By Chris Murray
For the Sunday Sun
It’s eight weeks into the NFL season and former Eagles and current Washington Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb is once again dominating the headlines in the Philly sports market.
(Cue the soap opera music, please)
In the latest episode of that long-running Sunday series, “As the McNabb Turns,” Redskins’ head coach Mike Shanahan benched the former Birds quarterback for Rex Grossman in the last minute of Sunday’s 37-25 loss to the Detroit Lions.
And true to Grossman form, he fumbled the ball and it was picked up Ndamukong Suh for a score and well, you know the rest of the story.
The news of McNabb’s benching was discussed on all the local talk shows in Philadelphia. His detractors came out of the wood work from South Philly to South Jersey and all points around the city to delight in McNabb’s apparent misery.
For those who despised McNabb during his tenure in Philly, it was a bizarre kind of sweet vindication, if you want to call it that. It was “I-told-you-McNabb was soft.” One of my homies who lives in North Philly is chomping at the bit to tell me how he told me so about McNabb’s supposed lack of manhood. I know he has been waiting all week to tell me a thing or two.
One of the biggest knocks against McNabb was that he could not run the two-minute drill and doesn’t come through in the clutch (apparently no one remembers 4th and 26th against Green Bay in the 2003 playoffs ). In the minds of McNabb naysayers, this is the guy who reportedly threw up at the Super Bowl and moved the Eagles’ hurry up offense at horse and buggy pace late in that game.
And then you have the comments of former Birds receiver and McNabb nemesis Terrell Owens on the T.Ocho Cinco Show. Without coming out and saying it, he suggested that he knew a thing or two about McNabb’s apparent fatigue at the end of Super Bowl XXXIX.
“Well, I don’t really want to start anything, but I did play in the Super Bowl and there were rumors where he couldn’t get our two-minute offense going at the end of the game,” said Owens, who actually did say McNabb was tired during his post Super Bowl press conference. “I’m just saying.”
Even former Eagle wide receiver Freddie Mitchell weighed in, telling myfoxPhilly.com that he respected Shanahan for pulling McNabb. He also believes McNabb had him blackballed from the league.
McNabb’s performance so far in Washington hasn’t exactly set the world on fire. He is the 25th rated passer in the NFL. He has completed less than 60 percent of his passes and has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns. In his defense, he has been battling through some leg injuries. Against the Lions, McNabb was 17-of-30 for 210 yard with one touchdown and one interception.
All that said, you don’t bench your starting quarterback with a minute to go, especially not with Grossman. Really? C’mon, man. Shanahan really knows how to inspire a confidence in his team by putting in a loser like Grossman.
Just as strange as McNabb’s benching was the different answers that Shanahan gave for his reasons for sitting McNabb while the team still had a chance to win. It reminded me of the police interrogation scene in the movie, “Menace II Society.” In that scene, Bill Duke plays a steely, no-nonsense detective who is questioning young Caine Lawson (played by Tyrin Turner) who keeps changing his story about his involvement in the murder of a convenience store owner.
Duke’s response for every different story the young man came up with: “You know, you (expletive) up, don’t you?”
I kept thinking what it would be like if Bill Duke in his role as the detective in Menace II Society was at all the press conferences in which Shanahan came up with different reasons for benching McNabb.
Shanahan postgame press conference on Oct. 31: “I felt that with the time and no timeouts, Rex gave us the best chance to win in that scenario. Just knowing the terminology and what we’ve done, how we’ve run it, puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback that hasn’t been used to that terminology. . .(McNabb) understands that it’s got to be automatic and you’re calling two plays at a time and all of a sudden you’re speeding things up. He understood why I did it, I believe he did. I don’t think any quarterback likes it, but you got to make those tough decisions.”
Bill Duke: You pulled your starting quarterback because he didn’t know the terminology?
Shanahan, Monday, Nov. 1: “Donovan has been hampered with hamstring injuries, quad injuries, some contusions down there. … When you’re dealing with a two-minute offense and you don’t have any timeouts and you haven’t done it in five weeks and you’re calling sometimes two plays, you’ve got to hustle to the line of scrimmage and you’re calling plays that you haven’t called in a two-minute drill and you’re working cardiovascular endurance at the same time working on the clock, it’s really hard to do that when you haven’t practiced it …I thought it would be in the best interest to go in a different direction and that was the reason why did it.”
You know you messed up, don’t you? (McNabb ran the ball four times for 45 yards…not fast enough to get to the line in a two-minute drill. Seriously?)
All of that tells me that McNabb has moved from one bizarre situation to another. Not only was it absolutely absurd and a dumb move for Shanahan to replace McNabb late in the game for a quarterback in Grossman who gives you no chance to win, but coming up with several excuses makes him look like an even bigger fool. I was almost expecting Shanahan to say, “my dog ate McNabb’s playbook.”
Actually, Shanahan topped that tomfoolery by bringing in No. 1 Draft bust JaMarcus Russell, a man who was not necessarily known for being a student of the game Kyle Shanahan, Mike’s son and offensive coordinator, supposedly told McNabb he might be pulled, something McNabb denies. The former Syracuse star, to his credit, refused to criticize Shanahan for pulling him.
For McNabb, all of this drama is nothing more than a surreal re-run of his time in Philly from Rush Limbaugh to T.O. and being benched in Baltimore in 2008. The one thing I give McNabb is that he has a tendency to shut up his critics on the field.
One game after being bench in Baltimore, McNabb led the Eagles to a win over the Cardinals and a playoff run that led the Birds to the NFC title game. The next game on the Skins schedule: The Philadelphia Eagles on Monday Night Football (Nov.15).
Stay tuned for the next exciting episode of “As the McNabb Turns.”