Redskins quarterback situation remains incomplete

The "Washington Post Live" team breaks down Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan's decision to start Rex Grossman for the rest of the season over Donovan McNabb.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 18, 2010; 11:10 PM

It took less than a full season for Washington Redskins Coach Mike Shanahan to determine that Donovan McNabb is probably the wrong quarterback to build a team around.

Now how long will it take Shanahan to find the right one?

McNabb, 34, is still on the 53-man roster despite his demotion in favor of former backup Rex Grossman and third-stringer John Beck for the team's final three games, beginning Sunday against Dallas at Cowboys Stadium. And he is under contract next season and beyond, if the Redskins choose to retain his rights.

But Shanahan's season-closing benching of McNabb has all but ended McNabb's brief Redskins experience. Shanahan has publicly embarrassed the proud 12-year veteran, making it highly unlikely McNabb will be with the franchise for a second season.

"Donovan is under contract, but we obviously have a lot to talk about" regarding his future with the Redskins, said McNabb's agent, Fletcher Smith. "The way Mike has handled Donovan is just . . . disrespectful, disgraceful - I don't even know if those words are strong enough."

Although Grossman and Beck (who will be Grossman's backup for the final two games, essentially making McNabb inactive) are in the team's plans at the moment, the Redskins' next long-term starter probably is not on the roster. Or even in the NFL yet, for that matter.

Shanahan signaled his intention to look to the draft to fill Washington's glaring need at the game's most important position, saying he would seek a "top quarterback in the draft, if a young Donovan McNabb or maybe a Sam Bradford" is available. The problem is, every team seeks a franchise-caliber quarterback, and Shanahan believed he had one in the former Philadelphia Eagles star.

But he was wrong. And Shanahan's error is a major setback for his Redskins restoration project. For the most part, he has wasted a whole year because the biggest piece of the puzzle didn't fit.

At football's second-most important position, left tackle, the Redskins are better than they were last season. Rookie Trent Williams could anchor the offensive line for a decade or so. If Shanahan had gone 2 for 2 on left tackle and quarterback, he could have deemed the season a success regardless of the Redskins' performance on the field.

Instead, the Redskins (5-8) basically made little progress. They have lost three straight and five of six, and Shanahan still must find a quarterback who, eventually, can operate his run-heavy, quarterback-friendly offense at a championship-caliber level.

"Coach Shanahan is looking for something. He's looking to get this team back to where it used to be, and it's not going to be enough even if guys give everything they have," cornerback and defensive co-captain DeAngelo Hall said. "If Coach Shanahan doesn't see that level he's looking for, that performance, he's gonna go try to get it somewhere else. Be it the draft or whatever, he don't mess around. He's gonna find it."

Shanahan believed Bradford was the guy he needed to jump-start Washington. The Redskins, however, lacked the combination of picks and players needed to entice the St. Louis Rams to consider trading the No. 1 overall pick in the previous draft, so they went the trade route.

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