Washington Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb has more than likely seen his season cut three games short after being benched by head coach Mike Shanahan on Dec. 17.

Shanahan told reporters during a press conference following a Friday practice that McNabb will not start on Dec. 19 against the Dallas Cowboys, marking the second time this season that the veteran pro bowl quarterback has been benched by Shanahan—both times a surprise to McNabb, Redskins fans and just about everyone else not named Shanahan. McNabb will now take a backseat to veteran Rex Grossman, who was named the starting quarterback for the rest of the season.

“I talked to Donovan yesterday after practice,” Shanahan said. “I told him once we were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, that I made a decision that I was going to start Rex Grossman. I want to get a feel on how Rex can run our offense over the next few weeks.”

McNabb will serve as Grossman’s back up against the Cowboys on Dec. 19, then will be listed as the third string quarterback for the final two games, while four-year quarterback John Beck becomes the backup.

Grossman has had success in the NFL before, leading the Chicago Bears to the Super Bowl in 2006, but hasn’t thrown a touchdown since 2008. Beck, a former backup for the Baltimore Ravens and Miami Dolphins, has just one career touchdown.

“What I’d like to be able to do, is at the end of the season, be able to evaluate where we’re at our quarterback position,” Shanahan explained. “I told Donovan that there’s nothing he could do in the three games that would influence me of what he’s done over the last 13 games.”

In 13 games played this year, McNabb has put up the worst numbers of his career, passing for only 14 touchdowns, 15 interceptions and a pedestrian passer rating of 77.1. Still, many fans were shocked to learn the 12-year veteran will lose his staring position just eight months after the team traded a second-round pick and a conditional fourth-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles to gain his services–and just four weeks after McNabb had just signed a 5-year, $78 million contract extension. Ironically, that extension came just days after Shanahan first benched the 32-year-old veteran this season during the last two minutes of a week 8 matchup against the Detroit Lions on Halloween Oct. 31.

But Shanahan said that contract extension does not guarantee McNabb will be in Washington next season. The contract really only guarantees McNabb $3.2 million for this season and gives him the option to play elsewhere next year.

“I also told Donovan that I could not guarantee him that he would be back next year,” Shanahan said. “I said, `I can’t guarantee you that.’ But what I can guarantee you that I’ll be honest with you. I’ll evaluate the situation.”

But the two time Super Bowl champion coach wasn’t the only person being honest on Dec. 17. McNabb’s agent, Fletcher Smith, told reporters the way his client has been treated in Washington is “beyond disrespectful.”

“Disrespectful is probably not strong enough of a word,” Smith told The Washington Post. “Donovan has handled himself with nothing but class, not just in Washington but as an ambassador for the league. To treat him this way, it’s beyond disrespectful.”

Many football analysts agree with Smith, including former NFL cornerback and current commentator Deion Sanders, who suggested in a NFL Network interview that Shanahan is simply using McNabb as a scapegoat for the struggles of the Redskins offense this season.

Sanders hinted that Shanahan would point the blame at McNabb before blaming his own son, Kyle Shanahan, who serves as the Redskins offensive coordinator. Sanders hinted that Shanahan may be too arrogant to take any blame himself pointing to how he handled defensive star Albert Haynesworth, who had struggled fitting into the new defensive scheme. Shanahan suspended Haynesworth for the remainder of this season, citing conduct detrimental to the team, and recently cut punter Hunter Smith after the specialist muffed a snap on a potential game-tying field goal on Dec. 12 against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

McNabb has yet to comment on the situation, but his agent said they will be discussing a lot over the next few weeks, particularly his options for next season.
“Obviously, we’re going to have to sit down and digest the season at season’s end.

And we will, in due time, come to a decision,” Smith said. “But at the end of the day, he has to live there , he has to play there. And the decision, at the end of the day, is ultimately his. I can’t answer that question on his behalf. But from my standpoint, I’m certainly not happy with what has transpired. If that is his decision, we’re absolutely not happy with Mike’s treatment or handling of Donovan. In this situation and in a lot of situations this season.”


Perry Green

AFRO Sports Editor