahan’s Denver Broncos are coming off their second straight Super Bowl win. John Elway had retired in the spring, but expectations heading into the season were still high. And then the Broncos started the season 0-4. And his handling of his quarterbacks was a big reason why.
When Elway left, Shanahan became the unquestioned king of the Broncos. On Aug. 31 he made a move some players viewed as heavy-handed, benching popular veteran Bubby Blister without warning and handing the starting quarterback’s job to second-year player Brian Griese. Had Denver gotten off to a good start, the decision would have been heralded as another sign of Shanahan’s genius. Instead, Griese’s struggles—and Shanahan’s insistence on keeping him in the lineup—have served as a lightning rod for all the frustration surrounding the loss of a legend. Shanahan concedes that it’s “human nature” for players to ascribe their struggles to Elway’s absence, “but you just hope they have enough character to overcome it.”[...]
Privately, many Broncos would like to see the outgoing Brister, who won all four of the games he started for an injured Elway last season, get another shot. Some Denver players are even pining for veteran Chris Miller, who hasn’t played since he suffered a series of concussions in 1995. The quiet Griese hasn’t yet been embraced by teammates but says he has no plans to “turn into a rah-rah guy, because I don’t think that’s what this team needs. It’s tough, because we’re losing. I don’t know how much they’re listening to me, to tell the truth.”
Denver would finish 6-10, good for fifth in the old AFC West division, but keep in mind that there were other factors in play: Hard-hitting safety Steve Atwater had left in free agency and Terrell Davis was injured, and would never play a full season again. But the way that Shanny gave the finger to his competent veteran quarterback left a bitter taste in the mouths of his players. We’ll have to wait and see to know if history repeats itself.
And just for the record, Brister was white. And, presumably, still is.