|by Ryan Messick
|More Headlines: Eagles Injury Report, Giants Plan to Use Athleticism on Defense, Punish Vick|
Redskins head coach Mike Shanahan announced the benching of former Eagle Donovan McNabb today in a press conference, naming Rex Grossman his starter for the rest of the season. John Beck will be the backup beginning next week, relegating McNabb to the third string for the last two games of the season.
Michael Vick, who developed a strong relationship with McNabb last season, was surprised to hear the news but didn’t have too strong of a reaction.
“You know, it’s shocking to hear that, but I don’t know what the situation or the circumstances is, I don’t know what’s going on, so I really can’t comment other than to just wish him well,” Vick said.
McNabb’s benching has no direct effect on Philadelphia, which received a second and fourth round pick in return for McNabb last Easter. The fourth round pick could have been elevated to a third-rounder had McNabb been selected to a Pro Bowl. The pick would also go to a third if the Redskins won at least nine games or made the playoffs with McNabb taking at least 70 percent of the team’s offensive snaps.
Since Washington already lost eight games and McNabb has virtually zero chance at making a Pro Bowl (he’s thrown more interceptions than touchdowns for the first time in his career), the benching does not impact the Eagles.
The only (barely) conceivable way the draft pick could be triggered would be if the head coach of the NFC in the Pro Bowl appointed McNabb to the team as a “need player.” The head coaches, who earn the honors by losing in the NFC and AFC championship games, are traditionally given one slot to appoint a player, generally a long snapper.
Even if Reid’s Eagles were to lose in the NFC Championship game, giving him the chance to improve his draft choice with an unscrupulous appointment, Reid isn’t the type who would stoop so low as to embarrass his former franchise quarterback.
McNabb, assuming he does not play the rest of this season, will end a campaign with more interceptions (15) than touchdowns (14) for the first time in his career. He also never tossed more picks than touchdowns during his college days at Syracuse. Shanahan tried to explain his reasoning behind benching the six-time Pro Bowler during a press conference today.
“I told him once we were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, that I made the decision that I was going to start Rex Grossman,” Shanahan said. “I want to get a feel on how Rex can run our offense over the next few weeks. I also told him the next two weeks, following the Dallas game, that John Beck will be the backup quarterback so I can see him in his role.
“I told Donovan that there’s nothing he could do in the three games that would influence me of what he’s done over the last 13 games.”
Shanahan also would not confirm that McNabb would be back in Washington next season. While the quarterback signed a well-publicized contract extension which gave him a $3.5 million raise, it also allowed the Redskins to release him this offseason and incur no financial penalties.
“I also told him that I could not guarantee him that he would be back next year, I said, ‘I can’t guarantee you that,’” Shanahan said. “But what I can guarantee is that I’ll be honest with you, I’ll evaluate the situation. I said I’m not sure what we’ll do in the college draft, if we were able to get the top quarterback in the draft if there was a young Donovan McNabb or maybe a Sam Bradford, someone like that, there’s a lot of possibilities, but I’ll evaluate that and be as honest as I possibly can with him as time goes on.”
It’s a strangely familiar situation for McNabb, as some of the writing was on the wall that his days in Philadelphia were numbered, even as Reid was proclaiming McNabb as his starter for 2010.