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Monday, November 1, 2010

Head Shot of the Week

Donovan McNabb is practically leading the league in 40+ yard plays so far this season.

This means he is the Reggie Jackson of Football. The home run and all or nothing cleanup hitter.

It makes for exciting highlight reels and lots of hair pulling near misses.
It also makes for a slightly less than perfect completion percentage.

Which is not what the Shanahans want.

They want a pro bowl QB who makes all the right plays, throws, completions and decisions to move his team down field, score points and win games every time on every play.

They want somebody to pick up the playbook and execute it to perfection. You know, just like they drew it up. But so far this season, Donovan has not been able to do that.

And it is not entirely his fault. Not all the good pieces necessary to make everything go as planned are yet in place.

Ever since the beginning of his tenure and the OTA’s, Shanahan has stressed his coaching style, work ethic and attitude. Nothing proved this more than the attendance and treatment of players, including everyones favorite 300+ pound diva, Albert Haynesworth.

This battle is well documented and actually had everybody guessing and offering advice from get rid of him to keep him and go back to the 4 -3.
But as we all know, AH is still with us and in fact is playing better than ever. But more on that later.

With this last though in mind, I think hindsight might prove Shanahans decision to bench Donovan McNabb to be good for the team in the long run.

But what does it do in the short term? It does carry a lot of risk. You introduce uncertainty into every players mind about your confidence in the starting QB. You know, the one you went out of your way to trade for and got rid of Jason Campbell for.

BTW, guess who now has a better QB rating so far this season?
But, guess who has given the franchise hope for success and a belief that we are better now than we were with the other guy.

And yet hope gets benched for book knowledge with only 2 minutes to go in the game and we hit the midpoint of the season in full turmoil and the possibility of winds of change coming.

It’s kind of ironic that we have mid term elections this week, mid point of the season, and change and uncertainty are everywhere.

But here is how I think things will play out.

I’ve heard more than one trainer, coach and advisor say that you do not practice on your weaknesses. Sure it is good to be critical and look to improve and correct your mistakes, but that is not how you achieve greatness.

You practice your strengths. You take what makes you good, what makes you stand out in the field and practice that to make it even better.

Look what has happened with the AH saga. He is now 100% committed to and behind the system. In exchange, the system is using his strengths to their best advantage. Yes he still lines up on the nose from time to time, but he is now playing the gaps much more and more importantly much more effectively because the coaches have adjusted the system to exploit what he does best.

They are practicing the strengths. The strengths of AH and the strengths of the defensive schemes.

Conversely on the other side of the ball. Reportedly The Shanahans have tried to adjust the play book for Donovan, by eliminating certain terminology, calls and plays.

They have tried to retrain him in his mechanics.

They have concentrated on the weaknesses and as a result, the Redskins have not gotten much better.

It appears to still be all about the Shanahan my way or the highway style of coaching and plan.

They have to start putting into practice what Donovan does best. Or at the very least, what he is used to doing best. Just as I think they have done on the defense with AH.

Until this happens, both the coaches and the QB will be just going around in circles and not really improving.

I actually thought benching Donovan might be worth while (I mentioned it last week here). He has a propensity for making bone headed throws and decisions. Benching him was the right decision, just that it was made at the worst possible time (with 2 minutes to go and your best hope for the franchise out on the field when and where it counts during the heat of battle. I just would have done it in between games or at the very worst at half time

By taking Donovan out, Shanahan has said “I don’t think you can help us win the big one yet”. They will take the next two weeks working on a plan to give the team the best chance to win. And Shanahan will give Donovan a chance to prove him wrong.

Hopefully the Shanahans will also get rid of this “my way or the highway” style of coaching the offense and mechanics of the game and play to everyone strengths just as they have with the defense.

But then again, I am not the coach of the redskins, nor am I being paid millions of dollars a year to restore this franchise.

So if they do not do this, I invite them to prove me wrong.


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