The decision by Mike Shanahan to pull Donovan McNabb in the Lions game has been the dominant NFL story the last few days, even with all of the Randy Moss drama unfolding. Whether or not Shanahan was trying to send a message to McNabb that he needs to play better, Shanahan never offered a logical reason for the move and has instead given a range of excuses: the possibility that McNabb doesn't practice hard enough; that McNabb was very sore going into the game and was told he could be removed from the game at some point; Shanahan at first saying that Grossman "gave us the best chance to win"; that McNabb might not be that great at running two-minute drills; and that maybe McNabb isn't as familiar with the team's offense as he needs to be (which at first was insinuated and then never touched on again, for obvious reasons). Some people have raised the racial implications of some of the things Shanahan has said (like that last example above), and even Vinny Cerrato has offered his opinion, for what that's worth (next to nothing).
Trying to sort through all of the nonsense from Shanahan, here's my take: This situation has less to do with removing McNabb from the game and more about the timing. What coaches let their quarterback play the entire game and then pull him with two minutes left when they're down by less than a touchdown? It doesn't matter if McNabb's hamstrings were sore, if he's in bad shape, or even if he knew that there was a possibility he could be taken out of the game. Shanahan is wrong on this issue, and now he has to deal with this for maybe the rest of the season -- and especially for the next two weeks. Nice work.
People aren't exactly lining up to congratulate Shanahan. And that's to be expected. When was the last time that a starting quarterback had played just about the entire game, and then was unexpectedly removed from the game while his team had a chance to march down the field for a game-winning score? I honestly can't remember, though I'm sure at some point it's occurred.
McNabb can play much, much better. And really, he needs to for this team to go anywhere -- or for him to even possibly return to D.C. after this season. But Shanahan deserves all of the blame in this case. If he didn't know this was the quarterback he was getting in McNabb, or that the offensive line would be even close to as bad as it currently is, why even trade for McNabb in the first place? Keep that pick and draft a young QB or another offensive lineman (or three).
Shanahan already has a difficult job, but he didn't help himself at all with this move. The only way he wins in this whole mess is if McNabb somehow starts playing better and rallies the troops in the team's final eight games. But even then, when it comes to the possibility of re-signing with Washington, would McNabb forgive Shanahan for not only taking him out of the game, but criticizing him, if only briefly, about his lack of knowledge of the team's offense?
Who knows what McNabb or Shanahan are really thinking, but hopefully McNabb is able to focus his rage on something that may anger him even more than Shanahan: the Philadelphia Eagles.