Redskins controversy is familiar to kids who play on teams coached by parents

Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb talks with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, whose father, Mike Shanahan, is the team's head coach.
Redskins quarterback Donovan McNabb talks with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan, whose father, Mike Shanahan, is the team's head coach. (John Mcdonnell/the Washington Post)
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Wednesday, December 22, 2010; 7:35 PM

The Washington Redskins' head coach, Mike Shanahan, benched the team's starting quarterback, Donovan McNabb, for the rest of the season last week. Sports fans have been arguing since then about whether Shanahan made the right call.

The Redskins did look better in their 33-30 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday as the new quarterback, Rex Grossman, threw for four touchdowns.

The controversy involves a Super Bowl coach and a six-time Pro Bowl player. But one part of the Shanahan-McNabb situation may be familiar to kids.

You see, the Redskins' offensive coordinator - that's the coach who designs the plays and is in charge of the team's offense - is named Kyle Shanahan. Kyle is Mike Shanahan's son.

Lots of kids play on teams where the coach has a son or daughter on the team. Some kids play for a coach they call "Mom" or "Dad."

Kids know it can be tricky when family members are also members of a sports team. It's only natural to wonder whether the coach will treat his son or daughter differently from the other kids. Maybe the coach will let her kid pitch or play point guard or goalie even though other kids want to play those positions and are better players. (To be fair, some parent-coaches may be harder on their own kids than on the other players.)

I have coached more than 30 kids sports teams. Almost all the teams included my son or my daughter. I tried hard to treat them like the rest of the kids. But I suppose there were times when I favored my kids . . . just a little bit.

The Washington offense has not been very good. Before Sunday's Dallas game, the Redskins were ranked 28th (out of 32 teams) for points scored. Kyle Shanahan has complained that McNabb is not a good fit for his offensive system.

Kyle Shanahan may be a good coach. After all, he was the offensive coordinator of the high-scoring Houston Texans for the 2008 and 2009 seasons. But the Redskins players must be wondering if Dad Shanahan is blaming all the team's offensive problems on McNabb because he doesn't want to point the finger at his son's offensive system.

The players may also wonder whether 30-year-old Kyle would have such an important coaching job if his name were, let's say, Kyle Bowen instead of Kyle Shanahan.

Fred Bowen writes KidsPost's sports opinion column and is the author of 15 sports books for kids.

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