Donovan McNabb was the Redskins' backup quarterback last Sunday in their loss at Dallas. Now McNabb sinks to No. 3 when the Redskins play at Jacksonville on Sunday. And that is the way it will be in the team's season finale against the Giants, according to Redskins coach Mike Shanahan.
Shanahan is sticking with his plan.
It goes this way:
McNabb has given the franchise 13 starts to evaluate where he is and where he can take them. It is time to see what quarterbacks Rex Grossman can do and John Beck after that. And McNabb may still have a future with the team.
"After we were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, I sat down with Donovan to tell him we would go with Rex in the start at Dallas, he would be the backup and that he would be the No. 3 guy for the last two games,'' Shanahan said in a telephone interview on Monday night. "I've got to make a decision who is the starting quarterback for our future and who is second and who is third. I have to do this to make decisions for the college draft. This is all about where to go, not where we've been.''
So, what about the fact that McNabb was on pace for his first 4,000-yard passing season and to throw for more yards than any quarterback in Redskins history?
"I hear about all these types of numbers and records,'' Shanahan said. "That is something I'm not interested in. I'm interested in winning.''
And what about this being a race issue?
"If race was an issue,'' said Shanahan, "why was I the one who traded for him? I was the one that wanted him. I want football players.''
What about the friction that supposedly existed between his son, the offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, and McNabb?
"The work with Kyle and Donovan was not a problem. It has never been a problem. They've worked well together and I think Donovan would say exactly that, too.''
And the notion that you are benching McNabb to best ensure more losses and a better draft position?
"That doesn't even deserve an answer,'' Shanahan said. "It is totally ridiculous. Anybody who knows me knows I want to win.''
Thus, here the Redskins are in the first year under Shanahan 5-8 with McNabb as the starter, 5-9 overall and seeking to avoid the franchise's third straight last-place finish in the NFC East and their fourth in the last five years. Here they are with an Albert Haynesworth drama that marred the start of the season and a McNabb one that finishes the season.
It certainly is not the way that Shanahan envisioned it all.
In his 16 previous seasons as an NFL coach, he has never won fewer than six games. That is in jeopardy this season. His Redskins start has been full of potholes.
He reminds all it is just the start.
"When you are trying to build something the right way, it can take off, but it usually takes time,'' Shanahan said. "We're building this organization and you have to make moves and not be afraid of change when you're doing that. When you make tough decisions you're going to get criticism, the kind you expect and even some you don't from a lot of people.''
I think the Redskins will move on from McNabb. He is due to earn $16 million next season, so, simply from a dollars perspective, that is not happening.
I believe Shanahan will continue to examine and test his roster over the team's final two games, draft a quarterback in April and move into the second season of his Washington run with a roster more suited to his preferences. And he has the support of owner Dan Snyder to do that.
Thus, he chuckles when he hears that critics think he has coached his team this season with his ego front and center. He does not need ego, he needs Snyder's trust ... and he has it.
"I want to do what's best for the Redskins franchise,'' Shanahan said. "That's been it from Day One.''
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