Yes, this is a tired story, but the Donovan McNabb-Mike/Kyle Shanahan relationship became news again this week when McNabb flamed the Shanahans on ESPN, suggesting that their intransigence would make D.C. a poor fit for Robert Griffin III.
Whether McNabb had a bad relationship with his Washington coaches is irrelevant. Whether the next guy is doomed to such a fate is not.
So 106.7 The Fan put a fairly neutral observer, Casey Rabach, on the air Friday morning, and got a series of measured, thought-out and quite interesting responses.
Rabach said RGIII and the Shanahans were not doomed to squabble. He said he has nothing bad to say about his former coaches. But he also said he prefers a situation where there’s a bit more give-and-take between players and coaches, and that the Shanahans did not take advantage of McNabb’s strengths.
This was perhaps the key part.
“You know, all I wanted to do was win football games,” Rabach said. “That’s all I wanted to do. So anything that would have helped...put us in a better position to win football games, yeah, you definitely hope that. There’s definitely some strong egos in the NFL, and there [were] three of the strongest egos right there in Redskins Park. So it’s hard to fit all that together, and build a cohesion in such a short time. But definitely wish it would have went the other way.”
So was McNabb mis-used in Washington?
“I mean, that’s a tough one to answer,” Rabach replied. “Because Donovan knows what his strengths are. And were they using all his strengths to the fullest? No. But then again, we go back to that give-and-take, on both sides. Donovan’s got to understand that what he did in Philly for 12 years ain’t gonna be the same thing he was gonna do on another team. I think he was used in some [ways] very good, but I think there could have been some more give on each side.”
On McNabb going public with his critique: “Each player has his own way of dealing with it. Donovan definitely had more downs than his ups when he was with us in Washington, and there was hard feelings I think coming out of there....I think Donovan’s just a very truthful guy. I think he has very strong feelings and is not afraid to express them, ever. I think Donovan just wants to have his story heard. I think he was pretty quiet about the whole situation as it was going on. He was trying to put the team first and didn’t really want to air his dirty laundry at the time. Now it’s his time to come out with his side of the story.”
On the sour coach-quarterback relationship: “I think they asked Donovan to do a lot of things that he wasn’t comfortable with, and it was never a give-and-take kind of relationship. It was Mike and Kyle’s way, and only that way. I think Donovan wanted to change a few things to his strengths, and do things he knew he was good at. Mike and Kyle had one way of doing it, and Donovan had another way of doing it, and they just butted heads, and nobody was gonna give.”
On the Shanahans with RGIII: “The guy looks amazing on paper, looks great when he’s on the field. And hopefully they can mold him to the quarterback that they want and great things will happen for Washington. I mean, the fans have been waiting for so long for a franchise quarterback to be there, and on paper, the way everything looks, this guy looks like he could be the real deal. Who knows if there’ll be give and take. You never know. Have Mike and Kyle learned from past experiences? They can only answer that question. But it’s gonna be a wait-and-see process, I guess.”
Whether McNabb is right about the bad fit: “No. No, I don’t think so. I think Donovan’s got a little bit better perspective, playing that position, but it’s hard to just come out and plainly say — before you even see anything happen — that it’s not gonna work. I mean, what he did in college and what he’s done to promote himself and be in the position where he’s at, the guy can definitely play football, and on paper looks to be a really good NFL quarterback. And just to come out and say before anything’s happened, I don’t think it’s the right way to go about it.”
On whether players should just do what coaches say: “You know, to be honest with you, I like the situation where there’s a give-and-take on both sides. I like an offense that tailors the offensive strength to the strengths of the player, [not] asking a player to do something that he knows he’s not gonna succeed in...Donovan knew he was successful at doing things a certain way for 12 years in Philly. You know, I don’t think you have to do everything that Donovan was great at. It’s hard, because the Shanahans have obviously a lot of good years and had a lot of success over the years. Give-and-take would have been great, though.”
On whether he’d play for the Shanahans again: “You know, I had a great experience with them, I really did. I had no qualms, nothing bad to say about them. Would there be some things I would fix to come back there? Yeah, definitely.”
Like what: “I think just the multiple egos in the locker room. I mean, it’s a tough place to play, just being on the downside of the franchise. There was obviously some great years there, and when you don’t play so well, it’s tough.”
Egos like Haynesworth: “Oh, definitely. I mean, the Haynesworth situation was a freaking nightmare every damn day you came to work. I mean, there were a lot of great players that were in that locker room, but once in a while you get a bad apple that just makes it not so much fun to come to work. And I think Mike and Bruce have done a great job of putting together a good situation there at this point. I think they’re kind of weeding all that negative stuff out.”