It seems like a long time ago. The savior was conducting his first minicamp, to rave reviews. The centerpiece was on full display, to everyone’s delight. And the reject was donning silver and black, to find restoration in Oakland.
That was the scenario as the Redskins embarked on the Mike Shanahan Era with prize acquisition Donovan McNabb at quarterback, as the team excitedly moved on from Jason Campbell and the Jim Zorn Error. But 52 weeks later, that excitement has morphed into embarrassment, and Shanahan has been charged with a false start, earning the franchise a big, fat F.
The Shanahan hire was supposed to signal a new beginning for the Redskins, and that thought was solidified when they landed McNabb from Philadelphia via trade. But in hindsight, the deal was just a continuation of the same, tired philosophy that has plagued the franchise for nearly a decade, another short-sighted swap of high draft picks for low-impact returns.
Benched at the end of the game in Week 8, relegated to third string for the final three contests, McNabb is unlikely to play another down for Washington.
Now we’re left to wonder if the Redskins will select a quarterback at No. 10 next week, or maybe try to trade up for that purpose. That would be great. Instead of merely highlighting the disastrous McNabb affair, they can neglect their porous defense, too.
Though Shanahan began his tenure with a blunder, the Redskins can recover on the field. Recovery in the court of public opinion will take longer.
Regardless of McNabb’s performance, the team’s handling of the situation was atrocious. It was unbecoming treatment for a classy, dignified veteran who deserved better. His play wasn’t the greatest, but it didn’t warrant the Redskins’ tacky and tactless approach.
Insulting our intelligence became the modus operandi. From claims that he couldn’t grasp the offense and wasn’t in shape, to assertions that he was warned about the benching and that he still had management’s confidence, the Redskins sullied their own character more than McNabb’s image.
His reputation as the consummate professional who always takes the high road remains intact. And the Redskins’ reputation as a poorly run franchise that rarely does things right remains entrenched.
We thought the organization had moved past that stage when it installed the regime of general manager Bruce Allen and Shanahan. But institutional habits are hard to break.
Much of this fiasco could have been avoided with a shot of integrity and a dose of honesty. If McNabb wasn’t the quarterback Shanahan imagined he would be with the Redskins, just say so. Admit that a mistake was made in evaluating McNabb’s appropriateness for the offensive scheme. Say “I messed up” and move on, thanking McNabb for his effort while announcing he’s no longer part of the future.
Whatever you do, don’t compound your miscalculation by giving him what appeared to be a humongous extension before kickoff on Monday Night Football. The pact - reported to be a five-year deal worth $78 million, with $40 million guaranteed - was nothing but a smoke screen, intended to obscure the smoldering controversy of McNabb being lifted with less than two minutes remaining against Detroit.
The truth of Washington’s noncommitment surfaced days after that Monday Night Massacre against Philadelphia, when news emerged that the revised contract guaranteed only an extra $3.5 million. Turns out that the Redskins have an option on 2011, when McNabb is due $12.75 million if he’s on the 53-man squad the entire season. Doug Williams has a better chance of making the team.
Rumor has it that the Minnesota Vikings are interested in McNabb and the attraction is mutual. But whether his future is with Minnesota, Arizona or some other franchise, it seems clear that McNabb is done here. The chapter ends after a mere 13 games, a fly-by-night stay that cost Washington a second-round pick last year (which Philly used on starting safety Nate Allen) and a fourth-rounder next week.
The NFL lockout has prevented Washington and McNabb from making their separation official, either by trade or outright release. That’s too bad.
Because the sooner Shanahan can turn the page on this ill-fated dalliance, the sooner he can begin repair work on two damaged brands: the Redskins’ and his own.