Mike Shanahan-Donovan McNabb Era Makes Preseason Debut for Washington
For just the fourth time in 49 years, the Washington Redskins kick off preseason tonight with newcomers at the two most important spots: coach and quarterback.
The previous such seasons didn't go well, but Mike Shanahan and Donovan McNabb are much more proven than their 1994 counterparts, Norv Turner and John Friesz. And Shanahan was only away from the NFL one year, not 11 as fellow Super Bowl-winning coach Joe Gibbs had been in 2004. Plus, McNabb finished 2009 in the playoffs, not on the bench as Mark Brunell had in 2003.
Shanahan and New England's Bill Belichick are the only active coaches to win multiple titles. The former has coached 244 regular season games and 13 in the playoffs, but he's still pumped for tonight's visit by the Buffalo Bills.
"It's always exciting," Shanahan said. "You do all the work for these types of opportunities, even preseason. You want to go out there find a way to win, but not at the expense of evaluating your football team and some of these players who have a chance to make it."
McNabb, who has started 142 regular season games plus 16 in the playoffs including a Super Bowl, is equally eager to get going.
"When you go through the same regimen of OTAs, minicamps, then come out here at training camp and see the same faces, you look forward to getting out on the field and seeing new colors, new individuals and different schemes," McNabb said.
Shanahan, who replaced the fired Jim Zorn in January after Washington sunk to 4-12 in 2009, doesn't have a true game plan tonight.
"Everything is pretty basic," he said. "We're just trying to evaluate the players, kind of get a feel on how hard they play and try not to make it too complicated.
You don't want to show too much and at the same time you want to evaluate players. You want to see the players play hard and not miss too many assignments. That first game is a bit tougher because you want to see everyone play. You're game planning but it will be sure nice to be going against somebody else. [But] we haven't looked at any film of Buffalo relative to defensive coordinator [George Edwards] coming from Miami and obviously [new Bills coach] Chan Gailey with Kansas City."
McNabb, acquired from Philadelphia in April, is excited to run Shahanan's offense for the first time.
"It's a growing process," McNabb said. "We know everything isn't where we need it to be for [the Sept. 12 opener against] Dallas, but that's why we play the preseason: to kick the rust off a little bit, to get our timing and chemistry where it needs to be, get our confidence at a level where it needs to be and just have fun doing it."