Tag Archive: Mike Shanahan


Why Mike Shanahan Was Wrong

If you follow me on Twitter you can tell that I was pretty surprised that Mike Shanahan left Robert Griffin III in the game against the Seahawks on Sunday. He started out by leading two scoring drives, but he clearly aggravated his knee and was noticeably limping after he did. Not only that, but he was clearly not 100% before he aggravated his knee and it was obvious any time he tried to use his normally elite mobility. But after he aggravated his knee (the same knee he tore his ACL in when he was at Baylor) there was no question in my mind- RGIII needed to come out of the game.

I can understand wanting to keep him in until halftime, but at halftime if I am Mike Shanahan I would have benched RGIII and put Kirk Cousins in the game. I’m sure some will claim that hindsight is 20/20, but I was calling for this to happen in real time on Twitter, go read my timeline. I’m not saying that Cousins would have led the Redskins to a glorious victory, but I think he gave them a better chance to win than a clearly hurt RGIII.

I understand this was a huge game for Washington and really for the entire city of DC. And honestly, Shanahan would have likely caught flak either way no matter what he did. If he pulls RGIII and he loses he’s a moron, but if he keeps him in, loses, and it results in his franchise QB doing serious damage to his knee then he’s an even bigger moron. I don’t expect Shanahan to bend to the will of the fans and the media (and he shouldn’t) but that is just another reason why he shouldn’t have been afraid to take RGIII out. This team is building for the next decade, not just for this one wild card game. You have to be able to see long term, and while advancing in the playoffs is awfully important this is the exact situation you drafted Kirk Cousins for: your star quarterback is hurt, he can’t run effectively so the zone read is a glorified hand-off, and he can’t drive off of his plant leg because of the pain from his injury leading to inaccurate throws (and an interception by Earl Thomas). Put Cousins in. He knows the offense, he isn’t as mobile as RGIII but he can run the zone read and make plenty of the same throws that RGIII can make. He’s not the same, but if he was as good as RGIII he would have gone much earlier in the draft. He is a capable back-up, and this is why you drafted him- PLAY HIM!

But Shanahan didn’t play him, and there are going to be people defending his decision to not do so. One of those people is Mark Schlereth. Another is Skip Bayless. I don’t know about you, but those aren’t the kind of people I want backing up my decision making. In fact, I’d prefer the opposite. Regardless of who agrees or disagrees with Shanahan though, he left his QB in after the half instead of playing his capable rookie back-up. As the head coach, that is his decision. Some are already saying “Well I’m sure RGIII wanted to stay in the game, I agree that Shanny should have left him in if he wanted to be in.” That is irrelevant. Very rarely will an athlete, hurt or not hurt, ask to come out of a game. Everyone can remember what happened when Jay Cutler came out of the game right? He was torn apart in the media and even some players criticized him (here’s looking at you Maurice Jones-Drew). Was it fair? Maybe, maybe not, but my point is that in one of the rare instances where a player requested to be removed from the game he was torn apart for it. I personally believe that RGIII is a much better leader and honestly a more likeable person than Cutler is, and it’s not a surprise that he would want to stay in the game. And I won’t be surprised when he defends Shanahan’s decision to leave him in the game- it’s almost certainly what he wanted. He wanted to lead his team to a playoff win and he wanted to do it whether he was playing on one leg or two. I respect that, and it was alright for the first half despite the fact that he was noticeably less accurate after he was injured. However, the head coach is responsible for telling RGIII that even though he wants to play, it’s not worth the long term risk of injury, especially given how much less effectively he has been running the offense. That is why he gets paid a small fortune every year; to make tough decisions that while possibly unpopular are better for the team even if the players involved are vehemently opposed to his decision. I think Shanahan understands that, but inexplicably he still left Griffin in and we all saw the result- he got hurt.

I really hope that RGIII didn’t do any structural damage to his knee. He tore that same ACL when he was at Baylor and doing damage like that to it again would likely be very problematic. It sure looked like he did something to it though, it buckled when he planted it after that bad snap and he crumpled to the ground. He did walk off under his own power, but I have seen plenty of players with serious knee injuries walk off under their own power only to find out they did structural damage to it. It may seem encouraging, but it doesn’t guarantee he didn’t do any serious damage. We will have to wait for the result of that MRI, but regardless of what happened to his knee I believe that he should have been taken out. He couldn’t throw accurately, he was throwing with awful footwork and mechanics because he couldn’t drive off of his plant leg, and the one time he kept the ball on the zone read he literally limped for 9 yards and went out of bounds. He should have been taken out of the game.

Honestly, I am in disbelief that RGIII even played as long as he did and I have a ton of admiration for Coach Shanahan. In fact, I’m about to buy his book. But RGIII could barely jog back to the huddle. He couldn’t drive off of his plant leg. He couldn’t throw with his normal velocity or accuracy. He couldn’t run the ball effectively. He couldn’t even roll out on a bootleg. James Andrews, a man who seems to perform more surgeries on serious knee injuries than anyone ever has or will, said he was worried about RGIII playing today. They decided to play him anyway, but there were a number of times where Shanahan should have, in my opinion, asserted himself as the Head Coach of this team and taken him out. In the heat of the moment you can’t expect an athlete, especially an athlete as talented and tough as RGIII, to willingly take himself out. A leader like that will lie, cheat, beg and steal to keep himself from being taken out. RGIII did that tonight and now he got hurt. He was very professional after the game as we expected him to be, but that doesn’t make Shanahan’s decision the correct one. Here’s hoping he didn’t do any structural damage, but even if he didn’t that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t have come out of the game. It would only mean that he is lucky.

Donovan McNabb Benched?

McNabb's Eagles used to torment my Falcons on a yearly basis but even I know he doesn't deserve to be treated this way.

I know this isn’t exactly “NFL Draft” related, but it’s something I felt that I needed to talk about. I am honestly shocked and a frankly a bit disgusted that the Redskins have decided to bench Donovan McNabb. Now, I would definitely not call myself a fan of McNabb’s. In fact, for many years when he was on Eagles teams that knocked my beloved Falcons out of the playoffs I despised him. But despite my hatred for him and those Eagles teams who always got in the way of my team come playoff time I always respected him because he was and is a quality NFL QB. The Redskins made a play to bring him in and like the Redskins always do they raised expectations too high with veteran acquisitions with too little well-developed talent to ever live up to the expectations of the front office, the media and the fans.

Now, I still believe McNabb is a good QB and his play this season will not change my mind about that. Why you ask? Let’s consider what he is working with on the offensive line. He has a rookie protecting his blind side in Trent Williams, and despite his high draft status he can’t be expected to step up to the NFL level and dominate talented DE’s that he will face, especially in a division with the Giants who have been pressuring QB’s consistently for years, the Eagles who usually have a stable full of quick edge rushers, as well as the Cowboys who have one of the best in the business at getting after the passer in DeMarcus Ware. In addition to Williams the Redskins are starting Kory Lichtensteiger, Casey Rabach and Will Montgomery in the middle of their offensive line. Lichtensteiger was a fourth round pick by the Broncos two years ago who moved to guard because he didn’t have much experience snapping in a traditional pro-style offense, Rabach is a former third round pick of the Ravens who has, to put it lightly, not had a very good season of pass protection. Montgomery is a former seventh round pick of the Panthers, and he plays next to Jamaal Brown, the former Saints left tackle who they tried so hard to get rid of last season. Not exactly a stellar group of players blocking for him, they have needed significant help up front for a couple of years but they have continued to ignore it, even while drafting Trent Williams. They could use an upgrade at LG, C and RG and depending on how Brown looked at RT they could use help there as well.

Not only that, but McNabb doesn’t have a whole lot of talent around him. Two guys who were supposed to contribute, Devin Thomas and Malcolm Kelly, have produced nothing since being drafted and it is probably fair to label them busts at this point having been picked in the second round. Santana Moss is still there, as is Clinton Portis, but as most people know Portis has not been healthy much this season and that has left Ryan Torain as the lead back. However, it is well known that the Redskins need a wide receiver capable of being a go-to guy on offense which they currently lack. So besides their woeful offensive line they have little talent outside at the skill positions outside of TE where they have reliable targets in Chris Cooley and Fred Davis (even though Davis can be inconsistent).

So is it really fair to blame McNabb’s career high 15 INT’s entirely on him? I don’t think so. That makes this benching all the more confusing. Yes he has had a down statistical season, but if you are going to bench McNabb you should bench at least three members of the offensive line, Ryan Torain, Santana Moss and Anthony Armstrong so they can see what they have in other players. Because if Rex Grossman and John Beck, two NFL journeymen who have little value as potential starting QB’s if they have any at all, warrant exploration, then anyone on that roster has a legitimate case to get some playing time over the next three weeks.

If Shanahan actually releases McNabb not only would the Redskins shoulder a substantial cap hit, he would put a quality starting QB on the free agent market.

There is one intriguing thought I had about all of this. If the Redskins, despite the contract extension they gave McNabb and any evidence I or anyone else can come up with to support the idea that this season really isn’t a great reflection of McNabb’s ability as a NFL QB, do ultimately decide to release him there will be a number of teams lining up for his services, the first of which should be the Minnesota Vikings. I think it is pretty obvious that Brett Favre should have retired last season, and I don’t think that he should come back for another year. It’s a shame that his career may have to end this way, but it really is his own fault for coming back one year more than he should have. But without Favre the Vikings will be searching for a new QB. I, like most people, am convinced that Tarvaris Jackson is not the answer at QB for the Vikings. I am not even sure he is a reliable enough option for an interim-only basis. Joe Webb will get his first career start on Monday Night Football against the Bears in TCF Bank Stadium, so that will be a good opportunity for the Vikings to evaluate whether or not he is worth keeping as a developmental QB or as a potential #2 at some point.

Beyond that, though, the Vikings literally have no talent at QB. They should be in the market for a veteran to take the reigns for at least a year and a young QB to develop into an eventual starter this year, and should McNabb become available I imagine the Vikings would spare no expense to get him to Winter Park to sell him on the organization. If they were able to get McNabb it would save the Vikings from potentially spiraling into the bottom of the NFC North with the Detroit Lions for a couple of seasons. He won’t fix the offensive line, the defensive line or the secondary, but he would solidify the QB position which is probably their most pressing need at the moment, and that’s something. Not to mention having McNabb would be a great buffer for whoever they draft to play QB in the future because ideally he would play well enough for at least a year or hopefully two years to keep fans from clamoring for the young gun to play.

So it will be interesting to see how this situation plays out. Hopefully the Redskins don’t just release McNabb, but if he doesn’t want to play there anymore and they do cut him then I’m sure the Vikings would be more than happy to scoop him up. God knows McNabb deserves a team who will treat him with some respect. Maybe the Vikings could be that team.

Thanks for reading,

–Tom