Their trust in one another deteriorated, and late that season, the Redskins benched McNabb for Rex Grossman. Was McNabb truly ineffective, or had Kyle’s ego, fueled by his career’s fast start, consumed him?
“You bring him to your team, you find a way to work with him,” says Mitchell, the former Redskins player and McNabb’s distant cousin. “You don’t bring him in and try to change everything.”
The drama went public, and McNabb’s agent released a statement blaming Kyle for McNabb’s disappointing season in which he threw a career-high 15 interceptions and fumbled 10 times.
“The Shanahans – both Mike and more specifically Kyle – have made this an extremely difficult relationship to maintain,” the statement read.
McNabb, who declined an interview request for this story through his new agent, reportedly wanted the Redskins to release him in December 2010. The team instead traded him the next summer for draft picks.
Even now, the turmoil of that season and the way he and McNabb parted weighs on Kyle.
“He’s got a chance to be in the Hall of Fame,” Kyle says, “and when he came here toward the end of his career, there’s a lot of pressure on him to succeed; a lot of pressure on us to succeed.
“People made a big deal about our relationship, and from a relationship standpoint, we were fine” he added. “I liked Donovan; he was a good dude to me. We got along well. But I think, just from a football standpoint, him and I failed each other.”
The next season wasn’t much better. With Grossman and John Beck at quarterback, the Redskins were 29th in the league in scoring in 2011. Kyle says the past two seasons taught him that what he experienced in Houston is rare.
“It was the first time I hadn’t succeeded in my career, and that was hard on me personally,” he says. “. . . I was always confident in what I could do. I knew what I was doing. I wanted to keep working and give it another chance.”
The months passed, and sometimes Kyle leaned on his father’s experience. Mike told his son these were temporary setbacks, that no matter how things seemed, maybe someday he would find that soulmate player. Mike had inherited Steve Young in San Francisco and Elway in Denver. Who’s to say it wouldn’t happen for Kyle?
“Once you do get that guy, you’ll know it,” Mike says. “. . .You can tell from the first day.”
‘This could work’
Their first meeting was in February at the NFL Scouting Combine. Robert Griffin III remembers Kyle grilling him about offenses. Kyle recalls being impressed with Griffin’s responses.
A month later, Mike Shanahan and General Manager Bruce Allen were preparing a defining draft gamble: trading three first-round picks to move up to No. 2 overall. The target was either Andrew Luck or Griffin. They asked Kyle what he thought.