Both Donovan McNabb’s and Barack Obama’s arrived in Washington amidst high hopes, great fanfare, greater expectations and enormous curiosity in the rest of the country about how their stories would play out.
No matter the success of either man in DC, they are bound to disappoint. It would take magic for McNabb or Obama to do all the things their fans expect of them.
Sunday fans of the Washington Redskins expected double digit wins this season for the team. Preseason forecasts of pundits who make their living following the team were more realistic–seven or eight wins.
Washington ended the first quarter of the season 2-2. The offensive line is holding up better than we thought. The wide receiver corps is as weak as we feared. The defense is up and down. Donovan McNabb keeps rolling on.
So why would McNabb quip after his big win against the Philadelphia Eagles that the Redskins offense wasn’t doing enough to win in the second half of games? And why would he say that it was on him to improve?
Because McNabb needs to improve.
Redskins Hog Heaven’s Greg Trippiedi charts every play of every game to understand what’s going on with the team. Here’s Greg’s description of a fourth-quarter series in the Eagles game:
“McNabb — and I don’t feel like I’m criticizing here, though I may be — seems to make some easy plays look hard. There was a third down and three play in the fourth quarter, where we needed to extend a drive. I would have run it from that distance, but Kyle Shanahan called a play action bootleg pass. We do a lot of those, you know. The Eagles brought double unblocked pressure off of the weakside. McNabb wouldn’t have a lot of time to throw this — but he didn’t need a lot of time. Chris Cooley was the first read on a frontside drag/window route, and he was open. McNabb stepped up to threaten the line of scrimmage with an impressively athletic change of direction, threw on the move, and bounced the ball in to Cooley. Fourth down.“
As Greg said, this is not to criticize McNabb, but to point out that the Shanahans are using him differently than Andy Reid did. McNabb has morphed into a system quarterback in a system that adds timing mechanisms to plays. So, he’s not going to do the same magic here we imagined he did in Philly.
There is a transition penalty when players change teams and when teams change systems. McNabb and the Redskins are paying that cost now. The offense is more efficient than last year, but McNabb is completing fewer of his passes. Just 2.5 percent of his passes have gone for touchdowns. Four percent of Jason Campbell’s pass plays went for touchdowns last year.
What fans see and like are McNabb’s deep passes, because, you know, lack of deep passes was the sole reason why Washington was not an offense juggernaut last year.
Of course, there’s more to it than that. But Sunday fans think quarterbacks and presidents are the root of everything. Therefore, if, or when, the Skins don’t win the division, it will all be on McNabb. Hmmm.
McNabb’s performance will get better. He will continue to steady the offense. Paul Bessire at The Prediction Machine projects that McNabb will throw 18 more touchdowns against 11 interceptions in the next 12 games. No one is calling for a rollback to Jason Campbell or Jim Zorn the way that some fans call for a return to the 4-3 defense. However, McNabb’s performance right now is good for about eight wins. It won’t cut it for 10 or 11 wins, much less the division title. To some fans, the fault will solely be with McNabb.
Expectations tell more about us than about the player on the field.
Funny from Bleacher Report: Donovan McNabb Is Gone…So, Andy Reid, Why Are You Still Here?