How on Earth can you lose to the Bye? You do it with one thoughtless surrender to frustration and illogical explanations for it.
Mike Shanahan and the Washington Redskins have been haunted by uncertainty and doubt in the two weeks since the Detroit game. More questions have been asked about benching Donovan McNabb in that game that about tonight's contest against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Here are five quick hits about Mike Shanahan and the 'Skins before tonight's game.
The honeymoon is over for Shanahan. Pulling McNabb from the game when only a big play could pull out a win was...Cerrato-esque. Maybe there's something about the Redskins that lends itself bonehead calls. Shanahan and Bruce Allen are supposed to change the direction of the team by making better decisions.
If McNabb were benched at halftime, or with the first possession of the fourth quarter, or if Rex Grossman won the game, few would have questioned the move. Instead, the call trigged a reexamination of everything Shanahan has done since his arrival, especially his treatment of Albert Haynesworth and trading multiple draft picks to bring McNabb onboard.
Shanahan opened his tenure with the spectacular McNabb trade and by bringing in other "proven talent" to the training camp roster. Cerrato-esque moves that raise the uncomfortable question of just how hands-off Dan Snyder really is. That can't be what Snyder had in mind.
Mike Shanahan is the best coaching hire Dan Snyder has made. He is a thought leader in 21st-Century football. His skills are more current than Joe Gibbs when Gibbs returned in 2004. He is good at what he does, but he is not perfect.
Fixing this issue is as much on Shanahan as on McNabb. If you heard a media analyst say that Mike Shanahan had a burden to fix his relationship with his quarterback, please comment, because I haven't seen it yet. It's sports entertainment. Fans follow the players so the focus has been all McNabb all the time. McNabb said that he settled the matter with the coach behind closed doors. The coach hasn't said anything, except that McNabb's hamstring injury is improving.
That doesn't tell us anything. McNabb was not listed on the injury report before the Detroit game adding insult to the injury of Shanahan's explanations. With two weeks of hamstring healing, McNabb is listed as questionable for tonight's game, but fully participated in practice. So McNabb might be pulled again.
Donovan McNabb has more options than Shanahan. It could be that Shanahan needs McNabb more than McNabb needs Shanahan. If things don't work out in Washington, McNabb might find a home on any of 10 other teams. Minnesota, Arizona, Buffalo and Carolina could be looking for a quarterback next season. There's been the suggestion that Chicago could swap Jay Cutler for McNabb before Donovan reaches free agency.
Mike Shanahan does not have 10 good options of veteran quarterbacks to choose. He might find a reunion with Cutler appealing and Cutler needs the Shanahan touch. Both Shanahan and Cutler (and McNabb) need a Brandon Marshall-Eddie Royal pair to be successful. Next season, the Redskins might not have Santana Moss on the roster. Moss is an unrestricted free agent after this year.
To lose McNabb after a year and two draft picks invested is on par with losing DE Jason Taylor after one season, wasting another two draft picks. Like I said, Cerrato-esque.
Donovan McNabb is powerfully motivated to play well tonight. The Redskins players support McNabb and they should be powerfully motivated to play well tonight. Shanahan is perceptive enough to make the most of that and steal a win. He needs to because...
Michael Vick is powerfully motivated to play well tonight. Washington is Vick's hometown NFL team. Newport News, Virginia, is deep in Redskins country. The Hampton Roads region is a talent feed to Virginia Tech. There are a ton of VT fans in the area. The Redskins fan base would be friendly to Vick in burgundy and gold. If Vick sees himself in Washington next year, he has to play well in his audition game tonight.
Andy Reid won't be so cavalier about losing Vick to a division rival as he was about McNabb. To keep Vick on the Eagles' roster, Reid has to confront the same contract issues he avoided by trading McNabb. No wonder he doesn't want to think about it until after the season.