Redskins fans seem to be living through their own real-life version of Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. Just when they thought they were getting over their Ray Finkle moment against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, five days later they learn their quarterback had been kidnapped… from the starting lineup and possibly from a roster spot in 2011.
Yesterday Head Coach Mike Shanahan made the surprising announcement to bench future Hall of Fame quarterback Donovan McNabb for the rest of the season to evaluate backups Rex Grossman and John Beck in the final three games. Shanahan also said that after 13 games of assessing McNabb, he is uncertain of his future in D.C. beyond this season.
Despite the rumblings of such a move taking place throughout the week, the news still took the fanbase by surprise. The locker room is reportedly divided on this move and the players prefer to have McNabb play out the season. Linebacker Andre Carter says that McNabb has been a great leader but now that the move at quarterback has been made, Grossman has the full support of the locker room as the season comes to an end.
“McNabb has always been a team leader with great work ethic and can control the tempo of our offense,” Carter said. “Now unfortunately there has been struggle, however he has kept his composure. In regards to Grossman, he's starting and we are relying on him to make plays.
“Rex has always been a professional throughout his career. This is his time to shine and we will back him up 100 percent.”
Shanahan’s proclamation that McNabb may not return to the team next season applies to the whole team and not just the 12th-year veteran quarterback, Carter said.
“Not only is his status questionable (for next season) but the players in general. Coach has always said he will put the best players on the field regardless of years of experience, status, Pro Bowl career, etc. It doesn't matter. [Coach Shanahan is doing] whatever it will take to win and have the team in the right direction.
In order to determine where the team is headed, they will have to play out the final three games without McNabb, starting tomorrow against a Dallas Cowboys team that has been on an upswing since replacing Wade Phillips with Jason Garrett as interim head coach.
“Obviously, the Cowboys have more of a connection with Coach Garrett,” Carter said. “With that being said, it appears they have a level of respect for the new man in charge. Whatever he is doing, it’s working.”
A lot has changed since the Redskins Week 1 victory over their biggest rival. Since then, the Cowboys dropped to 1-7 but have won three of their last five while the Redskins reached 4-3 but have lost five of their last six. Despite the Redskins three-game slump, they are playing for more than just a win against a division rival.
“When the postseason is on the line, of course there is a high level of motivation. For crying out loud, it's the playoffs. There is more motivation to have the ‘win and you’re in’ mentality. When it's a game with no hope for playoffs, there is a sense of pride for yourself and your teammates. The last thing you want to do as a player is embarrass yourself and not perform to your capability,” Carter said.
Against the Buccaneers, there was one player who performed far and beyond what many thought he was capable of. After the first quarter, running back Ryan Torain had tallied 121 yards, putting him on pace to obliterate the current NFL single game rushing record (Adrian Peterson – 296 yards) by 188 yards.
After returning from a hamstring injury that kept him out of the previous four games, it was refreshing for the Redskins to see him have such a strong performance.
“All we said on the sideline was ‘look at those fresh legs,’” Carter said. “I was very happy to see him perform the way he did. Ryan is a talented back and if he can continue to stay healthy then he can and will be a premier back in the NFL. His tone in the running game was great for us on defense because we only played 19 snaps in the first half. From a team perspective, his performance gave us excitement and momentum during the game. Unfortunately it wasn't enough.”
Perhaps unexpected performances such as those are what Shanahan is aiming for by making the move to Grossman. It’s clear that he wants the team to get younger and will likely achieve that in the offseason. While Grossman may not completely fit the criteria for “young,” he is a break from the norm and will give the staff a chance to see what they have as far as depth goes.
Regardless of the controversy surrounding the team and the lack of wins as of late, Carter believes these final three games are very important to the present and future.
“We have three games left to showcase the Redskins. These games will define our character, our future, and abilities as a team.”
Deadskins: Andre, why do our corners never use the five yard buffer area to chuck receivers and throw them off their routes? Too many times I see opponents receivers run cleanly through our defense, not being touched until after they have caught the ball. This is especially painful to watch when it's 3rd and short, and our corners are playing 10 yards off the receivers.
AC: Damn man, you know your football. I wish I could answer the question but I'm focused on the linebackers.
PAPDOG67: Andre, after a loss like that, how long does it usually take to get the bad taste out of your mouth?? And do you have something in particular which helps you get it off your mind?
AC: Win or lose, you have to have short-term memory. I call it the 36-hour rule. After a day and half it's a past memory then you move on to the next game. If you keep on harping on a loss, then the level of preparation for the next opponent will be obsolete.