Tuesday, October 19, 2010

McNabb isn't playing that well

The Redskins season -- so far -- has to be considered a moderate success. At 3-3, they've done a pretty good job of weathering the storm of a difficult early season schedule, and they've really only lost one game, to the Rams, that looked bad at the time. But with the Rams playing better, that doesn't even look too awful now, and the Skins have also beaten Dallas (doesn't look that impressive now), Philadelphia (solid win), and Green Bay (also solid). The two three-point losses to the Texans and Colts were tough to stomach, but they were certainly in both games the whole time and barring a couple of missed opportunities, could actually have won those games. The Colts and Texans are also both 4-2, so it's not like they're slouches either.

The next two games, both on the road, are crucial. First, the Redskins head to Chicago in Week 7 to play the Bears, and then they travel to Detroit to face the Lions in Week 8. If the Redskins win both of those games, they'll be 5-3 heading into their bye week, which is right before another difficult part of their schedule. Here's who they face in weeks 10-13: Philadelphia, at Tennessee, Minnesota, and at New York (Giants). The Redskins will likely need to finish at least 2-2 in those games, meaning they need to win these next two games before their bye.

The Redskins have been better than last season, but they obviously still have things to work on. The defense gives up way too many yards, the offense needs to score more points, the offensive line could certainly block a little better, and the defensive backs could do a better job of catching would-be interceptions when they're thrown right to them, etc.

But here's something else the Redskins will need if they're somehow going to finish above .500: better quarterback play from Donovan McNabb. I know what you're thinking: Wait, I feel much more comfortable with McNabb at quarterback compared with Jason Campbell and all the other QBs the Redskins have had over the last several seasons. And yes, for the most part, I feel the same way. McNabb has the intangibles factor and the better ability to lead the Redskins on a game-winning drive, but that doesn't mean he's played all that well so far this season.

Let's take a look at McNabb's stats through six games this season versus Campbell's first six games last season:

McNabb: 78.8 QB rating, 58.1 completion percentage, 1,561 yards, 5 TD, 5 INT, 0 fumbles lost
Campbell: 82.9 QB rating, 65.6 completion percentage, 1,197 yards, 6 TD, 6 INT, 2 fumbles lost

Sure, Campbell turned the ball over three more times, which definitely is something quarterbacks want to avoid, but he also put together better overall numbers while playing with essentially the same weapons in the passing game and a worse offensive line. And yes, I do realize that this example is a small sample size and just a tiny slice of the whole pie to examine. (By the way, McNabb currently ranks 24th in the NFL in QB rating and 26th in completion percentage.)

I am in no way trying to say that I'd rather have Campbell as the quarterback of the Redskins than McNabb. McNabb simply brings things to the table that Campbell never will: better pocket presence, a quicker release, the ability to create plays, and being better at throwing deep passes. Simply put, McNabb's career numbers dwarf Campbell's, and McNabb is unquestionably the better quarterback -- not exactly a stunning statement. Still, the Redskins need McNabb to play much better than he has, meaning that he needs to do a better job of hitting open receivers and completing a higher percentage of his passes. Yes, he's in his first year in this offense, so he gets the benefit of the doubt in that regard. That may also mean that he'll progress in this offense as the season goes along. But even though I like that McNabb throws a great deep ball, there's nothing wrong with checking down a little more and moving the chains instead of going for the home run.

Especially when some of those home-run balls are going in the direction of Joey Galloway.


  1. Thank you for being willing to take a critical look at McNabb's performance (or underperformance) thus far. Most people are still participating in the McNabb Lovefest. I do think we're better off with McNabb than Campbell. As I noted in my comment to Dan Steinberg's WaPo blog which made reference to your blog, I do take exception with the idea that McNabb throws a great deep ball. My big concern though is what are we going to see from Donovan as we go forward and how much does he have left in the tank. The Redskins are going to have some contract decisions to make regarding him after the season (assuming that they don't extend him during the season)and I hope we don't get saddled with a big contract for someone whose performance isn't worth that kind of money.

  2. I did see your comment on Steinberg's blog, and I appreciate your comment here too. Thanks.

    Regarding McNabb and the deep ball, you may be right: He probably hasn't been the best at throwing deep passes with the Redskins so far. But I still think he's better at it than Campbell was, and they've still gotten a few big plays in the passing game. I'm hoping that he starts to feel more comfortable the longer he plays in this offense, but who knows.