Shanahan: McNabb benched for remainder of season, may not be back with Redskins next year

It's hasn't been Donovan McNabb's best year, but Coach Mike Shanahan said it could take two or three seasons to fully master his offense.
It's hasn't been Donovan McNabb's best year, but Coach Mike Shanahan said it could take two or three seasons to fully master his offense. (Toni L. Sandys)

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By Barry Svrluga
Friday, December 17, 2010; 10:57 AM

Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan said Friday he plans to bench six-time Pro Bowl quarterback Donovan McNabb for the remainder of the season in an effort to evaluate backup Rex Grossman and third-stringer John Beck. He said he has informed McNabb he may not return next season despite recently signing a multiyear contract extension.

"I talked to Donovan yesterday after practice," Shanahan said after practice at Redskins Park. "I told him once we were mathematically eliminated from the playoffs, that I made a decision that I was going to start Rex Grossman. I want to get a feel on how Rex can run our offense over the next few weeks."

Shanahan explained his reasoning for the surprising McNabb-Grossman move, saying he hopes to get a better understanding of the strength of the Redskins at the quarterback position.

McNabb will serve as Grossman's backup Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys at Cowboys Stadium, and then will be demoted to the No. 3 quarterback for the final two games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and New York Giants, essentially making him inactive. Beck will be the backup in the last two games. He was the No. 3 quarterback in the Redskins' first 13 games.

"What I'd like to be able to do, is at the end of the season, be able to evaluate where we're at at our quarterback position," Shanahan said. "I told Donovan that there's nothing he could do in the three games that would influence me of what he's done over the last 13 games."

Although Shanahan, Washington's top football official, declined to say he erred in trading a second-round draft pick and a conditional fourth-rounder to the Philadelphia Eagles on Easter Sunday in exchange for McNabb, he acknowledged that the move has not produced the results he expected.

"Right now, I gotta do what I think's in the best interest of this organization," Shanahan said. "And that's to get a good feel of where we're at at the quarterback position.

"I also told him that I could not guarantee him that he would be back next year. I said, 'I can't guarantee you that.' But what I can guarantee ya [is] that I'll be honest with ya. I'll evaluate the situation."

Only 10 days after announcing his decision to suspend two-time all-pro defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth for the remainder of the season without pay, Shanahan again has raised the ante on his vision of what the Redskins must do to again become a championship-caliber franchise. McNabb may no longer be part of Shanahan's long-term plan for the franchise, and Shanahan said that's just the way it is.

"I'm not sure what we're gonna do in the college draft," Shanahan said. "If we were able to get the top quarterback in the draft, if there was a young Donovan McNabb or maybe a Sam Bradford, something like that, there's a lot of possibilities. I'll evaluate that and be as honest as I possibly can with him as time goes on."

© 2010 The Washington Post Company

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