By Jason Reid
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 29, 2010; 12:29 AM
And even if offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan has undermined McNabb all season, as McNabb's agent recently suggested, the season is almost over.
The most important thing now is that the Redskins quickly move on from their latest self-inflicted public relations disaster. And ending McNabb's ineffective partnership with Mike and Kyle Shanahan as soon as possible would be a great first step.
Washington could try to trade McNabb, who cost them second- and fourth-round draft picks to acquire from Philadelphia less than nine months ago.
But he is 34 and coming off his worst season statistically as a full-time starter. McNabb would seem to have little trade value, and his poor relationship with the Shanahans is now public. That's another distraction the Redskins could do without.
Even Coach Mike Shanahan acknowledges it has been "kinda like a soap opera" at Redskins Park since he decided to bench McNabb for the final three games and demote him to third-string for the last two. Last week's dueling news releases issued by McNabb's longtime representative, Fletcher Smith III, and Shanahan about the benching offered additional proof that a speedy divorce is needed.
Smith was fed up with numerous news reports, citing anonymous sources, that questioned McNabb's commitment to preparation and ability to read defenses. McNabb is in his 12th NFL season and Smith is a battle-tested contract negotiator, and "when you see these things [reports] constantly coming up, you start to have a pretty good idea where they're coming from," Smith said in a recent phone interview.
In his statement blasting the Shanahans for their handling of the six-time Pro Bowler, Smith revealed his belief that Kyle Shanahan is, at least in part, responsible for some of the disparaging leaks. This took the fight to another level.
It's one thing for Smith to privately share his thoughts about the Shanahans with confidants. But he went at them directly, challenging the man who runs Washington's football operation and essentially calling his son a liar.
During his weekly media availability this season, Kyle Shanahan has rarely praised McNabb. But he hasn't ripped him, either. Smith made it known that, in his opinion, Kyle has knifed McNabb in the back behind the scenes.
Kyle added another twist the next day. He informed reporters he had met with McNabb, who apparently denied providing the foundation for Smith's statement, saying his agent's comments did not accurately reflect McNabb's feelings.
So McNabb did not know that Smith, with whom he has a close relationship, planned to blast the Shanahans in a statement that probably would do further damage to his already shaky relationship with the father-son coaches?
In a statement issued shortly after Kyle Shanahan's comments, Smith wrote that he and McNabb have talked often during the season and are "absolutely on the same page."
McNabb last week declined interview requests. He has stayed silent through much of the back-and-forth, preferring to let Smith do his fighting publicly. McNabb's only comments have come through his weekly radio appearance, which he is contractually obligated to do, on ESPN 980 - also owned by Redskins owner Daniel Snyder.
Of course, McNabb isn't the first high-profile athlete to take this approach as battles rage around them. It always helps to maintain the appearance of professionalism when one has post-career aspirations in the business world, as McNabb does, and McNabb is still auditioning for potential employers next season. Quarterbacks are supposed to lead by example, so McNabb will let others sling the mud.
That aside, though, it is difficult to believe, as McNabb contended on his show Tuesday, he was not aware of the statement's strong content before it was released. It usually doesn't work that way at this level of professional sports. If Smith truly acted on his own and McNabb did not share his feelings, McNabb should be in the market for a new agent.
On his radio show Tuesday, McNabb said he supported Smith and saw "nothing wrong with" the statement. He also confirmed that he met with Kyle Shanahan last week, but declined to reveal specifics of the conversation.
That leaves Kyle Shanahan as the only person to say that McNabb had distanced himself from Smith's statement. It's almost unfathomable that Kyle Shanahan would fabricate the story in an attempt to bolster himself publicly while discrediting Smith.
He knew that McNabb could deny that they had even met, or deny saying Smith acted on his own. The likelihood is that Kyle Shanahan believed what he told reporters, and McNabb later declined an opportunity to support the team's play-caller.
This is what happens when failure leads to divisiveness. Everyone's motives are questioned while fans simply wonder, 'What's going on there?'
To be sure, Smith and McNabb have discussed an exit strategy, though McNabb continues to maintain he would like to return to Washington, albeit under different circumstances. The Shanahans, however, have already determined that McNabb is not suited for their offense, according to people familiar with the situation.
It would be best for McNabb if the Redskins released him immediately after the season, enabling him to choose his next team. But Mike Shanahan may not be in an accommodating mood, especially after last week's events.
On Nov. 15, McNabb signed a multiyear contract extension. The Redskins could wait until the first game of the 2011 season to release McNabb and owe him nothing (if released due to injury, McNabb would receive $1.75 million).
Shanahan has told people in the organization he respects McNabb, which made it difficult for him to make the move. It had to be made, though, for the Redskins to move forward, and Shanahan is paid handsomely to make the tough calls.
Smith and Shanahan still have a lot to discuss. Shanahan said he has told Smith that the next time he is "down here in this area, if he'd like to meet with me, I'd love to be able to sit down one on one."
That meeting needs to happen. Because the sooner it does, the sooner the Redskins and McNabb can move forward separately.