Donovan McNabb’s Worst Nightmare

ARLINGTON, TX - DECEMBER 19: Quarterback Donovan McNabb  of the Washington Redskins on the sidelines against play against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium on December 19, 2010 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)

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Sunday’s game against the Dallas Cowboys had to be Donovan McNabb’s second worst nightmare in this nightmare season for he and the Washington Redskins. Shown up…by Rex Grossman.

Psychologists say that one only remembers dreams if you awake before they end. Nightmares awaken you with an emotional start. Donovan’s nightmare started well enough when the former nemesis was acclaimed a Redskins hero last Easter when he was traded here. He felt vindicated enough when the ‘Skins beat the Philadelphia Eagles to proclaim, “Those guys made a mistake.”

That must have been a curse. The Eagles avenged that loss big time six weeks later, two weeks after the embarrassment of being benched by Coach Mike Shanahan in the closing moments of the Detroit Lions game.

Then there was the $78 million contract extension that really wasn’t. All of the advantages are leveraged towards the Redskins. It’s clear that Shanahan and GM Bruce Allen saw the development as a real possibly. Poor McNabb looks naive, or desperate, to have signed such a deal.

Wednesday before the Dallas game, McNabb expected to start. Friday before the game, Shanahan announced that McNabb was benched and the quarterback of last resort –now and in the future.

On Sunday, McNabb was the forlorn, lonely figure standing on the sideline being out-played by Rex Grossman. REX GROSSMAN. AAARGH! That’s the point of the nightmare that awakened McNabb from his career slumber.

Time to wake up and smell the reality of his situation. As the WaPOST’s Sally Jenkins put it:

“It’s now obvious that McNabb was a hang-up for the Redskins, that his inefficiency strangled them. Grossman did what the coaches have apparently been imploring McNabb to do: read coverage and work through a specific, methodical set of progressions. Though Grossman was clearly rusty in making his first start since 2008, he found open spaces in the field and spread the ball to six receivers, completing 25 of 43 passes for 322 yards. Most crucially, they scored on three straight possessions spanning the third and fourth quarters. When is the last time that happened?”

I feel sorry for the guy. But that wouldn’t be the worst conclusion to his Washington disaster. The worst nightmare would be to see Michael Vick lead the Philadelphia Eagles to a win in a Super Bowl rematch against the New England Patriots and be named Super Bowl and NFL MVP.

Then the mantle of “future Hall of Famer” and “greatest quarterback in Eagles history” would pass from McNabb to Vick, if it hasn’t already. AAARGH!

What next for McNabb?

Shanahan never actually said, “Donovan McNabb has no future with the Washington Redskins.” If actions speak louder than words, that’s the only conclusion to be reached. Donovan has to (try to) gain control of his situation. There are two approaches.

He could have his new agent, because I would fire Fletcher Smith if he were the guy who urged me to sign that stupid contract extension, to offer to buy his way to free agency.

Washington accepted that offer from LaVar Arrington to end his spat with Daniel Snyder. Shanahan made a similar offer to Albert Haynesworth. There’s at least a shot that Washington would consider the offer, though they would open with a demand for the return of the entire signing bonus. The sides could meet in the middle, and then McNabb would test the market for his now diminished value.

Diminished value works to McNabb’s advantage. It’s unlikely that the Redskins would get any offers of draft picks for McNabb. If the Shanahans truly have no plans for him, then McNabb is just dead weight with little risk that another Beast team would sign him.

McNabb was given no choice to come to Washington. He has no choice in where he goes next, or when he is released. The Redskins have until the day before the regular season to take any action. That’s too late to join another team and expect to start. Free agency and control of his future is worth the $3 million it could cost him to buy.

The second approach is to eat humble pie. Do whatever the Shanahans want in whatever way they want it. McNabb strikes me as a man with a plan for life in DC after football. The guy always presents the most corporate image of any pro athlete in Washington, as if he is setting the stage for something more. Peace with the Shanahans, with all the giving by McNabb, is a path to saving that plan.

That’s the harder path to take, but could lead to the sweetest reward–saving his reputation by winning with the Redskins…and outplaying Rex Grossman.

Point after: “The fuss made over quarterback Donovan McNabb still going onto the field for the coin toss as a captain is unbelievable. McNabb was elected as captain by his teammates. If he doesn’t go out for the coin toss he’s turning his back on them — not the coaches. This was not a request from the coaches that McNabb goes onto the field; it’s part of his responsibility. Had McNabb not gone onto the field, he would have made the situation about himself and not the team. That would have sent a horrible message.” ~John Keim, Washington Examiner

Anthony Brown

About Anthony Brown

Lifelong Redskins fan and blogger about football and life since 2004. Joined MVN's Hog Heaven blog in 2005 and then moved Redskins Hog Heaven to Bolguin Network. Believes that the course of a season is pre-ordained by management decisions made during the offseason. Can occasionally be found on the This Given Sunday blog and he does guest posts.

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