There is a lot of haze in the aftermath of the Week Eight benching of QB Donovan McNabb, especially considering the myriad reasons given by head coach Mike Shanahan and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan.
Immediately after McNabb was pulled for Rex Grossman, Mike Shanahan cited Grossman's better familiarity with the team's two-minute offense as the reason. In the days that followed, Shanahan edited his statement, saying McNabb's "cardiovascular endurance" was the primary reason.
Kyle Shanahan defended McNabb somewhat thereafter, saying the QB's health — namely some nagging hamstring injuries — prevented him from running the two-minute drill effectively in practice leading up to the Lions game.
McNabb clearly was not thrilled with the entire process but mostly toed the line when asked if he was upset with how it went down. One reason might be that he is in the final year of his deal and would like to return to the Redskins past this season.
Several sources — inside and outside Redskins Park — have spoken to PFW about McNabb's situation, clarifying a few things.
In regard to McNabb's familiarity and comprehension with Shanahan's offense, a coach who formerly worked with McNabb made sure to point to the quarterback's qualifications. "He's a great QB with great QB strengths," the coach said. "But he has a few weaknesses just like most (players)."
One of the things the Eagles clearly did, especially early in McNabb's career in Philadelphia, was limit his responsibilities. They did this with predetermined reads, easy progressions and play designs that were aimed at simplifying where the ball would need to go. They rolled him out often, "cutting the field in half," or requiring half-field reads that were easier to diagnose than plays run from the pocket.
There were some who questioned McNabb's ability to read and quickly process information early in his career, but many of those concerns were answered when Andy Reid's offense — the basic design of which remained the same for their entire tenure together of 11 years — became embossed in the QB's mind.
As for McNabb's conditioning, his weight often was a source of concern as he fluctuated at or above 240 pounds several times in Philadelphia. And his stamina famously became a talking point after many said he wore down at the end of the loss in Super Bowl XXXIX.
So, while it seemed that Mike Shanahan's excuses were duplicitous or ambiguous, it's very possible that each of the reasons he cited contributed to his benching of McNabb and might be factors that are weighed heavily when it comes time to decide whether the Redskins will bring him back after the season.