If Redskins fans were polled on the question will Donovan McNabb be the starting quarterback for the 2011 season, most would answer, "Yes...somewhere else."
Hold your horses, cowboy. McNabb's departure from the Redskins is no more certain than was Clinton Portis' supposed departure when Mike Shanahan arrived one year and five days ago.
Portis hopes to return to the team, as do most of the veterans. That includes McNabb.
Shanahan says that he is conducting an evaluation process to assess the quarterback situation and will make a decision in the best interest of the team. I believe him. McNabb's departure is only an 85 percent certainty. It's not a lead pipe cinch.
I'm not sure what process Shanahan uses in these matters, but a man like him uses a method far less emotional than most fans would use. Here are three points a rational analyst (me) might use:
1. Can Rex Grossman do it better than McNabb? Grossman completed 55.6 percent of his Redskins passes for 6.6 yards per attempt. He threw seven touchdown passes, four interceptions and had four fumbles while leading the team to a 1-2 record. Those numbers are near identical to his career stats although his efficiency as measured by his QB rating was the highest in his career.
McNabb completed 58.3 percent o his passes for 7.2 yards per attempt. He threw 14 touchdown passes against a horrible 15 interceptions and 7 fumbles while leading the Redskins to a 5-8 record. Grossman was more efficient with the ball, but McNabb's higher yards per attempt is evidence of effectiveness, streaky but effective.
Grossman was twice as likely to throw a touchdown pass but four times as likely to lose the ball as McNabb. Receivers appeared more open and the line blocked better because Grossman was quicker to release the ball. Yet, Grossman was no better than McNabb at winning games.
Houston's Matt Schaub is the benchmark performer for Kyle Shanahan's offence. With the younger Shanahan as offensive coordinator in 2009, Schaub completed 67.9 percent of his passes for 8.2 yards per attempt, 29 touchdown passes, 15 interceptions and 1 fumble.
Neither McNabb nor Grossman are likely to match Schaub's performance, unless the Redskins import the Texans' offense featuring Andre Johnson and Arian Foster. McNabb is more likely than Grossman to come closer to the benchmark. The best that can be said of Grossman is that he is cheaper than McNabb.
2. Who is the McNabb replacement? Hey, Peyton Manning and Michael Vick are unrestricted free agents in March! Neither man will sniff the free agent market this spring. If we have learned anything about the McNabb experience, it is that veteran quarterbacks become Jason Campbell when they join this offense. Even Campbell did better away from here. That would be truer for a rookie than for Manning.
The top names (and age) among free agent quarterbacks include Marc Bulger (34), Kerry Collins (37), Shaun Hill (31), Alex Smith (26), Tavaris Jackson (27) and Rex Grossman (30). Does that list excite you?
Smith and Jackson have youth, but not much more than McNabb to suggest that a 10-win season rides on their arms.
Anyone who joins the team must go through the same learning curve that McNabb and Grossman have already learned. A new player means another season of uneven performance at quarterback.
The Eagles are likely to keep Vick and trade Kevin Kolb. The Redskins do not have the draft picks to swing a deal because...they traded their good draft picks to the Eagles for McNabb. Washington might have enough to offer the Titans for Vince Young. Shanahan and Young make for a volatile mix. Young's individual gifts excite a segment of football fans, but his ad-libs would kill the coach.
3. The secret of quarterback success - what they don't want you to know Pay attention. This is important and profound. Ready?
YOU DO NOT NEED AN ELITE QUARTERBACK TO WIN TITLES! YOU NEED A QUARTERBACK AND COACH IN SYNC WITH EACH OTHER!
Joe Montana was not an elite quarterback prospect coming out of Notre Dame. He had the good fortune to land on Bill Walsh's San Francisco offense where he was so in synch with Walsh that he achieved more than he had any right to expect. Rich Gannon was a journeyman quarterback his entire career until he signed with the Oakland Raiders and aligned with Jon Gruden. McNabb's numbers in Philadelphia were never that strong, but he won because he was so in synch with Andy Reid.
This is the most subjective part of the evaluation. Can Shanahan and McNabb synch up? Can the QB see on the field what the coach visualizes in his head? There's a case to be made for Grossman's alignment with Kyle Shanahan, but this story is about D-Mac.
McNabb has to make better reads. With one more training camp, he should do as well as Grossman in that regard and with better talent. Can Shanahan do his part and improve his communication with the quarterback?
Any new quarterback will go through what McNabb and Shanahan have already gone through with no assurance the new guy will align with either Shanahan better than Mcnabb has. That should give pause to the rush for a new quarterback. There are benefits to keeping D-Mac on the roster that should be considered in any evaluation process.
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The gambling site bodog.com looked at the situation and sees a free agent quarterback as the most likely scenario for the 'Skins, with McNabb the least likely.
Here are their odds for different scenarios ranked from most to least likely:
Who will be the starting QB for Washington Game 1 of the 2011 Regular Season?
|Free Agent QB||1/1|
|2011 Draft Pick QB||5/2|
Bodog set 3/1 odds that McNabb will start for the 49ers in 2011 and 15/2 odds that he will start for the Raiders (3/2 odds that Jason Campbell will start for the Raiders and 13/10 odds that a free agent QB will be the Raiders starter.)
Point after: Anthony Armstrong - "Bring my man 5 back."