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Redskins an absolute mess

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Dan Arkush
Executive editor

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Posted Dec. 20, 2010 @ 5:47 a.m. ET
By Dan Arkush

Could there be any more red flags flapping in the breeze as the Redskins continue to unravel in their disappointing first year under head coach Mike Shanahan?

With Shanahan apparently determined to play out the string this season with QB Donovan McNabb relegated to the bench in favor of both Rex Grossman and John Beck, the Redskins' season-long failure to coexist with high-priced free-agent bust Albert Haynesworth almost seems like small potatoes by comparison.

Make no mistake. Failing to qualify for the playoffs for the 15th time in 18 years and with major problems abounding on offense, defense and special teams, the Redskins couldn't be in a bigger mess at the moment.

At the root of the team's current dysfunction is the phasing out of the 34-year-old McNabb. Obtained last Easter for a second-round pick this year and what turned out to be a fourth-round pick next year, the six-time Pro Bowler was initially heralded as the next John Elway by Shanahan, who caught Super Bowl lightning in a bottle with Elway in Denver at a similar stage in his career as McNabb. 

But in the final two minutes with a game against the Lions at Detroit on the line at the end of October, Shanahan sent out a different signal altogether, benching McNabb for Grossman and then exacerbating what looked like a vote of no confidence in McNabb with one convoluted explanation after another that left insiders around the league scratching their heads.

The head-scratching intensified last month when McNabb was suddenly given a five-year contract extension nominally worth $78 million — until it was disclosed that the new agreement contained a clause that allowed the Redskins to release McNabb at season's end with no further financial obligation beyond a $3.5 million payoff this season.

Then, fresh off one of McNabb's best statistical outings of the year (100.7 passer rating with two TDs and zero interceptions in the Week 14 loss to the Buccaneers), Shanahan announced early last week that McNabb would be put in mothballs for the rest of the season — a move McNabb's agent, Fletcher Smith, immediately declared "beyond disrespectful."

The people in the know around the league whom PFW talked to were equally critical.

"What the hell is going on?" one high-ranking NFL executive wondered aloud. "What is Bruce Allen's role in all of this? He was the general manager and negotiated the trade (for McNabb) and gave up all those picks. This is leading to a complete implosion. What I want to know: What was the $3.5 million payoff for? They are complaining about not having an indoor practice facility, and you are just going to give money away.

"It's obviously not a bipartisan agreement in Washington right now. Where is the fiscal accountability? Anyone in the know knows (Redskins offensive coordinator and Mike Shanahan's son) Kyle Shanahan does not like McNabb. This is strictly Kyle Shanahan and his old man making the decision. He (Mike Shanahan) is covering for his kid. Who negotiated the trade and made it so one-sided? And who negotiated the contract. This situation looks like a complete (disaster).

"There are assistant coaches and front-office people in the building who are in complete shock right now, and there is no one to explain anything. ... Rex Grossman cannot single-handedly lift an organization. Shanahan said he needs to evaluate him. Go back and look at what he did in Chicago. There is all the tape you need on the guy."

What the Redskins need to do is seriously consider relieving Kyle Shanahan of his offensive-coordinator duties, according to a veteran personnel executive familiar with Shanahan from his time in Houston under Gary Kubiak, a former Broncos assistant under Shanahan.

"Kyle never should have been a coordinator," the personnel exec told PFW. "He should be a WR coach or QB coach. He was handed that (coordinator) job; he did not earn it. The players don't respect him (in Washington). Donovan does not respect that little punk — he has not done anything. He (Shanahan) played at Texas — he was an undrafted free-agent receiver who could not make it, and Daddy brought him up from there. Kubiak was the coordinator in Houston. He gave (Kyle) the title for his old man, but Kubiak was calling the plays.

"Their problem right now is pretty simple," added the personnel exec. "They have a head coach. They don't have capable coordinators. (Defensive coordinator) Jim Haslett is not getting it done (either). If I were there, they would be running a 4-3, and Haynesworth would not be getting run off. They have completely mishandled their two most important players on each side of the ball (McNabb on offense, Haynesworth on defense), and it's because their coordinators don't have the interpersonal skills to make it work.

"It's embarrassing. It really is. (Redskins owner) Dan (Snyder) fired Marty Schottenheimer after a year. Who's to say he couldn't do the same thing with Shanahan? (Snyder) has got to be searching for answers. I'll tell you what is weakening this league. It's incompetence and nepotism — and I'm not sure which is first.

"But they are both clearly on display in the nation's capital right now."

In addition, the clear consensus is that nothing good will come from the Redskins' failed marriage with McNabb, whose market value has decreased significantly.

"No one is trading for Donovan McNabb now," the league executive told PFW. "They (other teams) did not trade for him last year. Who was in the market to trade last year? Minnesota did not want him. Arizona, maybe. They are not giving up anything of value now. This situation was mishandled on so many different levels it really is just embarrassing."

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