Nov 02 2010

Is Mike Shanahan Protecting His Son?

Much has been said about the benching of Donovan McNabb on October 31, 2010. We have a new daddy-related theory to add to the mix. Is Mike Shanahan protecting his son?

First, some background:

(If you already know what happened and just want to skip to the theory, click here.)

This weekend, Washington Redskins coach Mike Shanahan benched quarterback Donovan McNabb with less than two minutes to go in a winnable game and put in backup QB Rex Grossman. Rex rewarded this vote of confidence by immediately fumbling the ball. The Lions’ Ndamukong Suh scooped it up and ran it it in for a touchdown, putting the game out of reach.

At the post game press conference, Shanahan gave the following explanation for the move:

“With a minute left and Rex knowing how to run that two-minute offense, I felt with the time and no timeouts, he gave us the best chance to win in that scenario, just knowing the terminology, what we’ve done, how we’ve run it. [That] puts a lot of pressure on the quarterback that hasn’t been used to that terminology, and I thought that was the best scenario for us to have a chance to win….It gave us the best chance to win. What you have to do sometimes if you’ve got to understand everything is sped up when you don’t have timeouts. It’s got to come automatic….I thought it was the best scenario to put him in there in that situation.”

The next day, the coach said that McNabb lacked the “proper conditioning” to run the 2-minute drill:

“The cardiovascular endurance that it takes to run a two-minute [drill], going all the way down with no time-outs, calling plays, it’s just not easy. If I thought it was the best situation to do, then Donovan would have run the two-minute offense.”

So… McNabb is not as good as Grossman at the 2-minute drill, and he’s not in shape. Kind of. Also a possible hamstring problem. Both hamstrings. Yeah, that’s the ticket.

Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan — Mike’s son — says that McNabb “knew benching was a possibility”. McNabb, no stranger to being ridiculed for all sorts of things, says he was not aware of this.

Now, some facts. Rex Grossman, who started in the Super Bowl for the Chicago Bears when they got destroyed by the Indianapolis Colts, is not what anyone would call a good quarterback. At this point he is at best a second stringer. A backup. In fact, he was a backup for the Houston Texans last season, where Kyle Shanahan —  Mike’s son — was the offensive coordinator. Shanahan the younger ran an offense that was designed by Shanahan the elder. An offense that is apparently so complex it can only be run by someone who is deeply familiar with it. Even if they aren’t, you know, good enough to be an NFL starter.

So here’s the theory. It is possible that in the heat of the game, Kyle Shanahan — Mike’s son — tells his dad that the right guy for this situation is Rex Grossman. Dad listens. The result is the worst possible outcome — snap, fumble, touchdown for the other team. At the press conference, head coach/Kyle’s dad decides that the best way to handle this is to say something negative about his starting quarterback. The next day, he makes up a new reason, one that still says something negative about his starting quarterback, but not quite as negative. Kyle decides to weigh in and say that McNabb always knew that a benching might happen — because really, why would anyone think that keeping your mouth shut is a good idea at this point — something that, for the record, McNabb says he was unaware of.

This wouldn’t be the first time an NFL dad defended his NFL son. Back in 2005, former Giants great Phil Simms told Steve Young to “lay off” his son Chris when Young said that perhaps Chris lacked the mental toughness to be an NFL starter, in part because he was perhaps raised in a “laissez-faire kind of atmosphere”. Chris Simms is now basically out of the league and was recently busted for driving while under the influence of marijuana; he pleaded not guilty. The arresting officer said the smell of pot was “very strong” in Simms’ car and that the former Bucs and Titans QB “had a very flushed face”, according to the New York Post.

Phil Simms hasn’t said anything about Chris recently. At least not in public.

We have no inside information here. It’s just a theory. Rather than saying, “you know what, I listened to my son and we lost the game. It was a mistake, one I will try not to make again,” Shanahan the elder instead decided to protect his son and throw his quarterback under the bus. Just a theory.

What do you think? Is Mike Shanahan protecting his son?