Doubt and uncertainty about the Washington Redskins rode in on the back of Mike Shanahan's decision to bench QB Donovan McNabb in the last two-minutes of the Detroit Lions game. Is the damage irreparable? Redskins Hog Heaven analysts Greg Trippiedi and Anthony Brown debate the issue.
Greg Trippiedi: Cooler heads will prevail
Donovan McNabb can achieve success with the Washington Redskins, and I think he can achieve success with the Redskins in 2010. Still. I mean, knowing McNabb's contract situation and shaky status as the teams "unquestioned" leader, there is no tomorrow for Washington and McNabb. It's an eight game career, as far as this organization and its current quarterback go together.
The Redskins made an error with McNabb in reversing his read progression from deep to short. McNabb was an efficient quarterback in Philadelphia reading short to long because his arm strength allowed him to wait out the deeper routes and put the ball over the top. What the Redskins have essentially done on those longer developing plays with McNabb reading deep first is that they're giving him only a partial picture of what the defense is playing. This passing offense doesn't have a motor because the seven-step game has only deep elements in it.
There's no chain-moving factor in the Redskins passing game. There are shorter, high-completion passes, but those are the simplistic routes that don't work in third downs. The Redskins no longer run the long crosses, halfback angles, and speed outs of the west coast passing game that made converting third downs a simple execution issue. Their best plays in third and short involve the ball being thrown down the field into coverage, which are low percentage plays. Too low.
Every part of this is correctable. They don't need to run all these long to short plays to get these big plays. They can rely on the west coast concepts in the Kyle Shanahan playbook to get those chains moving and open up the running game, then bringing the bootleg game off that. Good adjustments by the coordinator will make McNabb a better player. And we know from his Philadelphia days that McNabb can run that offense. McNabb's career average line is 59% completion, 18 TDs, 8 INTs, 7.0 yards per attempt, and a 7% sack rate. McNabb is there in yards per attempt and sack rate, and he's close in completion percentage.
What the Redskins need to rectify is the amount of INTs he's tossing for the lack of TD opportunities he has. The read system is backwards and counter-intuitive and it's confusing and befuddling McNabb. There's no reason for it. Sheer probability sees many more TD opportunities for McNabb in the second half of the season that he will need to execute, particularly in the red zone. If they simply fix the read progression so that everyone is on the same page, McNabb's interceptions will drop and his production will improve.
In the end, common sense is going to win out and McNabb will have a very good second half of the year. I do not believe it will be enough to earn him a long-term extension, because the failures of the first half of the year are going to loom large in the mind of the Shanahan's.
Anthony Brown: Issues exposed and fixable
Donovan McNabb cannot possibly have success with the Washington Redskins. Not after head coach Mike Shanahan showed his utter lack of confidence in McNabb to pull out a last-minute win in Detroit.
We haven't seen a quarterback benched like this before in Washington. Never. Not ever. Not since:
- Joe Gibbs benched Patrick Ramsey for Mark Brunell in the first game of the 2005 season, or
- Joe Gibbs benched Mark Brunell for Jason Campbell in the 2006 season, or
- Marty Schottenheimer benched Jeff George for Tony Banks in the first game of the 2001 season, or
- Joe Gibbs benched Jay Schroeder for Doug Williams in the last game of the 1987 season in the run up to Super Bowl 22.
That's not to mention Steve Spurrier's numerous quarterback switches between Shane Matthews, Danny Wuerffel and Patrick Ramsey in 2002-2003.
Quarterbacks are players. Players are benched. Thus, quarterbacks are benched sometimes.
I'm supposed to take the con argument in the debate whether Donovan McNabb can be successful after Mike Shanahan benched him in Detroit. The con arguments, as above, don't stand up unless one resorts to exaggeration and hyperbole.
Like saying, we've never seen this kind of thing before. Only we have. Mike Shanahan once benched John Elway and he ended Jake Plummer's career by benching him for Jay Cutler.
My ex-wife says I'm not very bright. Maybe that's why I recognize brain farts when I...hear one. Shanahan had a brain fart in Detroit. Let it go at that.
The Shanahan-McNabb relationship may not be damaged beyond repair, if at all. There are issues, however.
Communication - Shanahan thinks he cautioned McNabb that he might be pulled under certain conditions. McNabb thinks he did not hear him. Lets not attribute this to malice (or racism). Taking different meaning from the same words is a common communication problem. It's fixable, so fix it.
Trust - is something that comes with time. When persons know each other--what they value, how they think, how they act under different circumstances--they have a basis for unison of purpose. Working together becomes easier. We know now that Shanahan has trust issues. This may be something Shanahan, not McNabb, has to work though.
Here's a football secret. Pay attention. In a quarterback-driven era, teams do not need great quarterbacks to win. The Baltimore Ravens won a Super Bowl with Trent Dilfer. The New York Giants won with Eli Manning, when Eli wasn't very good. They beat the Tom Brady-led New England Patriots to do it. The Oakland Raiders reached a Super Bowl with Rich Gannon and the Carolina Panthers did it with Jake Delhomme. With the exception of Brady, McNabb is better than that bunch.
Greatness is not the key. The great teams have quarterbacks in tune with the coach at the right moment in time.
After Detroit, Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb know each other a little better. Weak partnerships will fracture over an incident. Strong ones just get stronger. I'm betting that two high achievers can get stronger. Thus, there is no reason why this can't work, if McNabb and Shanahan work on it..
Unless you are superstitious. If you are, there is reason to worry.
Donovan McNabb wears the same jersey number (5) as Heath Shuler. McNabb is doomed!