The (failed) Shanahan experiment

Another Sunday, another unfulfilling ending for the Washington Redskins, who lost 17-16 to Tampa Bay despite dominating for long stretches, then suffering the “North Dallas Forty” ending when the special-teams unit couldn’t execute what would have been the game-tying extra point with nine seconds to go.

It’s easy to say that the ‘Skins have just been bugabooed this year, because there have been plenty of bad-news type things happening in Redskin Park. Injuries are part of the game of football, though, so don’t hang your hat there and excuse first-year coach Mike Shanahan because of them. Shanahan, two-time Super Bowl winner that he is, completely mismanaged this Redskin team into another out-of-the-playoffs finish.

It starts with Haynesworth-gate and his handling of the $100 Million Man Who Didn’t Want To Play Noseguard. We won’t know what happened behind the scenes that led to the apparently immediate breakdown of relations between Shanahan and Albert Haynesworth, who just two years ago was considered the best defensive player in football, but whatever it was, it should have been dealt with summarily with a trade for a low-round draft pick or outright release. Instead, the Haynesworth situation was allowed to fester to the point where the move was made last week to suspend him for the final four games of the season.

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Which brings us to quarterback Donovan McNabb, alternatively the franchise and the guy who has to share snaps with his backup on Fridays and isn’t in good enough shape to run the two-minute drill. That embarrassment, with the ‘Skins trailing Detroit late, was the nail in the coffin for the 2010 Redskins, who have dropped four of five since the Lions game, including that showcase they gave to Michael Vick and the Philadelphia Eagles on a Monday night a few weeks back in the form of a 59-28 laugher that was nowhere near that close in the way it was played out.

I can’t imagine that McNabb wants to hang around for any more of the BS that Shanahan seems to want to put him through. McNabb, 34, probably has three or four good years left, and there has to be a better situation for him out there than handing the ball off to training-camp tackling dummies and throwing it to Arena League castoffs.

That is precisely the team that Shanahan and general manager Bruce Allen put together, and if they’re as successful in running McNabb out of town as they were in pushing Haynesworth off the cliff, well, they’ll always have Rex Grossman.

Maybe there was good reason Denver booted Shanahan out the door and gave the keys to their future to a thirtysomething kid with no head-coaching experience anywhere. That kid got fired for going 11-17 in parts of two seasons in the Rockies. Hate to say it, but 5-8 is roughly halfway to 11-17.

Column by Chris Graham. Chris can be reached at

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