Washington Redskins head coach Mike Shannahan had a glimmer in his eye and a crackle in his voice in front of reporters at a FedEx Field press conference on April 6. The two-month Washington coach couldn’t help feeling like a kid again as he introduced his new starting quarterback, Donovan McNabb, to the masses of media staked out inside the Redskins conference room.

Shannahan referenced the term “fresh start” as opposed to being traded or fired when charting the paths that both men took en route to the District. The two-time Super Bowl winning coach recalled a conversation that he held with his wife the previous night when she requested McNabb’s stat sheet.

“Let me give you the important ones,” Shannahan began. “He’s won 65 percent of his games. He’s been to five NFC Championships in the last 11 years.”

With those words, Shannahan cracked a sly smile. He couldn’t conceal or hide his excitement of the mere thought that a quarterback of Hall-of-Fame caliber would be leading his team. With every word his smile widened, his every breath exuding confidence.

“I’m excited to have him as our quarterback on our football team,” Shannahan said. “Excellent leader, everything that you look for in a quarterback: leadership, how he carries himself, what he’ll do to this community and the way he’ll lead this football team.”

The way the former Philadelphia Eagles signal caller will lead this football team will usher in a new era in Washington football — an era free of concerns about the quarterback position, second guessing and questionable decision-making and wondering whether Washington will be competing for high draft picks or high playoff seeds.

Shannahan’s early January arrival in Washington signaled change. McNabb’s Easter Sunday arrival signaled Super Bowl. The hopes are high again for one of the most storied franchises in NFL history; a hope that both men embraced and talked about vividly.

“Everything that I’ve been a part of we’ve won,” McNabb said. “We may not have won the Super Bowl but we won and we look to achieve that goal and that’s to win the Super Bowl.”

After fielding questions ranging from his time in Philadelphia to his expectations for Washington, McNabb walked over to Shannahan and grabbed the right sleeve of his new Redskins jersey with his new coach hoisting the other. Both men smiled as cameras flashed all over the room to capture the moment. But not even the most expensive lens could contain the excitement that has now embraced the Washington Redskins.


Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO