Atlanta Falcons blow the Super Bowl

The Atlanta Falcons led the Super Bowl 28-3. Late in the fourth quarter, they had an 8-point lead with minutes left and the ball just beyond the New England 20-yard line. A field goal seals the game and a Super Bowl title, and yet on second down Kyle Shanahan called a pass play and Matt Ryan took a devastating sack.

Of course New England deserves credit for the comeback, and they’ll get plenty as the New England dynasty and the Tom Brady legacy will be discussed ad nauseum. But the story of this game is the Atlanta collapse.

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What happened to RGIII?

Robert Griffin III and Stewart Scott

Several years ago I attended the Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year Awards and RGIII was there as one of the presenters. He was riding high as a high draft pick after the Redskins had mortgaged their future by trading a boatload of draft picks. Meanwhile, as a Browns fan, I had to hear about how the Browns blew it by not offering even more for the right to draft him.

Several years later things have changed quite a bit. The Redskins are a mess and RGIII has been benched by Jay Gruden. Meanwhile, Kyle Shanahan is the offensive coordinator for the Browns who are 7-4 with Brian Hoyer as the starter.

What happened?

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Donovan McNabb is not a robot!

Washington Redskins’ quarterback Donovan McNabb looks to pass against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland on December 12, 2010. UPI/Kevin Dietsch

Donovan McNabb seems thrilled to be free of the Shanahans in Washington.

“Some coaches say ‘Hey, it’s my way or no way,’ ” McNabb said via the St. Paul Pioneer Press. “You become robotic. That’s when you pull away from your style of play and the way of things that got you successful. If things don’t go as well as you’d like them to, you find out what the mistake was, you correct it and you go right back and get it done.”

Mike Shanahan is a control freak. His son Kyle Shanahan, the offensive coordinator in Washington, seems to be even worse. They personify a disturbing trend where coaches try to do too much, and they don’t let their players play. I think if you make football too scripted, you lose the ability to let your players improvise.

I admire teams like the Steelers that put players like Big Ben in a position where he can improvise and make great plays. Of course all of this is a balancing act, but the Shanahans seems to represent the extreme.

I have no idea how McNabb will do in Minnesota. He has some great weapons, but he’s also near the end of the line. That said, he’s a veteran, and it makes sense to let him play the game.

McNabb’s Agent: Shanahan’s out to get Donovan

Donovan McNabb said earlier in the week that he would like to remain in D.C. in 2011. But his agent Fletcher Smith is making it hard for that to happen.

Fletcher ripped Mike Shanahan
and his son/offensive coordinator Kyle for being “beyond disrespectful” in their decision to bench McNabb. Then he went on to essentially say that the Shanahans have it out for his client.


“I believe there is tension between Donovan and Kyle that’s rooted in the fact that Donovan has suggested modifications to Kyle’s offense based on intricacies Donovan has learned in his NFL career,” Smith wrote. “For example, Donovan has asked all year that the team run more screen passes to help manage the pass rush more effectively. Ironically, Kyle decided to employ Donovan’s suggestions after he unceremoniously benched him on Sunday.”

You have to appreciate Smith coming to defense of his client but is he honestly saying that Mike Shanahan benched McNabb and then Kyle Shanahan employed McNabb’s suggestions with Rex Grossman? As the ESPN article noted – that seems like a bit of an overstatement.

Mike Shanahan has recently fired back at Smith.

“As I stated earlier, when I traded for Donovan McNabb I had hoped that he would lead us to the playoffs,” said Shanahan. “No one wanted him to be more successful than me. When the team was 5-8 and mathematically out of the playoffs, I made the decision to evaluate our other two quarterbacks.

“This was not personal, but strictly professional. The decision was made in the best interest of the Washington Redskins and I stand by my decision. I will attempt to talk to Fletcher Smith directly to clear up every one of his misconceptions.”

If the Shanahans believe that McNabb can’t run their offense, then they did nothing wrong in benching him. If they honestly think Grossman is better than they would be wrong. But at least their reasoning behind McNabb makes sense. (If he’s not going to be here next year, why keep playing him?).

That said, if the Shanahans want McNabb back next year and expect him to compete as a starter, then their decision to bench him for the human turnover machine looks ridiculous. Because even though the Redskins are out of it they would still benefit from McNabb taking as many reps in Shanahan’s offense as possible – especially if he’s struggling to grasp the system. You don’t bench the guy and then say, “But hey, maybe you’ll be better next year. We’ll see you then!”

What a weird situation.

Donovan McNabb benched – is he done in Washington?

Washington Redskins quarterbacks Donovan McNabb (L) and Rex Grossman participate in a drill during the last day of Redskins training camp at Redskins Park in Ashburn, Virginia, August 19, 2010. UPI/Kevin Dietsch Photo via Newscom

Donovan McNabb hasn’t played like the second coming of Y.A. Tittle this year, so let’s not act as if he’s the difference between the Redskins finishing this miserable season 3-0 or in a fiery blaze of their own hell. (They’ll probably choose the latter.)

But for crib’s sake, he’s still light-years better than Rex Grossman, whom Mike Shanahan will start against the Cowboys this Sunday.

Once again, the Redskins have befuddled the masses. Both McNabb and Shanahan say that McNabb is healthy, yet Grossman received an increased amount of reps this week practice and has been named Sunday’s starter. But why? Because he gives the Redskins their best chance of winning? That can’t be it. Grossman can hold his own when he plays on a team that employs the top ranked defense and a returner that sets his offense up at midfield every possession. But last time I checked, the Redskins had neither of those at their disposal.

So if McNabb isn’t hurt and Grossman doesn’t give the Skins their best chance of winning, then why start him? The only logical explanation is that they know McNabb won’t be around next year and therefore, are trying to see what they have in Grossman. They signed McNabb to an extension in mid-November but only committed $3.5 million more in guaranteed money so they aren’t tied down to him financially. They could release him and only lose $3.5 million in the process, which is chump change when it comes to a starting quarterback.

Thus, that must be the reason Grossman is starting on Sunday – because McNabb’s days in Washington are numbered. They have to be, or else why start the human turnover machine? Because McNabb still doesn’t have a feel for Kyle Shanahan’s offense? If he’s going to be a part of the Skins’ long-term future, then both Shanahans would want McNabb to get as much playing time as possible in preparation for the future. They wouldn’t bench him so he could take cues from Rex freaking Grossman.

Yep, that has to be it. McNabb is done in Washington. No coach in his right mind believes Rex Grossman gives his team its best chance of winning. He may play well for a quarter, a half or even an entire game, but over the course of a season Grossman is not the answer. If Shanahan knows this, then he must also know that McNabb’s time in D.C. is up.

Update: Rich Campbell reports via his Twitter page that Shanahan has informed McNabb that there’s no guarantee he’ll be brought back in 2011. ESPN’s Adam Schefter also says that, “It’s obvious that Donovan McNabb will not be back in Washington this season.”

This is a downgrade to the entire Washington offense: Santana Moss, Chris Cooley, Anthony Armstrong…even Ryan Torain, who is going to get even more attention as the Cowboys dare Rex Grossman to air it out. I see Moss and Torain as fringe WR2 and RB2, respectively, while Cooley becomes a fringe TE1 play.

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