Monday, November 1, 2010

NFL 2010: Week 8: Shanahan's Shenanigans

Shanahan’s Shenanigans

The play clock stood at 1:50. The Detroit Lions had just kicked a field goal to lead the Washington Redskins, 31-25. If the Redskins could move the ball effectively and score a touchdown and kick the extra point, they’d take the win with seconds to spare.

Coach Michael Shanahan deployed backup quarterback, Rex Grossman to replace starter, Donovan McNabb. Grossman was sacked and in so doing fumbled the ball. Defensive tackle Noamukong Suh recovered the ball, completed a 17 yard dash for a touchdown leaving Redskins’ fans stunned in total disbelief.

In little more than a bat of an eyelash, they watched the spectacle of the starting quarterback yanked in favor of an unproven understudy, the execution of an ill-conceived play, sack, fumble, and touchdown for the opposition.

In a matter of seconds, it might appear the Burgundy and Gold saw its season meltdown with a move that few could comprehend.

Communication later never cleared up the matter. Going into the game, McNabb did have some stain in his hamstring, but was able to play most of four quarters in the game. There was talk that with just two minutes left, Grossman who worked with Shanahan’s son, Kyle, the team’s offensive coordinator, at Houston last year, had a better grasp of the two minute drill. Then in a later response to the media, Mike Shanahan made some reference to cardio-vascular issues.

No matter what concerns there might have been about McNabb, the game was winnable with two minutes to go. What does benching a starting quarterback with a long history of performance tell a team when the game is on the line?

For the record, McNabb threw one interception, fumbled once, completed 17 for 30 attempts passing for 210 yards, and scored a touchdown. Perhaps, this wouldn’t be Pro Bowl material in most circumstances, but it is hardly a QB meltdown.

Going into the game, the Redskins had a winning record, one game behind the leading New York Giants. The playoffs were even in play. Most would consider coming off the horrors of last year and how many question marks remained, the Skins might have been considered overachievers, but still they managed to pull out some rather tricky games.

While the Detroit Lions have shown improvement and have much potential, they were 1-5 going into action. A loss to the Lions is quite a letdown.

After the long Albert Haynesworth drama during the preseason and continued conflict extending into the season, not all was orderly for Washington football. Shanahan was brought in to establish order, a coach known for his no nonsense approach, yet from the beginning Haynesworth not wanting to play in a new defensive scheme with one of the largest contracts in the league stood up against the coach and the coach responded harshly. To say one has prevailed or the other might be a tough call but that Haynesworth is still on the roster collecting his millions and take shots at the organization, Shanahan can’t be seen as the man on top.

Since Joe Gibbs first retirement, the Redskins have been a team largely in decline over much of the 1990’s into the next decade and beyond. The pace accelerated rapidly once new owner Daniel Snyder attempted to put his imprint on the team which almost looked respectable with Marty Schottenheimer, who was fired leading to the embarrassing Steve Spurrier saga that even the return of Joe Gibbs couldn’t solve. That Joe Gibbs got some results but couldn’t reestablish a tightly run system revealed how much chaos existed. All the Gibbs accomplished collapsed furiously under Jim Zorn, ill-prepared for the roll of head coach under such circumstances.

Enter Mike Shanahan who took the Denver Broncos who had a reputation of being one of the great almost teams under Dan Reeves to a back-to-back Super Bowl winner with Quarterback John Elway. However, the Broncos slid into a long decline after Elway’s retirement hastening his dismissal after the 2008 season after a 13 year reign.

Is Shanahan over rated or is the situation in Washington so lethal? Nevertheless, the next two weeks will be filled with speculation about McNabb’s benching and what could be a worse way to head into the bye week than to lose in such embarrassing fashion to a team that is generally regarded as one of the league’s punching bags.

Once admired as a model organization in all of pro sports, what can be said of the Daniel Snyder era Redskins? So far, the Shanahan chapter does not look headed to a happy ending. With an impetuous and impatient owner who collects big salaried players like trading cards, the chances of a true house cleaning and rebuilding looks less likely than yet another head coach’s tenure ending in futility with a very short time on the job.

It’s not working, and Redskins fans know it.


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