Friday, December 17, 2010

Mike Shanahan: Time to See What Rex Grossman, John Beck Can Do

Mike Shanahan Rex Grossmankept the news so secret that he said he didn't even tell his son Kyle, who also happens to be his offensive coordinator. But Washington's coach said Friday that he decided to bench Donovan McNabb after the Redskins were eliminated from playoff contention with last Sunday's 17-16 loss to Tampa Bay Buccaneers, even though the five-time Pro Bowl quarterback finished off his second-most productive game of the year with a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that would have forced overtime if not for a botched extra-point try.

Shanahan said he informed McNabb on Thursday evening but waited to make the news public until Friday because it was going to "be a circus" at Redskins Park and Friday's is almost always the least-attended media session of the week.

"Since we're mathematically eliminated, I've got to see what the other guys can do," said Shanahan, referring to new starter Rex Grossman, who has thrown 16 passes since Week 11 of 2008 and John Beck, who last dropped back in a regular season game in 2007. "I think Rex Grossman deserves a chance to show us what he can do. I've been impressed with him from day one (Grossman signed with the Redskins on March 14, less than three weeks before McNabb was acquired from the Philadelphia Eagles). I've been really impressed with Rex and Beck. I think Rex gives us a great chance to win."

"I've had a chance to watch (McNabb) for 13 weeks. ... There's nothing he can do in the (remaining) three games that would influence me over what he has done in the last 13 games," Shanahan said.

"I've had a chance to watch (McNabb) for 13 weeks. ... There's nothing he can do in the (remaining) three games that would influence me over what he has done in the last 13 games."
-- Mike Shanahan
The move is even more stunning considering that Shanahan traded this year's second-rounder and a likely third-rounder in 2011 for McNabb only eight-and-a-half months ago, and signed off on the splashy five-year, $78 million contract extension for the quarterback in November. That deal is now as full of holes as a reduce-the-deficit plan on Capitol Hill. McNabb will receive just $3.5 million, then will have to hope he lands a starting job in 2011 at age 34 with such quarterback-needy teams as Arizona, Minnesota and San Francisco. 

Shanahan said he's not sure if McNabb will be back in 2011, but who's he kidding? Maybe the first-year coach didn't want any competition as the face of the franchise, because next year's quarterback will almost surely either be a rookie or a lightly-regarded veteran like Grossman or Beck.

"I've been fired a couple of times," Shanahan said in reference to his ousters by the Los Angeles Raiders in 1989 and by the Denver Broncos after the 2008 season. "I know how tough that it is. (Donovan) took it like a pro."

McNabb's teammates didn't criticize Shanahan publicly on Friday, but the move likely did not sit well for many of them, who have raved about the quarterback's leadership since he arrived in April. This is not the same as dumping locker-room cancer Albert Haynesworth last week.

McNabb strongly declined comment on Friday, but his agent, Fletcher Smith, said, "He has not been more disrespected his whole career than he has this season. It's absolutely ridiculous."

Shanahan didn't treat his quarterbacks this way during his 14 seasons in Denver although none of them other than Hall of Famer John Elway came closing to rivaling the stature of six-time Pro Bowl pick McNabb. He'll be further demoted to No. 3 for the final two games when the 29-year-old Beck will be the backup.

"I want to get a feel on how Rex can run our offense," said Shanahan of Grossman who spent 2009 as the backup in Kyle Shanahan's offense in Houston.

"I've definitely had time to reflect on what I would do differently if I got another chance to be a starter," said the 30-year-old Grossman, who lost his job in Chicago before the 2008 season, less than two years after guiding the defensive-minded Bears to the Super Bowl. ''It's a big opportunity for me to go play well and lead this team to a victory. This offense suits what I do well. The quarterback doesn't have to create his own big plays."

And now 10 days, after suspending $100 million man Haynesworth for the rest of the year -- and undoubtedly his Redskins career -- Shanahan has now made the biggest play of Washington's unhappy 5-8 season.

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