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Donovan McNabb's agent says quarterback undermined by Redskins' Kyle Shanahan

By Jason Reid and Rick Maese
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 24, 2010; 12:59 AM

Donovan McNabb's agent blasted Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan in a formal statement Thursday, contending that the coach had undermined McNabb throughout the season.

"I believe there is tension between Donovan and Kyle that's rooted in the fact that Donovan has suggested modifications to Kyle's offense based on intricacies Donovan has learned in his NFL career," McNabb's agent, Fletcher Smith III, wrote in the statement to Redskins beat reporters and national NFL writers. "For example, Donovan has asked all year that the team run more screen passes to help manage the pass rush more effectively. Ironically, Kyle decided to employ Donovan's suggestions after he unceremoniously benched him on Sunday."

Smith, longtime representative for the demoted Pro Bowl quarterback, said he was issuing the release because some within the Redskins' organization have criticized his client anonymously and because he wanted to "clarify some misinterpretations" of comments McNabb made earlier this week.

In response to Smith's comments, Coach Mike Shanahan issued a statement of his own Thursday evening, saying he stands by his decision to bench the veteran quarterback for the team's final three games.

"As I stated earlier, when I traded for Donovan McNabb, I had hoped that he would lead us to the playoffs. No one wanted him to be more successful than me," Shanahan said in the statement. "When the team was 5-8 and mathematically out of the playoffs, I made the decision to evaluate our other two quarterbacks. This was not personal, but strictly professional. The decision was made in the best interest of the Washington Redskins and I stand by my decision."

Shanahan did not address the specific points or accusations, nor did he defend Kyle Shanahan.

"I will attempt to talk to Fletcher Smith directly to clear up every one of his misconceptions," Mike Shanahan said in the release.

Kyle Shanahan, according to Smith's statement, has refused to modify the Redskins' offense to maximize McNabb's strengths. Smith suggested that Shanahan has been among the people who have leaked reports "of Donovan not being in shape and not being able to grasp Kyle's offense." He made clear that while Redskins fans have supported McNabb, Washington's coaches - Coach Mike Shanahan and his son Kyle, in particular - have created an uncomfortable working environment for McNabb.

"While Donovan's feelings about Washington remain the same, the Shanahans - both Mike and more specifically Kyle - have made this an extremely difficult relationship to maintain," Smith wrote. "Their comments have been beyond disrespectful and unprecedented for a six-time Pro Bowl quarterback such as Donovan."

Benched late last week in favor of former backup Rex Grossman, McNabb has declined requests to address the situation. His only comments came Tuesday during his weekly radio appearance on ESPN 980.

Grossman received high marks from coaches for his 322-yard, four-touchdown performance in last week's 33-30 loss to Dallas. It was the eight-year veteran's first start since the 2008 season.

After the Cowboys took a 20-point lead in the third quarter, Grossman directed three consecutive touchdown drives (which covered 71, 78 and 56 yards) and capped the final two with two-point conversion passes. The second two-pointer tied the score at 30. The belief among some in the organization is that if Grossman plays well in the final two games, he could begin the 2011 season as the starter - if there is a 2011 season.

During the radio show, McNabb said he would like to return to Washington. But Smith's statement, the strongest response yet from the quarterback's camp, indicates that the sides probably cannot co-exist beyond the Redskins' Week 17 season finale against the New York Giants at FedEx Field.

McNabb has been extremely uncomfortable at Redskins Park since the benching, amid anonymous criticism of his work ethic and ability to grasp the offense, according to people familiar with the situation. He has tried to remain upbeat and professional for his teammates, but he has been embarrassed by the Shanahans' handling of his demotion, they said.

Since the controversial move, McNabb has taken snaps with the scout team. After backing up Grossman in last week's loss to Dallas, McNabb has been dropped to third-string behind John Beck. Barring injuries or unforeseen circumstances, McNabb will serve as the No. 3 quarterback, which essentially makes him inactive, for the final two games.

Immediately after McNabb was benched, Smith blasted the franchise for the move. In Thursday's statement, he provided a detailed account of news leaks that angered him.

"There have been many reports leaked of Donovan not being in shape and not being able to grasp Kyle's offense," the statement read. "The fact is, Donovan came into camp in the best shape of his career, having dropped 10 pounds in the offseason.

"Donovan spent most of his offseason in Washington working out with the Redskins and never missed a practice. Unfortunately, it appears as though the Redskins coaching staff decided that their 12-year veteran quarterback, who flawlessly executed one of the NFL's most complex offensive systems [in Philadelphia], is unable to grasp Kyle's offense."

According to Smith's statement, Kyle Shanahan, in expressing his dissatisfaction with McNabb after a 17-16 loss to Tampa Bay in Week 14, was quoted as saying: "He'll [McNabb] never take another snap for me again."

"That statement came after Donovan led the Redskins on one of their best drives of the entire season," according to the statement.

Smith indicated that McNabb's frustrating 2010 season will be his only one in Washington.

"Make no mistake, this has been a difficult season for Donovan," Fletcher wrote. "Some may say that he has had a down year . . . that is true specifically because of the high standards that he has set as an elite NFL quarterback in his previous 11 seasons.

"Donovan has maintained a high level of professionalism on and off the field. He is determined to continue his relentless commitment to win and looks forward to the opportunity wherever that may be!"

McNabb signed a multiyear contract extension Nov. 15, so the Redskins control his rights. The team gave him a $3.5 million signing bonus, which was paid this season, but nothing is guaranteed beyond the 2010 season unless he is released because of injury, in which case he would be paid $1.75 million, according to someone who recently reviewed his contract.

In salary and bonuses this season, McNabb will be paid $14.7 million. The Redskins hold a $10 million contract option for 2011 that they can exercise until the first game of the season, or they could release McNabb and owe him nothing. McNabb probably would have to return the $3.5 million bonus to persuade the Redskins to release him when he prefers.

If McNabb is on the roster next season - which would be stunning at this point - he would earn about $16.25 million.

reidj@washpost.com maeser@washpost.com

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