By Dan Steinberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 24, 2010; 10:58 PM
A day after he was targeted in a strongly worded statement issued by Donovan McNabb's agent, Washington Redskins offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan responded with powerful words of his own, calling the agent's claims "entertaining" and "completely inaccurate."
Kyle Shanahan met with McNabb on Thursday evening regarding the statement issued by Fletcher Smith III, which claimed "tension between Donovan and Kyle" and accused the Shanahans of making this "an extremely difficult relationship to maintain." In that meeting, Kyle Shanahan said, McNabb distanced himself from his agent's words.
"I called Donovan on the phone, mentioned I wanted to have a conversation with him to find out what this was all about," Kyle Shanahan said Friday. "And when I talked to Donovan, he said he didn't say any of that. I'm like, 'Well, yeah, your agent did, which to me is you.' And he said he didn't agree with any of that, those words didn't come out of his mouth, he didn't tell his agent that stuff. So all I can go off is what Donovan tells me."
When told of the discrepancies between his agent's statement and Kyle Shanahan's account, McNabb laughed and declined to comment, repeatedly wishing reporters a merry Christmas.
In an e-mail, Smith wrote: "Donovan and I talk constantly and have done so with more frequency during this season. We are absolutely on the same page. I stand by my statement and will reserve any further comments until after I have had a chance to speak, directly, with [Head Coach Mike] Shanahan."
Mike Shanahan, who released a statement on the matter Thursday night, told Comcast SportsNet that he left a message for Smith. He declined to discuss the contradictions after practice Friday.
"Let's talk about football," the head coach said. "I'm not gonna go through the he-said, she-said, all those type of things. I'd like to concentrate [on] the job at hand."
Kyle Shanahan, in his first year as a Redskins coordinator, has repeatedly maintained that he has a friendly relationship with McNabb, even as anonymously sourced media reports suggested the opposite. In his weekly Friday interview with Comcast SportsNet - which the Redskins invited other reporters to watch this week - the 31-year old decried such leaks and laughed off Smith's implication that he was a source.
"Obviously some people getting leaks out, I think that happens everywhere, but to think that coaches would do that when it only hurts the coaches is entertaining," he said. "But all we can do is worry about ourselves and worry about this team. We know that rumors happen, and hopefully guys don't pay attention to 'em.
"People are gonna do that, try to break people apart. That's why you've got to do things face to face, man to man, and clear things out with each other if you've got a problem. And when I've done that and the guy tells me he has no problem, and never has, then that's what you've got to go off of, the guy's word."
Kyle Shanahan said he sits in meetings with McNabb for up to four hours a day and frequently eats meals with him, including one Thursday, shortly before the agent's fiery release was sent to media members. He said he asked McNabb directly Thursday evening whether there were any problems they needed to discuss, and that McNabb said: "No, not at all. We've always been good."
Mike Shanahan has said that he was solely responsible for the decision to bench McNabb in favor of Rex Grossman last week, explaining that he needed to evaluate Grossman and John Beck once the team was eliminated from playoff contention. Grossman threw four touchdowns in Washington's loss to Dallas and will start again Sunday against Jacksonville, while McNabb is expected to be the third quarterback.
Kyle Shanahan said there was "zero" truth to Smith's claim that the coordinator pledged never again to play McNabb after a Dec. 12 loss to Tampa Bay. He also rejected Smith's claim of tension stemming from McNabb's suggested modifications to the team's offense, including an increased use of screen passes. Smith said the Redskins ended up implementing such changes last week, after McNabb was benched.
"That quote was almost - I mean, it was entertaining," Shanahan said. "Asking Donovan about that, he nor I remember that conversation. To hear that we had a different offense for Rex is a joke. We ran six screens versus Dallas. We've ran five or six screens in every game since our bye week, so I really have no idea what he's talking about, and it's completely inaccurate."
Shanahan again said he hasn't seen enough of Grossman in game situations to judge if he's a better fit for the team's offense, and that all three of the team's quarterbacks regularly offer input on weekly game plans. He acknowledged some dissatisfaction with the speed at which McNabb operated in practice, but attributed it to a series of nagging injuries.
"He hasn't been able to practice at the speed that we like and we expect from a quarterback all year," Kyle Shanahan said.
Regardless, for the second straight year, the Redskins will spend Christmas dealing with a jarring split between a star player and the front office. Last year, defensive lineman Albert Haynesworth was sent home from a Christmas Day practice for disciplinary reasons, after which he slammed the team's defensive scheme.