As Donovan McNabb has been benched with three games remaining, the Washington Redskins have officially thrown in the towel on 2010, and why not. The Future already has begun in the DMV, and that future apparently does not involve the former Philadelphia Eagles quarterback.
Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan is using McNabb as a scapegoat, according to multiple players. The coordinator’s credibility has been questioned by players and members of the staff, according to team and league sources.
“The guys are extremely pissed,” one Redskins player told me.
Mike Shanahan has made humiliating his veteran quarterbacks a tradition, becoming a practice as common as passing the mashed potatoes around the table at Christmas dinner. And Shanahan can afford to pass–the team is off the hook financially with McNabb after this season, and will take the next three weeks to audition former Bears quarterback Rex Grossman for the starting job in 2011. And while one could argue about Mike Shanahan’s tact or level of respect to his quarterback, the same cannot be said for his zeal to run his program to his liking, critics be damned.
It’s not a huge leap to presume Mike Shanahan was motivated to return to coaching, at least in some part, by the opportunity to work with his son, Kyle, whose own career aspirations have taken a hit while working with McNabb. Some would point to this as one of the perils of bringing on his own blood to run his offense, but those people wouldn’t have been paying attention.
This is the first year that Kyle has served as Mike Shanahan’s charge, and considering the lifestyle of an NFL head coach, one is left to wonder if the Shanahans aren’t making up for those weekends where Daddy always had to work. The imagery of father and son assembling the Redskins game plan like an old train set has some appeal to everyone. But Kyle didn’t need Daddy’s help to find work, though Shanahan the elder certainly made a call or two on his son’s behalf. In Kyle’s two years as offensive coordinator with the Houston Texans, where the team’s total offense jumped from from 14th to third and then fourth. Whatever Kyle did in Houston, it achieved tangible results.
And then Kyle made a lateral move to become The Coach’s Kid and work his dad, a dubious arrangement that lends itself to the Kid being undermined. It’s entirely plausible to me that a 34-year-old superstar would have a difficult time taking direction from a relatively unproven 31-year-old offensive coordinator. And Mike, whose tolerance for foolishness is microscopic, would certainly take that sort of insubordination more personally than, let’s say, from an overweight defensive lineman. Nepotism? Possibly. Garden-variety Shanahan dictorship? More likely.
The problem with being a dick to everyone is that nobody else can tell when the recipients of said dickishness actually deserve it. McNabb was criticized for his ability to run the 2-minute drill effectively, and yet that’s exactly what he did against the Buccaneers last week, although it may or may not have taken him five downs to do it. Either way, dude marches the team down the field for a score, only to see his punter botch the game-tying score. Five days later, he loses his job. Even by NFL standards, this seems cruel. But Mike Shanahan doesn’t care much for humanity. He doesn’t have time. Neither does Kyle, whose time with Dad now exists purely to serve his own ends–running his own NFL team and benching his own quarterbacks when he so chooses.
It’s as if the Shanahans are going out of their way to remind everyone that McNabb was just a placeholder for this year. Grossman, who will be 31 by next season, will now serve in that role as the Shanahan empire slowly continues to be erected. And then the Shanaskins will likely draft their future quarterback in April. A younger guy would be more inclined to take direction from a younger coach. That might be a determining factor for the future of this team, for this family, as they prepare for a future that Donovan McNabb will certainly never see.