Washington Redskins offseason: Upgrading the offense after likely departure of Donovan McNabb

The Washington Post's Rick Maese, LaVar Arrington and Dan Steinberg assess the Redskins' offense and look ahead to an offseason of change with host Jonathan Forsythe.
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, January 5, 2011; 12:04 AM

Any team's offense starts and ends with the quarterback position and because of that, the Redskins' difficult 2010 season will likely be remembered for the team's failed relationship with Donovan McNabb.

A six-time Pro Bowler who was benched after 13 games, McNabb does not figure to be in the team's plans beyond 2010. But removing him from the equation doesn't cure all that ails Washington's inconsistent offense.

"I blame myself before I blame him," said wide receiver Santana Moss, who posted one of the best seasons of his career in 2010. "We all on this team together. Every individual guy should blame himself for what we went through this year. You can't just blame one person."

While Mike Shanahan revamped schemes on both sides of the ball in his first season running the organization, coaches noted some progress as the season wound down. Some in the organization believe that, on offense, much of it coincided with McNabb's benching. Shanahan says it's all part of a process - one that doesn't necessarily end now that the season is finished.

"It does take some time," Shanahan said. "One of the things you've got to understand about any offense, you've got to get the pieces to go."

Finding those pieces wasn't simply an offseason project. The offense saw a major makeover from 2009. The final game of the 2010 season, in fact, featured only three of the starters from the final game of 2009. Last Sunday against the New York Giants, the Redskins started only five of the players who lined up for their season opener against the Dallas Cowboys.

"It's like that when you get to a new place, you're a new staff and everyone is together for the first time," offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan said. ". . . Each game you learn a lot more about players. You got to try other guys out and see what they can do. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't."

As the Redskins look to upgrade their roster for 2011, they might not seek a massive overhaul of personnel as much as a strategic refinement. Despite the huge question at quarterback, Mike Shanahan feels his offense is pointed in the right direction.

"I'm excited about the future. I know we'll score points," he said. "I've been around it for too long. I'm just looking forward to putting those pieces together."

It starts under center

He'll first have to make a decision about his quarterback. Shanahan this week declined to tip his hand about whether McNabb or Rex Grossman, who started the team's final three games, will return in 2011.

Coaches tried tinkering with McNabb's mechanics and spent extra time with him studying the offense. But McNabb never showed them the progress they sought.

"Mike likes to do a lot of different things on offense, likes to change things up quite a bit," said Hall of Famer John Elway, who won two Super Bowls with Shanahan in Denver. "So it is a challenge week in and week out. You really got to stay on top of it and know that that's the way Mike likes to do things. . . I just know Mike is a very demanding and he's a very innovative offensive coach. As a quarterback, I loved it because it always gave us a chance to win football games and also keep the defense off balance."

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